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Bryan Furman: Finding Love in Russia

Bryan Furman accepted the Boren Scholarship from the National Security Education Program to study in Moscow, Russia, on American Councils’ Russian Language and Area Studies Program (RLASP). He committed himself to a career in U.S. national security and to nine months in one of Eurasia’s political, economic, and cultural hubs. Moscow’s lifestyle and RLASP’s vast resources provided him with endless opportunities for academic and personal development.

In the fall semester, RLASP helped Bryan to secure an internship at the Carnegie Moscow Center, Russia’s premier political think tank, where he translated articles and book chapters, consulted with Carnegie experts about their research, and provided administrative and technical support. The internship allowed him to meet Russian and American political figures and gather resources for his own research. With the support of RLASP, as well as TCNJ Social Psychology professors Dr. Crawford and Dr. Wiley, Bryan also worked with Russian faculty to conduct social psychological research on intergroup relations: he sought to determine the effect of national and religious identity on prejudice toward various ethnic and religious groups. This experience, in addition to meeting amazing friends and exploring Russia’s capital, fostered significant academic, professional, and personal growth.

Initially Bryan chose to study Russian because it was out of the ordinary. However, Russian became more important in his life after he added the Central Eurasian Studies minor to his academic plan. Dr. Jo-Ann Gross, a Central Eurasian History professor, encouraged him to take up the minor by explaining Russian’s significance as the lingua franca in Central Eurasia, and that a solid background in the language would lead to employment opportunities in the region.

Around that time, TCNJ hired Dr. Benjamin Rifkin, a renowned Russian language expert, as Dean of the School of Culture and Society. Bryan had already completed Russian 101 and 102 and hoped to meet with Dean Rifkin about studying Russian. Dean Rifkin suggested that he attend Middlebury College’s Intensive Russian Language Summer Program. After Middlebury, Bryan completed two independent studies on Russian history with Dean Rifkin. By the end of the second independent study, Bryan had improved his vocabulary base and comprehension level to advanced proficiency. Dean Rifkin and Dr. Gross’ teaching and support prepared Bryan for his academic year in Russia.

Bryan encourages students to take advantage of TCNJ’s opportunities. “Faculty members are always ready to help and guide devoted students,” he said. “In my case, I would never have found out about the Boren Scholarship without consulting Dean Rifkin, Dr. Gross, and the Center for Global Engagement’s director Dr. Jon Stauff. Additionally, I could never have conducted my research without Dr. Crawford and Dr. Wiley’s cooperation and enthusiasm. TCNJ professors and administrators are happy to assist students, but students need to show the initiative and start exploring opportunities as early as possible!”

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