Haverford College

News Room

Thomas Mahoney '12

The Russian major spent the fall 2010 semester in St. Petersburg, with the program ACTR Russia, where he pursued a passion for Russian language and culture that he developed in high school.

Why did you choose Russia? In addition to being a fascinating place to live and study, Russia is a rising player on the world stage. As such, demand for Russian speakers is high among companies looking to expand into Russian markets. I hope to return to St. Petersburg and use my language skills in my future career.

What did you learn outside the classroom? My most valuable experiences came outside the classroom, such as a trip to my host family's summer house on the Gulf of Finland and going to the ballet with my Russian friend Lyuda. However, perhaps the most important thing I learned is to appreciate my life here in America. Russia is still a country with many problems; grinding poverty, corruption, alcoholism and drug abuse are problems that Russians see on a daily basis. Yet, where one would expect to find sadness and disillusionment, I often found people who had learned to truly love and appreciate the most basic things in life.

What is the most surprising thing that happened to you there? One interesting experience was being bitten by a potentially rabid dog. After being subjected to various home cures, which included having boiling water poured on my leg--the idea being that boiling my blood would kill any potential diseases--I began treatment for rabies. While the shots themselves were miserable, I got to know another part of the city where the health clinic was, and my knowledge of Russian medicine greatly increased. The second experience that stands out to me is opportunity to tour the U.S. embassy in Moscow. Michael Snyder, a Haverford alum, works at the embassy and kindly offered to give me a tour and tell me about life in the Foreign Service. I got to see the embassy, meet and talk with his coworkers, and even learned about a gala to be held by the embassy [commemorating a 1935] ball attended by Mikhail Bulgakov. The original ball inspired a scene in Bulgakov's masterpiece The Master and Margarita, one of my favorite novels.

What did you bring back? My time spent with Mr. Snyder at the embassy was fascinating, and piqued my interest in pursuing a career in the U.S. Foreign Service.

Originally posted at: http://www.haverford.edu/news/stories/49781/301