Scholarship from German and Russian Department Makes A Difference

Oliver Chase Oliver Chase, a native of Hubbardton, Vermont, and double major in Economics and Russian, is spending his junior year studying in St. Petersburg, Russia. He writes from St. Petersburg about his experiences:

As I write this I am sitting in the very same flat in St. Petersburg that I was in last semester, with the very same host family. They don’t speak any English, but I don’t mind: it keeps things interesting and I get the practice I need. I am currently in my junior year. I started my study of Russian at the beginning of my studies at UVM. This semester I am particularly happy because a few of my friends from UVM are joining me. We all sat together in the same classes since our first year. And it is just really neat to do it all together.

I am very glad that I decided to spend two semesters abroad. I have already built many lasting relationships. I returned home between semesters and missed the friends I had made abroad. During my stay here I particularly enjoy going to the city’s many museums, going to the theater, and playing in chess tournaments. I am very proud of the fact that I’ve actually managed to make a little scratch in these chess tournaments, as Russians have a reputation of being particularly good at the game.

I am greatly appreciative that Prof. McKenna exposes his students to Russian proverbs in his intermediate Russian class. I was a bit skeptical when I was first introduced to the study of proverbs. However, my first couple weeks abroad in St. Petersburg, Russia already affirmed that the class time we spent memorizing some of the many Russian proverbs went to good use.

As a Russian language learner proverbs are particularly useful. I found that they were used much more commonly in Russian speech than in English. Personally, I see them as the cheat codes to the language: by reciting one I know that I’m guaranteed a sentence of completely flawless Russian. In this sense I can sometimes make it seem like I speak Russian better than I do.

I distinctly remember speaking with my host family during one of our first breakfasts together and uttering something similar to “The early bird catches the worm.” In my case it would literally translate to “God gives to he who rises early.” I know it sounds strange in English but there is a rhyme to it in Russian. Anyway, I rather timidly recited the words during breakfast conversation to test the ice and members of my host family were not only very impressed by my knowledge of these wise words, but they jumped with joy at the fact that this very important part of their language and culture hadn’t been overlooked by the rest of the world. Due to my newfound interest in proverbs abroad I plan to continue formal study of the subject by taking a class offered by Prof. Wolfgang Mieder upon my return to UVM.


Oliver in St. Petersburg Russia is beautiful. St. Petersburg is one of the prettiest cities in the world and has a very rich culture and history. I am having the time of my life here and the opportunities provided to me by UVM and the Department of German and Russian have made this all possible. I am very thankful to have received a Department of German and Russian scholarship as it has assisted me greatly to have these life changing adventures studying abroad.

As far as plans for post graduation, I’m still not sure. As of late, I would ultimately like to become an entrepreneur. I might go to business graduate school for this but I change my mind an awful lot. At one point while at UVM I wanted to be an engineer, then a computer scientist, then a psychologist. Basically, I’ve had some really great professors at UVM that have instilled a passion for me in a lot of subject areas. Government service is always in the back of my mind. Right now I’m looking for various summer internships. If I don’t find anything that captures my heart, I’ll probably go to the Ukraine, get a job teaching English, and try my luck at learning that language. Either way, I’ll always be a lifelong learner.

I can’t recommend this route (studying abroad) enough to prospective students. As far as a reason for my personal decision to begin the study of the Russian language, the best I can give is fate.