Dasvidanya: Graduate Heads to Russia to Teach English

After graduating from UT, Desiree Dube will say dasvidanya—goodbye—to America for a while. She will leave for Russia in the fall to spend the 2016­–17 academic year teaching English and learning all she can about the Russian culture.

Desiree Dube at Hermitage

Desiree Dube in front of the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Dube, from Clarksville, Tennessee, completed her degree in history and Russian studies and is heading to Russia on a Fulbright scholarship. A Chancellor’s Honors Program student, she will participate in the College of Arts and Sciences commencement ceremony on Saturday in Thompson-Boling Arena.

Dube said she first became interested in Russia and its history after taking a Russian language course.

“After learning more about it through classes and traveling there, I discovered it is a subject I greatly enjoy and is something that I want to pursue for a long time,” Dube said.

As part of the scholar program, Dube will work at a Russian university from September to May.

Desiree Dube

Desiree Dube atop Saint Isaac’s Cathedral in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

“The Fulbright will give me a better opportunity to immerse myself in the culture,” Dube said. “It will also allow me to learn more about Russian academic culture and how it differs from that of American universities.”

Dube said she’s very excited about experiencing Russian holidays. She’ll be there to celebrate two of the country’s biggest holidays: New Year’s and Maslenitsa, a celebration of the end of winter.

In Russia, New Year’s celebrations are similar to Christmas in America. Fir trees are covered with ornaments and gifts are exchanged. Instead of Santa, children look forward to visits from Ded Moroz, or Father Frost, and his granddaughter Snegurochka, or Snow Maiden.

Maslenitsa involves outdoor celebrations that culminate with the burning of a straw figure to symbolize winter’s end.

She is also looking forward to experiencing snow and the cold weather of a Russian winter.

This will be Dube’s second academic trip to Russia. She spent last summer in Nizhny Novgorod on a Critical Language Scholarship. That program allows students from diverse backgrounds and fields of study to master foreign languages and build international relations.

During that two-month trip, Dube lived with a young Russian host family, Anton and Ksenya. Some of her favorite experiences with them included going to the dacha, a weekend or seasonal home in Russia, which Anton was building himself. She was also on hand as Ksenya gave birth to the couple’s first child.

Dube took a pledge to speak no English during her first trip to Russia. She had an intensive Russian language class each weekday at Lobachevsky State University, attended lectures, and took part in extra activities after class.

She said the Critical Language Scholarship program was good preparation for her upcoming trip.

“I now feel proficient enough in the language to be able to get by in Russia,” she said. “I also think my trip gave me some insights into Russian culture that will be useful when I am on my own.”

Dube said her CLS trip also helped her discover what interests her most about Russia — and that helped her in the Fulbright application process.

As part of her English teaching assistantship, Dube had to propose a special project. She plans to start a book club where participants will read short stories. Her list of must-reads for the club are Ernest Hemingway’s A Clean, Well-Lighted Place and Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man Is Hard to Find.

“Desiree Dube is an incredibly driven student who has taken every opportunity to make herself ‘Ready for the World,’” said Rebekah Page, associate director of the Honors and Scholars Programs. “The language preparation she’s had as a Russian studies major here at UT, combined with the competitive experience she had in Russia on a Critical Language Scholarship, made her an excellent Fulbright candidate this year.”

At UT, Dube served on the Student Government Association’s Traditions Committee, interned at the Center for the Study of War and Society, and served as the vice president of the Russian Language and Culture Club.

Once Dube completes her teaching program, she hopes to continue studying history in graduate school with the possible goal of being a Russian history professor.

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, ablakely@utk.edu)