It’s a Thursday afternoon in Russia in the Summer of 2018, and Tyler Owens ’19 is learning to cook traditional Russian dishes with other international students studying at the Vladimir KORA language institute. The afternoon cooking class comes on the heels of six hours of immersive Russian language instruction, from 8:00am-2pm. On the coming weekend, Tyler and his cohort will travel to St. Petersburg to tour the city there: all a normal work week in the life of a recipient of the Critical Languages Scholarship, a prestigious all-expenses included scholarship from the State Department!
Meanwhile, Tyler’s friends and family in Monks Corner, South Carolina check his Facebook updates and smile with pride: with each step of his journey, from Monks Corner to Trident Tech, to the College of Charleston and then Germany and Russia, Tyler has been steadfast and unflappable in his pursuit of his international dreams. To put it in the words of his high school French teacher Cheryl Pyatt: “Tyler’s insatiable curiosity combined with his love of language made him a joy to teach. I am delighted that he is making his dreams come true!”
Since the fall of 2015, Tyler has been pursuing his international dreams at CofC with a major in German and minors in Russian Studies and French for Business. In the summer of 2017, he enjoyed his first study abroad experience in Stuttgart, Germany as a participant the CofC Cultural Vistas Summer Internship Program in Germany. This, his second, has been equally transformative for his language skills in Russian as the former was for his German. In addition, he has fallen in love with Russia and the Russian people: “There is a big difference between what the government and media shows versus the people in Russia. The Russian people I have met have been just as loving and kind as in any other culture, and it’s been a joy to live here”
Tyler also shares some advice for those wanting to study abroad or study languages. He reminds us that it will not always be easy, but not to give up, especially if you are medically challenged. He notes “A challenge is something meant to be overcome and that’s what I do. Just because I get over something in a different way doesn’t make me disabled.” To students at CofC, he highly recommends studying Russian, since it would be valuable in any workplace and foreign affairs. He also recommends applying for the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) since language skills and opportunities (both professionally and academically) will open up!