Summer is a time for students to unwind after all the work they have done over the school year; they use it as a time for leisure and relaxation. However, some students use it as an opportunity to explore new interests they may not get the chance to explore during the school year. Senior Ava Exelbirt is one of those students, as she recently participated in the National Security Language Initiative (NSLI) program.
The NSLI is a program dedicated to developing the foreign language skills of American students, especially in “critical-need” languages such as Russian, Indonesian and Persian. Senior Ava Exelbirt was not only admitted into the highly selective course but was also awarded a scholarship from the National Department of State to take the classes offered by the program. The National Department of State is one of the many government organizations that promotes the NSLI , among corporations like the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Fulbright Program and the Gilman program. The National Department of State is responsible for managing the nation’s foreign affairs and their relationships with other countries. With endorsement from this corporation, Exelbirt was given the opportunity to travel to Russia for eight weeks where she would study the Russian language and Russian culture.
Unfortunately, due to the recent rise in COVID cases (Exelbirt was not able to travel to Russia), she had to settle for taking all her classes on Zoom. Still, this did not detract from the overall experience according to Exelbirt. “It was a ton of work. Everyday we would have grammar classes, speaking classes and writing classes. Sometimes they would even make us write essays entirely in Russian. Not all of it was hard work though: learning about the culture of the country was my favorite part. We got to learn about the different customs there, the types of schools there and, overall, I just learned how culturally different Russia is from America, ” Exelbirt said.
One of the topics taught in the course that piqued Exelbirt’s interest was about the Russian government structure. As an active member of the Model United Nations Society, she has always been intrigued by international relations. “I definitely see myself working in foreign affairs when I’m older, and I think MUN (Model United Nations) helped me realize that as one of my goals. This course was like a nice first taste of what working in foreign affairs could be like for me in the future,” the senior said.
Ava Exelbirt has really set herself aside from a lot of students in the nation, using the summer not only as an opportunity to relax, but an opportunity to pursue a future that she’s dedicated to. As a senior, Exelbirt plans to make the most of her last year of MUN, focusing on achieving her goal of working in foreign affairs.