Summer Abroad Program, Russia
West of the Ural Mountains, and north of the Arctic Circle, the Komi Republic of Russia is home to businessmen, villagers, and reindeer herders. To most, it’s a world too isolated and foreign and few have the opportunity of discovering it. Sabrina Javier however, was encouraged by a UAS faculty to participate in a summer abroad program focusing on in-the-field research. This allowed her to experience firsthand the lifestyles of this arctic society. Sabrina studies Anthropology at the University of Alaska Southeast and is most passionate about environmental anthropology through ethnographies and participant observation. She is fascinated with Arctic and circumpolar culture, and jumped on the opportunity to travel to Russia and participate in an international program learning alongside Komi reindeer herders. The Academic Exchange and Study Abroad staff interviewed her afterwards to learn more.
Why did you choose this program location?
Russia is a large country with vast ecological features and an intense history. I feel that students in the US aren’t given the opportunity to learn much about Russia, especially since the Cold War. Russia to me is a long lost place full of wonders that I only hear about in books or movies. It was a great experience to actually be part of it.
What was your most vivid memory?
The best part of the summer field school was during our time out in the Russian tundra with reindeer herders, watching and participating in their daily activities. Falling asleep and waking up to full sunlight (we were above the Arctic Circle) was something that I have never experienced before.
What was the most positive aspect of your academic experience?
I learned a lot about Russian history… stuff that I wasn’t taught in grade school, and it gave me a better perspective on Russian people and culture. I was also able to apply what I learned in the UAS classroom such as, cultural anthropology theories, to the real world in addition to interviewing locals and field note writing.
How do you think this experience better prepares you for your future?
Yes! I feel like my ethnographic research skills from this field school better prepare me for future graduate research in Russia and also gave me a greater respect for people who might be culturally different than me.
What would you have changed if you could?
I would’ve taken the opportunity to learn more about Russian history, as it is relevant to several places I visited while in the Komi Republic and I also would’ve taken more time to learn Russian language-even a few phrases before I left.
Anything else you like to say about your experience?
I would highly recommend this field school to students interested in cultural anthropology and I encourage students to participate in a study away program and try new things