The Russian Experience - Evan Berke

Evan Berke is a junior in the business school majoring in Business and Accounting.
His interest in the Russian language and culture began when he was 10-years-old.
 
“I remember watching hockey on TV with my family and thinking that the Russian players’
names were very interesting. Hearing their names being spoken led to me falling down a rabbit
hole of discovering the language and culture.”
 
Evan did not have an opportunity to take Russian language courses when he was a child, but as
soon as he came to Lehigh, he jumped on the opportunity. Under the guidance of Professor
Mary Nicholas (Lehigh’s Russian professor), he registered for two beginning Russian courses.
Learning Russian blossomed from a simple interest to a hobby he enjoyed. He took the initiative
to do more than going to class, but also taking advantage of Professor Nicholas’ office hours
and going to Russian event on campus whenever the opportunity arose. To the surprise of both
Evan and Professor Nicholas’, he reached intermediate fluency after a year of taking classes.
According to Professor Nicholas, “He has completely enriched himself in the Russian culture
and language, even though he is in America.”
 
Evan eventually became eager to become fully immersed in the Russian language and culture,
so he began looking for study abroad programs. Professor Nicholas recommended the
Overseas Professional and Intercultural Training program to Evan, and he applied with no
hesitation. The OPIT is a program that helps students “gain substantive professional experience
through internships in business, STEM, and social issues in 20 countries throughout the
Balkans, the Baltics, and Eurasia.”
 
Evan was accepted into the program and ended up working in Moscow with an organization
called HapDay Group. HapDay Group focuses on helping Russian entrepreneurs break into the
American market.
 
This was his first time living in a country where English was not the predominant language. His
experience in Moscow helped propel his language skills and learn to “see the world through the
eyes of a Russian.”
 
Evan’s professional aspiration is to do business across Russia and Asia, and continuing to work
with individuals from HapDay Group after graduating.
 
Evan recommends all students, across all colleges, should try to learn a foreign language. “The
world is becoming more interconnected every day. If you want to do business outside of the
United States, hiring a translator will only get you so far.”
 
Not only are there a plethora of scholarships and opportunities for undergraduate students to
take their education and professional aspirations overseas, but there are also similar programs
for scholars and professionals all over the world to undergo “international graduate study,
advanced research, and university teaching worldwide.” One of these programs is the Fullbright
Program, one of the largest international exchange programs offered by the U.S. Department of
State.