A study abroad experience in 2018 to Barnaul, Russia was all it took to inspire Sarah Cavanaugh ’20 to return to the thriving Siberian city. She got her wish this summer with a second visit to Barnaul thanks to a Fulbright-Hays scholarship awarded by the U.S. State Department.
“I was drawn to learning a foreign language in a place where there is little to no English being spoken,” says Cavanaugh. “Being fully immersed in the Russian language has helped me to get a better grasp on it.”
While in Barnaul, Cavanaugh organized a folk choreography workshop and master class for other American students studying in the region to learn more about the rich folk dancing traditions of Siberia. Cavanaugh arranged for a performance by the Razgulay Dance Ensemble and the students were able to try out dance steps and ask questions. Finally, dancers and students together performed a Russian quadrille.
“It was a great way to interact with people our age—the dancers are also university students—and to pick up new dance vocabulary while learning about culture was significant,” says Cavanaugh. “National dances are an important part of the dance culture in Russia.”
When not exploring the role of folk dancing in Russian culture, Cavanaugh improved her language skills with courses at the Philological Institute of the Altai State Pedagogical University. On weekends, she and her classmates explored the surrounding region.
“We traveled to Tomsk and to Lake Teletskoye, which is beautiful and remote, making it a nice getaway from the city,” she says. “Some weekends we would stay in Barnaul, giving us a chance to explore the city.”
Cavanaugh credits her HWS Russian professors, especially Associate Professor of Russian Area Studies David Galloway, with preparing her the experience. “The first time I went to Russia was on a 10-day excursion he led during the winter break of my first year,” she says.
“Sarah has always been extremely eager to dive into Russian culture,” says Galloway. “She has a great ability to comfortably be a part of a community, even if one outside her linguistic comfort zone: while in Barnaul last year she joined several folk dance groups, and that experience allowed her to set up the master class in folk dance for this summer’s participants.”
Cavanaugh says she hopes to continue to study Russia after she graduates and intends to apply for a Fulbright scholarship to enable her to return to the country in 2020-2021.