Political Science LREC to Ukraine
POSTED ON: Tuesday, July 9, 2019 11:03 AM by Political Science Department
This June, five midshipmen from the United States Naval Academy embarked on a three week Language, Regional Expertise, and Culture program (LREC) across the eastern European country of Ukraine. Their goal was to gain a deep understanding of the social, political, and linguistic aspects of a nation that has recently been center stage in the international arena. Living with Ukrainian host families in Kyiv, the midshipmen would undergo an intensive language program intermixed with cultural and historical tours throughout their three weeks.
Additionally, the program would also take the midshipmen to several other cities and sites including the old Slavic town of Chernigov, the cultural center of Lviv, the summer city of Odessa, the abandoned nuclear reactor at Chernobyl, and the former president’s decadent unofficial residence of Mezhyhirya.
Soon after arriving, the midshipmen would meet their new host families, all of which were fluent Russian speakers and knew very little English. 1/C Nicole Roxbury of 20th Company commented on how this challenging experience gave her a new and deeper insight into the family culture of Ukraine.
“My host family was extremely welcoming,” said Roxbury. “It took a bit of time to understand the family dynamic, which was much different from in the United States, but was very standard for a Ukrainian family. The best thing was my host mom’s love of cooking, so I was able to try a lot of different Ukrainian dishes.”
Early morning on June 2nd, the group made the journey north to the famous Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, where 33 years ago the most destructive nuclear catastrophe in history took place. The group took part in an extensive tour encompassing the reactor, abandoned Soviet towns, and a colossal abandoned ballistic missile defense antenna nicknamed “Duga.” For Peter Sinkovitz of 14th Company the experience of touring the site made famous by the recent HBO Mini-Series was incredibly transforming.
“The tour that impacted me most was our visit to Chernobyl,” said Sinkovitz. “Though it has become more popular recently, the sheer impact of the site alone is breathtaking. I have seen criticism on the internet of the “exploitation” of Chernobyl and that this supposedly dishonors the victims of the incident. However, I realized from the guides who accompanied us how important it was for the people to remember this horrific accident, not just as in a history book or a pseudo-fictional retelling, but as a place where survivors still visit or even live.”
Monday, June 3, marked the start of an intensive two-week Russian language program aimed at improving conversational fluency.
“I was incredibly impressed with the teaching methods used by Nova Mova; I felt we focused on conversational situations and introducing everyday language that Russian speakers actually use,” said 2/C Joey Sereda of 29th Company. “While my vocabulary and grammar definitely improved significantly, I also have a much better understanding of the way Russian speakers think and go about expressing themselves; that is something invaluable to me.”