Lili Ramirez in Russia

Friday, September 11, 2015

As a Political Science major, who participated in the Duke in Russia Summer 2014 program, I strongly encourage other students in the department to take advantage of the study abroad opportunities that Duke offers. As Duke students we like to think of ourselves as open to views different from our own, but how can we truly know unless we actively expose ourselves to other cultures?

Studying abroad in Russia, where the customs, the people, the language, the food, and just about everything else are completely different from life in the United States was difficult, but it allowed me to learn things about myself as an individual that no other experience could have provided me. My first challenge in St. Petersburg occurred on the first day after paying for my groceries and being fairly proud of myself for getting through the transaction with my broken Russian. The feeling quickly faded when I was not handed bags for my groceries and had to walk the kilometer or so back to my apartment carrying everything in my arms. The next time I went to the grocery store I realized that the cashiers do ask if customers want bags; all you have to say is “da” when asked. This experience taught me that it is a much better idea to feel a little bit incompetent for a moment by asking for help than to tough it out—and end up looking even more out of place by carrying groceries in your arms.

While many learning experiences occur in the classroom, many valuable lessons can only be learned in the real world. So spend some time in a foreign country, explore, get lost, eat foods you cannot pronounce, try to speak the language, meet some locals, and then come back and tell us that Duke students form views that are cognizant of the world around them.

-Lili Ramirez
Political Science major
French and Russian minors Duke University Class of 2016