Tracking Russia

Originally posted: May 2, 2012

Leah-Perle Bloomenstein has demonstrated remarkable balance through academics, athletics and the arts. Now, the Wheaton College senior plans to apply her diverse interests in Russia next year as a Fulbright Scholar, where she will travel, teach English and hone her own skills in the Russian language.

The Michigan resident spent her junior year at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad in Copenhagen, where she continued her Russian studies as well as her practice of the violin. While overseas, she performed with the Copenhagen Youth Symphony Orchestra (Københavns Ungdoms SymfoniOrkester). In her spare time, she was also able to visit Russia, Kosovo and Turkey.

Bloomenstein attributes her appreciation of other cultures to her childhood. Her mother is Anglo-Catholic and her father is Russo-Jewish. “I went to both church and synagogue and celebrated all the major holidays,” she remembers. (Contrary to popular belief, states Bloomenstein, celebrating both Christmas and Chanukah does not lead to a large increase in presents.)

Before she reached the age of 10, her family had moved from California to Alabama to Michigan. Each time, she says, this forced her from her “comfort zone” and required her to adjust and form new bonds. “I am proud to say that I forged lasting friendships and learned the richness and variety of American society,” says Bloomenstein.

Last year, Bloomenstein served at a summer camp in downtown Detroit for young Rwandan political refugees. The experience made a lasting impression. “Together we explored American pop culture and examined American cultural customs to help prepare them for life in the U.S.,” explains Bloomenstein. “They became a part of my family and taught me as much as I taught them.”

With a double major in International Relations and Russian Studies, Bloomenstein appreciates that she has been able “to gain a holistic picture of Russia through exploration of its complex history and politics, while delving into the nation’s multifaceted culture and literature.” After studying Russian for the past four years through textbooks, she hopes to improve her speaking skills even further through daily interaction with local Russians. She also intends to work with an orphanage where she will be able to connect to Russia’s youth.

Bloomenstein has already gained teaching experience in a variety of settings–from day camps to her family’s synagogue. She plans to engage her Russian students through interactive games, and she hopes to set up an “English table” for open discussions and to organize English movie nights.

Throughout her Wheaton career, the accomplished senior played violin with the Great Woods Chamber Orchestra. She also competed as a member of Wheaton’s track and field team for three seasons and won a NEWMAC All-Academic Award in 2010. (Her favorite events are the shot put and discus throw.) Through all of her extracurricular activities, Bloomenstein has demonstrated her versatility and her ability to work well on a team.

In the future, the Fulbright scholar plans to pursue her master’s degree in Russian area studies and would eventually like to work for the State Department, “hopefully overseas.”

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