Kaitlin Martin, Class of 2011

Major: Government; Organization: Great Baikal Trail / Nikita’s Homestead; Location: Irkutsk, Russia / Khuzir, Russia

Kaitlin Martin, Class of 2011Originally, I was having second thoughts about extending my semester abroad for an additional 8 weeks. I had already spent 4 months in Siberia, and honestly, I had had enough! But now that it’s all over, I’ve realized that during those last 2 months I had the most incredible memories of my study abroad experience. I spent the first four weeks interning full-time for the environmental organization that I had loosely volunteered for throughout the semester. The Great Baikal Trail (GBT) is a Russian NGO with an ambitious goal to build a hiking trail around the entirety of the lake in order to create an eco-friendly alternative to heavy industry in the Baikal region. It turned out that the people I worked with were Siberia’s version of your average Wesleyan student: socially conscious, open-minded hippies who love good music and grass-roots activism. During my internship, I helped to translate GBT publications into English, taught English language classes, and participated in a weekend-long trail-building seminar. During the second portion of my internship, I spent 4 weeks living and working on a homestead on Olkhon, Baikal’s largest island. There, I was responsible for a variety of odd jobs, including teaching English to young children, collecting laundry, and running the “Customer Service” desk in a small shed by the canteen. Between trying to discipline rowdy children in Russian, hopelessly trying to understand the laundry ladies’ village dialect, and running a help desk in a foreign language, every day yielded a new adventure. Thanks to these last two months in Siberia, I’ve become determined to reach professional fluency in Russian and have learned so much more about a culture that will always both confuse and enlighten me.