Title slide from María's presentation on her family given to the class.
A number of Bryn Mawr College students applied for and received funding to conduct research projects and study with a global concentration this spring/summer through the Global Bryn Mawr Student Fellowship. Those students were asked to share their experiences and how they were affected by the COVID-19 situation through words and images.
Name: María del Pilar Ferreira Romero
Class Year: 2021
Major: International Studies and History Major, Russian Minor
Program: Russian Language Institute (RLI)
Location: Moved Online Due to COVID-19
Q. What led you to apply for this program?
A. I decided to apply to the Russian Language Institute at Bryn Mawr College because I wanted to continue with my Russian studies over the summer. In my sophomore year of college, I decided to enroll in Elementary Russian to fulfill my language requirement. Little did I know that I would fall in love with the language and everything it entails: culture, history, cuisine, among other things. I even ended up pursuing a Russian minor. Therefore, when the COVID-19 pandemic took all of us by surprise and halted most international travel, I knew that an online course like RLI was going to give me the opportunity to improve my language skills over the summer from wherever I was in the world.
Q. What did you do as part of the program?
A. The program consisted of an intensive language online course over the span of eight weeks. From June 3 to July 29 I submerged myself into the world of Russian language with peers from various universities around the U.S. Every day we would have three hours of classes with three magnificent professors from different universities. In total, we worked through six units of a very dense book for third-year Russian students. Each unit was centered around one specific topic, such as education, work, or health. We had vocabulary and grammar quizzes, and written and oral exams that further helped us improve every aspect of our language skills. Additionally, we would have three tutoring sessions per week with students who already participated in the program in the past. In these sessions, my tutor and I would review class content or just talk to improve my speaking skills. Similarly, the program also hosted some guest speakers and cooking sessions to expand our knowledge of Russian culture and everyday life.
Q. What effect did COVID-19 have on your experience?
A. COVID-19 had an impact on the way in which the program was set up because in previous years it was held on the beautiful Bryn Mawr campus and involved a day-to-day interaction with everyone who was learning Russian, not just members of a specific class year. Nevertheless, RLI did a fantastic job adapting to these changing times to offer the most didactic and engaging course possible.
Q. What did you learn that surprised you?
A. I do not think I can point to one specific topic that I learned that surprised me. For me, every day was an adventure in the world of learning Russian. Every new word or phrase, or every new fact that was mentioned, called my attention and made me curious to learn more about it.
Q. What was your favorite part of this experience?
A. My favorite part of this experience is that I was engaged in learning Russian every day of the week. I made some calculations mid-semester, and every day I would spend at least seven hours thinking and doing things in Russian: classes, tutoring, talks, homework, tests, etc. All this helped me improve my language skills. Furthermore, I enjoyed having classmates that went to different schools. The program gave me new friends from all over the U.S. who share the same interest and desire for learning Russian.
Q. What advice or guidance would you offer future students?
A. An advice that I would give future students is that they should not be afraid to try something new. More times in our lives than we would like, our initial plans will fall apart because of things we cannot control. This year it was a pandemic that made everyone change their plans and that forced them to adapt to the circumstances. In future times it might be something else. So, do not be afraid to try an online course, like I did. Find the options that interest you and work your way around the challenges that may arise. Seize every opportunity that adverse times bring. At the beginning of the year, I definitely did not picture myself going back home in March and taking Russian classes in the bedroom that I used to do homework and study in when I was in high school. But as the situation evolved very rapidly on a global scale, I had to find options that appeared interesting to me, and that I knew would add to my academic experience as an international student in Bryn Mawr College.