When Dana started looking at universities, she wasn't even sure she wanted to study in the United States. She just wanted to receive the best possible education, an education that would let her explore her interests and talents. She says that when she found the Huntsman Program, it was like finding her Prince Charming. "I was reading through its requirements and curriculum," says Dana, "and I felt a warm feeling in my stomach and knew it was the education I was looking for… It was definitely not the most rational decision I have ever made, but I am sure it's a decision I will never regret."
When she arrived on campus, it was her first time ever visiting the United States. The campus seemed very big and intimidating, but Dana was able to drop by the Program office to ask for advice and information about the neighborhood. She enjoyed having a place to go and was impressed that, despite the large number of applications received, the staff knew who she was and remembered her application, which she thought was impossible. "I have loved every minute I have been here," says Dana. "It is not just the amazing Marketing or Psychology classes I am taking. It is not only the unique opportunity to polish my Russian, while living with a Russian heritage speaker. It is so much more and this ‘more' is the Huntsman community."
The Huntsman Experience
Dana had competed in synchronized swimming since the first grade and was keen to continue swimming in college. At Penn, she was on a club team, which manages its own budget. It was an interesting change for Dana, and she's had the opportunity to see a whole new aspect of the sport. Since she is one of few team members who was involved in synchronized swimming before college, she also helps out by coaching new members. The team practices four times a week, so it's been a big time commitment, but Dana has been able to stay on top of her schoolwork and also become involved in other activities.
Another favorite activity of Dana's has been helping to organize preceptorials, which are small lectures and seminars that Penn students can take for fun just before the regular semester begins. Recently, students have had the option of attending a preceptorial on "Deaf Culture" by a sign language professor, another on "Game Theory and Baseball Scores," and yet another on poetic structures. Dana enjoys organizing the preceptorials and also appreciates the opportunity to take ungraded classes on diverse and interesting topics. However, Dana's found her regular coursework to be enjoyable as well.
Since joining the Huntsman Program, Dana has discovered a passion for Marketing. She's particularly interested in marketing strategy - learning how to penetrate a new market and build a brand image. During her sophomore summer, Dana took a marketing internship at a bank, where she says that she was able to directly apply some of the skills she learned at school. When she was asked to download information from an online database for a marketing campaign, Dana suggested a more efficient way - she used old lectures from her OPIM class to write a program which downloaded all of the information automatically into Excel. She finished in two days what could have taken weeks to do by hand.
Study Abroad in Russia
Regarding her experience studying abroad at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, Dana says that there was "not a single thing I didn't like." Speaking only in Russian while living with a family improved Dana's language skills significantly. She describes her host mom as "amazing" and enjoyed playing with her granddaughter, even though it was sometimes hard to understand her.
Dana's first month in Russia was spent taking Russian classes, which reviewed grammar, literature and business vocabulary. She even remembers one class in which she successfully translated articles from the Economist! "I learned so many new things," says Dana. In addition to Russian language classes, Dana took courses on Russian economics, foreign politics and history. She says that her coursework helped her understand how Russia views the world.
It was exciting for Dana to be learning about Russian politics at a time when the country was in the news quite a bit. She was able to question her professors directly about foreign policy and says that she learned "to see the bias in both the Russian and U.S. newspapers." At the end of her semester abroad, Dana had gained a familiarity of each nation in the region and what's going on there. She also says that she learned why Russia acts the way it does with relation to each of those neighboring countries.