Alumni Career Paths: Aubrey Cearley ’17

Aubrey Cearley graduated in 2017 with a Russian major. She is currently pursuing her M.A. at the University of Denver.

What are you working on right now?

Right now, I am getting my M.A. in School Counseling from the University of Denver. I will graduate in Summer 2022, and then plan to be a middle school counselor.

What led you to pursue this course of study?

I’ve always enjoyed working with children, especially English language learners. Right after graduation, I served with AmeriCorps in an elementary school. There were multiple Russian-speaking families there and all of the custodial staff were Russian. I was able to greet the Russian students in their own language, and to help translate for them when necessary. It meant a lot to the kids and to their families, and I felt so capable! I also felt really cool being able to understand what most of the custodial staff said to each other and, as a bonus, I got the inside scoop on all of the school drama from them.

My Russian major helped me realize my passion for building connections with people from all different backgrounds. Multicultural competence is a hugely important component of counseling and immersing myself in the Russian language and culture helped me begin that journey. Additionally, my ability to speak Russian has come up in every single one of my job interviews. It’s very impressive to most people, and really has been useful in every environment I’ve worked in, whether it’s a clothing store, an office, a dance studio, or a middle school.

What has made your path after graduation distinctive?

I tried out a lot of different things to find the best fit for myself. At one point, I was working four jobs! I worked in retail, in arts administration, as an arts and theater teacher, as an after-school literacy program coordinator, and as a dance teacher. I’m proud of myself for pursuing everything that interested me, even though it was a little hard sometimes to juggle it all. I got really good at interviews and building connections, and I have an amazing support system now from all of my different job experiences.

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

The pandemic changed my career path and helped me take the steps needed to live the life I really wanted. In the beginning of the pandemic, I was working full-time as a ballroom dance teacher. (I actually started ballroom dancing when I was studying abroad in Moscow!) The job was really demanding and, after the studio shut down briefly during lockdown, I realized that I wasn’t happy and it was time for a change. I took the steps to finally apply to a graduate program in school counseling, and I’ve been attending school online since September. I’ve been working part-time as a nanny and tutor to support myself. I also adopted a blind cat named Pancake, which is unrelated to the question but still important.

What made you decide to pursue Russian at Dickinson?

I was fascinated with Russian history in high school, and I loved Russian ballet. It seemed like a no-brainer to take Russian in college. I loved learning about the culture and enjoyed the challenge of learning a new language. I knew I wanted to study abroad in Moscow for a full year, so a Russian major felt right and like the obvious choice!

What was your most memorable experience from studying abroad?

My most memorable experience was definitely winning an amateur dance competition in Moscow! I started taking classes in the hustle as a way to practice my language skills and build a community while studying abroad. By the end of my study abroad experience, I was taking dance classes 4 days a week. I remember I was so, so sick-to-my-stomach nervous going to my first class. I walked back and forth in front of the building about 6 times before finally going inside. I found a dance partner in one of those classes and we started practicing together. It was scary to communicate entirely in Russian with someone, particularly when organizing practice times and communicating problems in our dancing. Our trophy meant so much to me because it symbolized the pay-off of pushing myself out of my comfort zone. At the end of the year, my dance class even threw me a goodbye party!

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

Please study abroad. Have patience with yourself and have faith that you really will improve if you keep practicing!

Aubrey also kept a blog while studying abroad in Russia which is linked here as a resource for any students considering studying abroad.

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