The newest REECA alumni are nothing if not determined. Having spent the first year of their Harvard journey on Zoom at the height of the global coronavirus pandemic, they applied creativity, technology, and hard work to make the most of their time in the program. The graduates will now embark on professional and academic pursuits across the country and around the world. They reflected on their experience, reminisced about favorite study spots on campus, and offered some parting advice.
Post-REECA plans: Continue my career as a US Army Foreign Area Officer.
Favorite class: Russian Fiction in the Soviet Era. Professor Weir was a great teacher and I loved being able to dive into various Russian novels.
Favorite study spot: Harvard Yard and Bluestone Lane Coffee Shop in Harvard Square.
Advice for future REECA students: Take advantage of all the resources that Harvard and the REECA program can provide. Take the time to really immerse yourself in your studies. Once you enter the workforce you’ll likely never have the same amount of time to devote yourself to your academic interests.
How has your thinking about the region changed over the course of two years? The region is so rich in culture and so much more complex than one may initially think. Furthermore, to correctly understand the region in its current state it is imperative to understand the history, culture, and traditions that shaped it.
Post-REECA plans: I will be working for Miburo, a company that researches disinformation and influence operations for government and big tech clients. I've been working there part-time for the past semester, and it’s meant a lot to me to do something, however small, to help counter Russian aggression in Ukraine.
Resist the temptation to define yourself by sub-region, discipline, or especially topic. You can love literature and politics, Ukraine and Uzbekistan, international development and information warfare.
REECA A.M. ’22
Advice for future REECA students: Resist the temptation to define yourself by sub-region, discipline, or especially topic. You can love literature and politics, Ukraine and Uzbekistan, international development and information warfare. Use every class as an opportunity to research something that fascinates you, whether or not it fits with (what you currently think are) your thesis or career plans.
How has your thinking about the region changed over the course of two years? When I came into the program, I had a lot of raw material about the region bumping around in my head from two years of living in the region and many more of taking classes on a wide array of subjects. The REECA program helped me systematize my knowledge, placing it in the context of political science and regional scholarship. It gave me conscious understanding of many things I suspected subconsciously.
Post-REECA plans: Deputy Chief, Office of Defense Cooperation, Vilnius.
Favorite class: RU 112: Russian Media. After a decade of anodyne Russian language classes, this one blew my mind, expanded my horizons, and gave me the tools to better grapple with my profession regardless of language. So stressful but so rewarding!!
Spend time with your classmates! The courses are fantastic, but the people are what sets this program apart.
Chris Hawkins, REECA A.M. ’22
Favorite study spot: Lamont Library, second floor, somewhere hidden so I could secretly snack.
Advice for future REECA students: Spend time with your classmates! The courses are fantastic, but the people are what sets this program apart.
How has your thinking about the region changed over the course of two years? In every conceivable way. I used to think I had a pretty good grasp on how the region worked because I was interested and I stayed up with the latest books. Turns out, reading ~100 pages for each class you gain insight and learn tidbits about aspects of the region you know intimately and aspects you’ve never heard of. Russification in the Baltics, female emigration in the Caucasus, Russian YouTubers, Korean activity in Central Asia, so much about Boris and Gleb (and architecture?). The list is endless and I can’t wait to find out how it all will apply at the most random and helpful of times.
Post-REECA plans: Moving to Salt Lake City to work in consulting.
Favorite class: Negotiating Post-Soviet Conflict, because it provided me with practical and strategic negotiation skills that I believe will prove useful in my career.
Favorite study spot: In the Davis Center under the nice sunny skylight.
Advice for future REECA students: Embrace the thesis-writing process and pursue your genuine research interests.
How has your thinking about the region changed over the course of two years? I have become much more aware of interregional dynamics over the past two years. I have also come to think about the region in a more multifaceted way in terms of understanding cultural, religious, and societal factors that influence geopolitical positioning.
Post-REECA plans: This summer I’ll be studying Russian in Tbilisi, Georgia, on a Critical Language Scholarship. Then I’ll return to my training as a news reporter at The Kyiv Independent with support from an ASEEES Graduate Internship Grant.
Favorite class: I loved Arvid Bell’s negotiation class. It allowed me to dive deeper into learning about conflicts in the FSU. It helped give me the idea for my thesis and it has shaped my research interests since.
Favorite study spot: The REECA lounge!
Advice for future REECA students: Pursue your interests, but also prioritize your well-being. This is an intense program and you need to take care of yourself too!
How has your thinking about the region changed over the course of two years? I know far more about the region than I did before I started this program and it has helped me become the regional expert I want to be. I am so grateful for the REECA program—studying here was one of the best decisions I ever made!
Post-REECA plans: Heading to Budapest to present at a conference on the Cold War.
Favorite class: The Central Europe Seminar with Alison Frank Johnson. It was a great opportunity to really dig into the historiography of the former Habsburg lands and especially the borderlands therein. It was a fascinating study in identity formation, nationalism and its discontents.
Favorite study spot: My favorite spot on campus for studying or, more honestly, just gabbing is the courtyard at the Center for European Studies. The fountain, the flora, and the majestic lion statue create quite a setting.
When we talk about a region with such historically fluid borders, shifting empires, and constant migration, we cannot speak of any one country or group of countries without understanding their place in the larger puzzle. Over the past two years, I have come to understand this: each letter in the REECA acronym is integral.
REECA A.M. ’22
Advice for future REECA students: Make sure at every turn that you’re studying a phenomenon you want to better understand. You’ll produce better work when you choose a puzzle that resonates with you.
How has your thinking about the region changed over the course of two years? I definitely think more about the interconnectedness of the region than I used to. Because we often separate it into discrete categories (Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Balkans, the Caucasus, etc.) it can be tempting to think of subregional histories, cultures and politics in isolation, but the REECA program has taught me to resist that urge. When we talk about a region with such historically fluid borders, shifting empires, and constant migration, we cannot speak of any one country or group of countries without understanding their place in the larger puzzle. Over the past two years, I have come to understand this: each letter in the REECA acronym is integral.
Post-REECA plans: I’m remaining at Harvard and pursuing a Ph.D. in Slavic Languages and Literatures.
Favorite class: Document, Testimony, and Political Fiction in the Slavic Department with Professors Justin Weir and Jonathan Bolton. I took this course in my first semester, and it was fantastic (even on Zoom). The syllabus introduced me to amazing texts, class discussions were very engaging, and it got me started on thinking about questions that led to my thesis.
Advice for future REECA students: Take classes in a range of disciplines across departments—not only does it help create a more balanced semester, I was always surprised by unexpected connections between what I had assumed were completely different fields and topics.