Life as a Graduate Student in Washington, D.C.

By Emily Walton, Class of 2016

Though all roads do not lead to Oxford, Ohio, I recently found myself yearning to go back to my alma mater, Miami University. This is simply because I missed Miami and all the great friends and memories I made there. So over this past winter break I made the trek up to Oxford, Ohio, saw some of my former professors and friends, walked around “the most beautiful campus that ever there was,” and enjoyed some delicious mac and cheese bites.

While at Miami, I double-majored in Political Science and Russian, East European, Eurasian Studies. Undeniably, my professors at Miami not only imparted a strong foundational knowledge of the region on me but also instilled in me a passion for the study of this part of the world. I owe much of my current successes in graduate school to my former professors at Miami University.

I am currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. My program is small—in my cohort there are nine of us, all women. I chose Georgetown because the MAERES program reminded me a lot of Miami’s REEES program—a chance to work closely with knowledgeable professors in small class settings.

This past fall semester I took four classes regarding the region in several separate disciplines—language, government, and economics. Because Georgetown is located in the geopolitical capital of the world, the world’s top scholars who work in Washington-based think-tanks often visit campus and also serve as adjunct professors. My economics professor last semester, for example, was a former Swedish diplomat. Though classes at Georgetown are rigorous, the challenges they present are rewarding because the knowledge and skills I have learned will help me with my pursuit of a future career working with the region.

Life in the nation’s capital is always exciting, especially as a graduate student currently studying Russia.  Not only is it the centennial anniversary of the birth of the former Soviet Union, the recent surge in Russia’s prominence in the media has only made life in Washington more interesting—especially during election season. Talks and panels on U.S.–Russian relations featuring experts in the field are abundant and open to the public (and also offer a chance for free food).

One of my favorite things about living in the nation’s capital is that the embassies of foreign countries are located here.  It is surreal to walk down the street and pass embassies of countries from all over the world.  In fact, the townhouse apartment I live in was formerly rented to Norwegian diplomats.  The embassies often open their doors to the public and offer free events. Recently, my colleagues and I attended the Embassy of the Russian Federation’s U.S. premiere of the 2015 film, Battalion, directed by Dmitrii Meskhiev.  Not only did the Russian Embassy have an assortment of free food, including delicious borscht, they also flew in the director for the premiere! The Washington Russian Studies world is small—at the premiere I ran into Miami Alumni Ivan Grek and his wife Tanya, my former Russian tutor. Though the political relationship between the U.S. and Russia is undeniably tense, the events hosted by the Russian Embassy help to bolster communication and relations between the two countries…one pelmeni at a time.

This semester I will begin my tenure as the Vice President of Georgetown’s Professionals in Russian, Eastern European, and Eurasian Affairs. I was motivated to serve on the executive board of this organization because of my past experience leading two student organizations during my time at Miami. As VP of this organization I will continue its outstanding legacy of promoting the region both on Georgetown’s campus and also in the D.C. area. As for the future, this summer I plan to do intensive Russian language study. Beyond that I know after graduation I will be well placed to begin a career working in a field dealing in the region with degrees from both Miami University and Georgetown University.

I urge students interested in pursuing an advanced degree in Russian Studies or Area Studies in general to reach out to me if they have any questions, and/or if they have any questions about the School of Foreign Service programs at Georgetown University. My email is Love and Honor!



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