Russian RevolutionGAMBIER, Ohio (May 17, 2006) Imagine winning an essay contest. In a foreign language. A notoriously difficult foreign language. Two Kenyon students have done just that, taking prizes in the seventh annual ACTR National Post-Secondary Russian Essay Contest. Ellen Guigelaar, Class of 2008, won first place, and Selene Rosenberg, Class of 2008, won third place, in level two for non-heritage learners. The contest drew 650 essays from 52 colleges and universities. Each essay was ranked by three judges in Russia, said Visiting Assistant Professor of Russian Susmita Sundaram, "and often the results were simply too close to call."
Students submitted essays on a given topic for the contest, which is sponsored by the American Councils for International Education. Entries are evaluated according to how long the student has studied Russian, and whether or not the student learned Russian in the home. ACTR, which was founded in 1974, sponsors conferences, research, scholarships, and international education opportunities to foster better understanding between countries in North America, Europe, Eurasia, and South Asia.
Guigelaar, who is a second-year Russian student at Kenyon, credits Sundaram with their wins. "She is always looking for ways to get us to write and speak more Russian," Guigelaar said. "They gave us an hour to write as much as we could on the topic, 'About what do you dream for your future?' I didn't realize they were going to send the essays to Russia. I was really surprised when they told me my essay had been judged by Russians. It was all Professor Sundaram, though. She pushes us hard to get us to do our best."
Rosenberg, who has also studied Russian for two years at Kenyon, is majoring in Russian and French. "I wrote about global communication through the acquisition of foreign languages," Rosenberg said. "Because our world is becoming so small, due to technology like cell phones and e-mail, it seems ridiculous that we could conceivably all communicate very easily with people in other countries, but the language barrier blocks us."