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East Ridge student traveling to Russia this summer

East Ridge High School sophomore Madelyn Carpentier will travel to Russia this summer.

Woodbury resident Madelyn Carpentier, who will be a junior next year at East Ridge High School, has always been interested in language.

"I'm fascinated by languages and that's really all there is to it," she said. "Language kinda brings people together and I've always wanted to know a language so I can be able to talk to all these different people."

Carpentier will be engrossing herself with language for six weeks this summer when she travels to Russia.

Carpentier will be leaving June 20, and returning Aug. 1, to study Russian language and culture as part of the 2012 National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) scholarship through the United States Department of State.

A language lover

Carpentier said she first learned about NSLI-Y when she was searching on the Internet for possible summer language programs.

"I was just Googling around for language programs," she said.

Carpentier came across NSLI-Y and was instantly intrigued by the program.

Not only was the program free, if you qualify, it focused primarily on language acquisition.

Additionally, Carpentier was interested in the language offerings.

The language offerings include Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Persian, Russian and Turkish.

"They're critical need languages," Carpentier said. "There's not enough people in the United States that know them."

In order to qualify for the scholarship, Carpentier had to first submit several essay questions. She was then selected as a finalist and allowed to go through the interview process.

A total of 400 students from across the country got into the program and a total of 60 students will be traveling with Carpentier to Russia.

Carpentier said she was drawn to Russian because she has a neighbor who is from Eastern Europe and she was attracted to the challenge of Russian.

Russian is a unique language since it uses a Cyrillic alphabe, Carpentier said..

"That whole challenge aspect of Russian drove me to want to do it," she said. "I wanted to prove that I could do it."

Immersed in the culture

For the first three weeks of her trip Carpentier will be taking Russian language classes in the morning at a humanitarian center in Kirov, Russia.

The afternoon will consist of volunteer work and sightseeing.

The last three weeks of Carpentier's trip will have her staying with a host family in Russia and participating in all of the family's daily activities.

"I'm so excited to just be immersed in another culture," she said.

Leading up to her trip, Carpentier has been reading up on Russian culture to better prepare herself.

One aspect of Russian culture that Carpentier has paid particular attention to is the style of traditional dress in Russia - specifically while in a Russian Orthodox church.

"I've definitely had to change my wardrobe to get it a bit more modest and dressy," Carpentier said.

Even though Carpentier has been reading up on Russian culture, she said she has opted not to study the Russian language too much.

"I want the experience of having no Russian experience and just being dumped into the country," she said. "I think that will make it more interesting."

Carpentier said there are a few aspects of her trip that make her a little bit nervous - getting lost, not picking up the language and getting home sick.

"This is a big opportunity and I can't be spending time dwelling over the fact that my family's not with me," she said.

Carpentier said she will be using her trip to Russia as a practice run since she has considered doing a year-long exchange to another country.

"I'm kind of testing the water right now," she said.

Carpentier said she is getting excited to leave.

"I'm looking forward to getting out of the United States," she said. "I will be taking all the world in and realizing that Woodbury isn't all that there is to the world."

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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