She will use the year to strengthen her Russian skills in preparation for a federal government career in foreign service, an aspiration that she traces back to growing up in a multiethnic household.
“It wasn’t until high school that I realized my multiethnic identity could be an advantage, helping me work as a liaison between cultures,” says Zahabya.
When she came to Bryn Mawr, Zahabya knew she wanted to become fluent in another language in order to bolster her goal of working between countries in social justice and public policy.
“We can only understand each other insofar as we make an effort to communicate,” says Zahabya. “I believe communicating in someone’s native tongue is exactly how to do that.”
Zahabya took Spanish during her first year at Bryn Mawr, and did not discover a love for Russian language until the summer between her freshman and sophomore years.
At the encouragement of Chair and Associate Professor of Russian Timothy Harte, Zahabya attended Bryn Mawr’s Russian Language Institute, an intensive immersion program that is the equivalent of an academic year of college Russian.
“It was a grueling but rewarding summer, and by the end of it I decided to become a double major,” says Zahabya, who had never studied Russian before attending the Institute.
The following summer, Zahabya spent eight weeks studying in St. Petersburg with American Council’s Advanced Russian Language and Area Studies Program, and she was delighted by how much total language immersion improved her Russian skills.
Intent on studying in a Russian speaking country for a whole year, Zahabya took an interest in Kazakhstan because of its extensive—yet often underestimated—relationship to the United States.
“Their relations were built on the foundation of nuclear security, and has grown to include trade, security, and economic integration,” says Zahabya. “Just because a country isn’t on a warning list or seen in the news doesn’t mean that it isn’t critical to U.S. security.”
Looking to the future, Zahabya aspires to marry her passions for Russian and political science by becoming a Russian/Eurasian specialist for the United States, with a focus on human rights and governance.
“My broad goal is fostering understanding between the U.S. and other nations,” says Zahabya.
Zahabya thanks the entire Bryn Mawr Department of Russian for all that she has been able to achieve; in particular, Timonthy Harte, Irina Walsh, Jane Shaw, Marina Rojavin, Dan E. Davidson, and Billie Jo Ember.
Boren Scholarships, an initiative of the National Security Education Program, provide unique funding opportunities for U.S. undergraduate students to study less commonly taught languages in world regions critical to U.S. interests, and underrepresented in study abroad, including Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America, and the Middle East.