Peter Carkhuff, a Russian language and political science major, plans to use his language skill for national defense.
Studying Russian Language and Literature Prepares Students for the World
Peter Carkhuff can discuss in great detail why Russian languages and literature is the ideal major.
But if you’re pressed for time, the SAS’18 student can also rattle off three quick reasons.
He enjoys the discipline of studying the language, gets inspired by the moral and intellectual depth of the literature, and feels prepared for diverse career paths.
And, after thinking it over, Carkhuff, notes, there is a fourth reason: you can impress your friends.
“It’s kind of fun showing off to my friends that I can speak Russian,” he quipped.
A native of Tuckerton, New Jersey, Carkhuff became interested in Russian studies while attending Pinelands Regional High School and reading Crime and Punishment, the classic novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky.
“I’ve read it three or four times now, and I’m always on the edge of my seat,” he says. “You get deeply embedded in the mind of the character and you just have to turn the page.”
He fell in love with the major for its rich and eclectic range of knowledge that spans language,culture, history, literature, and philosophy. He enjoys reading short stories and poems in Russian, and has set a goal of reading Crime and Punishment in its original Russian. He also likes being able to converse with Russian immigrants.
“This is a major that’s intellectually demanding,” he says. “I’ve learned about 19th and 20th century Russia. I can communicate with Russian people, and I can discuss their literature and talk about issues and ideas.”
Carkhuff is an ROTC cadet at Rutgers and hopes to earn a commission into the U.S. Air Force
as a lieutenant and serve as a combat systems officer.
He spent a summer at a Department of Defense-sponsored immersive Russian language program in Estonia.
“Knowledge of Russia is certainly important for national defense,” says Carkhuff, who is also majoring in political science. “But it’s also crucial in the many fields, including the diplomatic realm, international law, and global business.”
And that brings him to a fifth reason. As he begins his final year at Rutgers, Carkhuff says the major has had a transformative impact on his life.
“I am much more engaged with the world, more culturally aware, and better able to understand different perspectives,” he said. “It’s easy to look at another culture and judge it. But there are societal and historical reasons why a culture is the way it is. This major has given me the tools to explore and understand the world.”