Former Regional School District 13 student and Rockfall native Troy Willis will travel to Russia this summer for a 10-week program sponsored by the U.S. State Department.
“This was an opportunity to study Russian in Russia,” Willis said. “I think it’s going to be a good experience.”
Willis, 19, is a junior at Connecticut College, where he majors in Slavic studies with a double minor in government and linguistics. He will spend most of his summer break this year studying Russian at the KORA Russian Language Center in Vladimir, Russia.
He is one of four students from Connecticut College to be awarded the Critical Language Scholarship this year, all of whom will have their travel, room and board paid for by the state department. The other students are participating in programs in Morocco, Kyrgyzstan and Oman.
Critical Language Scholarship “is part of a wider government initiative to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering foreign languages that are critical to national security and economic prosperity,” according to the scholarship’s description. “CLS plays an important role in preparing students for the 21st century's globalized workforce and increasing national competitiveness.”
Willis said he’s excited to stay with a host family, where he’ll be exposed to genuine Russian culture and language.
“I’m glad that I’m going to be living with a host family and not in dorms because I think that makes a big difference in just everyday vocabulary,” Willis said. “Being able to live with a family and have that daily routine also be in Russia is also going to be really (helpful).”
Taking Latin in Regional School District 13 introduced Willis to other languages, sparking his independent research of Polish his junior year of high school.
“It’s just something that I picked up not very seriously, as a hobby … and I just kind of stuck with it.”
He added Russian to his language studies when he went to college and says although Polish and Russian don’t sound much alike, the languages are similar in a lot of ways.
Russia won’t be completely new for Willis, who spent about 10 days in the country over his recent spring break. He traveled with his college’s Russian Club, which received donated funds for the trip to visit Moscow and St. Petersburg.
This time around he hopes to dive deeper into Russian culture instead of just seeing tourist attractions.