Careers in Russian: Julia Isacson ‘19

Julia Isacson currently works as a program associate at the Eurasia Foundation. She graduated in 2019 with a double major in Russian and Economics. Story by Clara Giorgis ’21.

What are you working on right now?

I just started a job working at the Eurasia Foundation as a Program Associate on their YEAR Program. The YEAR Program is a year-long exchange program for Russian undergraduate students to study at various universities across the United States. As a Program Associate, I help facilitate the preparation, logistics, and implementation of the program. I get the chance to speak with Russian students frequently and coordinate with other international government institutions, such as the State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

What led you to pursue this career path?

My first job since graduating from Dickinson was working as an English language teacher in Vladimir, Russia for a private educational center called The American Home. In this position, I had the chance to work with hundreds of Russian students, not only teaching them English, but also becoming friends and learning about Russian culture from them. Since my teaching experience, I’ve had a three-month internship with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where I had the chance to learn about the legislative and policy making process and study our foreign policy practices with relations to Russia. While I was interning on Capitol Hill, I found this opportunity with the Eurasia Foundation, which allowed me to combine my passion for studying Russian language and culture and working with Russian students and establishing relationships. My Russian major has helped me in each of my jobs, from teaching English in Russia, where I needed to communicate with native Russians, to my Senate internship, where I was chosen for the unique experiences that I had in Russia and my knowledge of Russian culture, and now in my current job, where I assist Russian students to have a successful exchange experience in the United States.

What has it been like navigating your career during the pandemic?

I feel very lucky to have found a job during this pandemic. It was not an easy process to find a job during this time, and for those of you that are still searching, have patience and be gentle with yourself. The right opportunity will come at the proper moment. It took me a lot of trial and error and a lot of rejections before finally landing a position. It was a very rewarding process to go through the job search process and come out the other end.

What has made your career path after graduation distinctive?

I think one of the things that has made my career path particularly distinctive was that my first job after college brought me back to Russia. It was exciting to experience Russia a second time and compare my two experiences. I learned a lot from both times being abroad and gained many memories and life-long friends from the process. It gave me the chance to see more Russian towns and go back and visit the places I visited in my abroad experience more in-depth. I am very grateful for all of the experiences I have had thus far.

What was your most memorable experience from when you studied abroad?

One of my most memorable experiences from studying abroad was the first time my group and I experienced the Russian banya. Banyas are one of the most iconic symbols of Russian culture. It is a wooden steam room that is usually powered by piping hot pot of water over a fire, and Russians will beat themselves with birch branches as a sign of good health. We went to the banya in the dead of the Russian winter in December and would run out and jump in the freezing snow after being in the steam room. It was a super fun and exciting bonding experience for our abroad group.

What made you decide to pursue Russian at Dickinson?

One of the reasons that I chose Dickinson was because of its incredible Russian department and study abroad opportunities. I began studying Russian language in high school, with my school’s program. My interests in studying Russian language and culture began when I was young, because I studied classical Russian-style ballet my whole life, and I wanted to study the language and culture in addition to my dance knowledge.

What advice do you have for students who are currently majoring in Russian?

No matter what year you are, if you know that you have a passion for studying Russian and would like to explore job opportunities with Russian studies it is never too early to start searching. Take all of the opportunities that you can, going to Russian table, Russian club events, and lectures and seminars that interest you. You never know what opportunities could crop up at any moment!

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