Why I Majored in Russian and Eastern European Studies

Laura M. Gonzalez Meriño ’19

Whenever it is time for formal introductions at Pomona where everyone mentions their name, major and fun fact, answering with “Laura, Russian and Eastern European Studies major, and fun fact: I was born in Colombia but raised in Russia” definitely has some eyebrows rising: partly because of my cultural background and partly because of my major. Of course, both are very connected and it is no coincidence that I chose a major relating to something so central to my identity, but I wouldn’t have made the choice if it weren’t for the welcoming nature of the Russian Program.

The Russian and Eastern European Studies (REES) major was a perfect fit for me, due to its flexibility in area of concentration. From history, to culture, to literature, to politics courses - my major gave me full freedom to focus on the areas about which I am most passionate. I have never felt forced to take a course. My experience with my major was tailored to my passions with the help of my advisor, Professor Rudova. Even as a first-year student, I felt the Russian Program faculty’s individualistic and caring approach towards their students in the opportunities I was granted, such as being hired as a course grader and administrative student assistant as well as recommended to become a peer Russian tutor.

For me, my major extends beyond classes and research papers. It also encompasses the community on campus formed around the Russian culture that meets during cultural events or Russian language lunch tables. All the faculty of the Russian Program certainly help shape the community as well as help students combine their academic interests with their personal lives. This welcoming community made me realize how passionate I am about the place I call home, and that REES was for me.

Much like many students at Pomona, I never thought I would end up choosing the major that I did. As an incoming first year, I was convinced my academic journey would take me into the realm of mathematics. But it was the sense of home that the Russian program, and the community around it, gave me, that made me choose my major. I never expected my academic life would become so deeply intertwined with my personal life, and I am grateful for the Russian program for helping me marry the two.