Studying Russian Prepared Rutgers Student for the World
For this graduating senior, it all began with "Crime and Punishment"
Peter Carkhuff can discuss in great detail why Russian language and literature is the ideal major.
But if you’re pressed for time, this School of Arts senior in the Class of 2018 can 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.
I am much more engaged with the world, more culturally aware, and better able to understand different perspectives
“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, who has been an ROTC cadet at Rutgers, will earn a commission May 16 into the U.S. Air Force as a second lieutenant. He will then report to Naval Air Station Pensacola on the Florida Gulf Coast where he will receive training as a combat systems officer. After “earning his wings,” he will serve six years as an Air Force officer.
"I have always been drawn to service," he says. "When I joined ROTC, I wanted to do something meaningful with my life that would help others."
After his military service, Carkhuff, who also majored in political science, says he is open to exploring careers in diplomacy, international law, and global business.
He graduates Rutgers at a time of new hostilities between Russia and the West, including Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Nevertheless, Carkhuff said his passion for Russian language and literature will endure, and hopes that one day he can use his knowledge to help build better relations between Russia and the United States.
And that brings him to a fifth reason. As he wraps up his final year at Rutgers, Carkhuff says the major 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.”
Learn more about the Program in Russian and East European Languages and Literatures in the School of Arts and Sciences.