Senior Renee Slawsky has combined her passions for Russian, journalism and political science into an exciting and intriguing college experience.
Author: Hilary Burns/Old Gold & Black
Slawsky went to a rural high school in Eastern Tennessee that only offered the typical French and Spanish courses, until her sophomore year when an English teacher who spoke Russian decided to teach a Russian class. Slawsky jumped at this marketable and unique opportunity to learn a language so different than any other she had studied. Because of this, she decided to continue studying the language at Wake.
Russian professor Billy Hamilton spoke highly of Slawsky’s academic work in the department.
“My most pleasant personal memory [of Slawsky] actually comes from her first day on campus,” Hamilton said. “Our Russian program is small enough that we meet with any students who arrive with prior Russian and give them a test, which would be difficult even for us teachers. Her parents waited nervously out in the hall. I stayed in a small room with her for an hour. At the end of the hour I burst out of the room yelling SECOND YEAR RUSSIAN! Her parents’ reaction resembled that which we see on those TV shows where the singer-wannabe is in a closed room trying to impress the three judges, and emerges either with a yellow piece of paper or a sad look. Renee’s piece of paper was bright yellow.”
The summer after she graduated high school, Slawsky went to Russia and fell in love with the culture. She studied abroad in Russia again in the summer of 2011 where she stayed with a family and took classes in St. Petersburg.
“The thing I like the most about Russia is that it is different from anywhere else in the world,” Slawsky said. “There is no place like it really. People think Russians are really cold and unfriendly but I found that they are very warm and welcoming when you make an effort to learn their culture.”
This fall Slawsky will be returning to Russia, where she will teach the English language and American culture to middle and high school students through the competitive Fulbright Scholar Program.
Slawsky will also be working on a separate project for the Fulbright, writing profiles of Russian people and posting them to a blog.
“I hope this will help break stereotypes,” Slawsky said. “There have to be plenty of people who have interesting stories to tell.”
As she looks back at her time at Wake Forest, Slawsky found her fondest memories to be working on the Old Gold & Black staff. Her leadership roles on the student newspaper include Life Editor, News Editor and most recently, Print Managing Editor.
“Working on the OGB taught me so many things I couldn’t do in the classroom,” Slawsky said. “Leadership skills, teamwork, improving writing and providing an outlet to be creative. My four years on the OGB are one big fond memory.”
“I would tell incoming freshman it is good to dedicate yourself to one cause or club on campus,” Slawksy said. “It can be extremely rewarding if you can give your time towards something you are passionate about.”