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Class of 2011, double major in Russian and Rhetoric; currently a reporter for Stars and Stripes.

"I started out at Illinois as a Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies major, thinking I'd combine it with my interest in economics or history, but I quickly found that I enjoyed the language and literature classes much more. I switched majors and began to focus on Russian language, literature and creative writing classes, though I wasn't exactly sure how that would translate into a career after graduation (the overlapping requirements allowed me to easily double-major). It turns out it was great preparation for a career that requires me to do lots of reading and writing. While an English degree would help with that, too, Russian gave me important perspectives not explored in English courses as often.

Both on the job hunt and on the trail of compelling stories in conflict zones, being able to converse in a second language has been very helpful. It's a good bullet on my resume that grabs employers' attention, and a good skill on the ground that sometimes opens doors. I've gossiped with Russian journalists covering the most protracted battle since Stalingrad (Mosul, Iraq), joked in Russian with Afghan pilots the Soviets trained in the 1980s, and shared tea with an Iraqi man who worked on Russian-owned chicken farms during the Cold War. Just a couple weeks ago, a story I was working on required me to translate Russian defense propaganda about U.S. operations in Syria, which embarrassingly used doctored images that included a still from a video game as its evidence.

Also,It's hard to predict how Russian skills could come in handy even just in the time it takes to get a bachelor's degree. Just a little more than four years ago, people laughed at the idea of Russia as a threat to the U.S., but today you can't open a major newspaper without reading about Russia's activities challenging U.S. influence -- in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq; in Europe and NATO allies like Turkey, and even in Washington, D.C. and New York." Read his story.

Photo of Chad Garland
Garland with Iraqi federal police officers in a town called Hamam al-Alil, south of Mosul around December 2016.
Garland photo
Garland at the Mar Mattei (Saint Matthew) monastery on Mt. Alfaf in the Nineveh Plains, about 20 km outside Mosul.