Patrick Powers ’21 will spend the summer improving his knowledge of Uzbek language before heading to Uzbekistan with a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship.
Powers majored in Russian/East European studies and comparative literature. He says he first became interested in Uzbekistan through Nikita Makarenko, an Uzbek journalist and musician who visited Oberlin in 2018 as a visiting professor.
“His course on news and mass media in the former Soviet Union shone a spotlight on post-Soviet Central Asia, a whole region of the world which I knew absolutely nothing about,” says Powers, who is from La Grande, Oregon. “I was totally engrossed by the opportunity to learn about this entirely different element of the former USSR which differed so immensely from the regions I was used to thinking about. I think Central Asia is an incredibly rich and important area to understand, since it is connected to and influenced by so many cultures and economic centers of power.”
Powers says he is excited to learn more about contemporary Uzbek literature, the rapidly evolving role of religion (especially for the younger generation), and the Uzbek language. Although many Uzbeks speak Russian fluently, he says his goal is to become an advanced speaker of Uzbek rather than relying on his Russian language skills. This summer he will be working more intensely on his Uzbek with Professor Dilnoza Khalisova of the University of Wyoming.
“I'm especially interested in how Uzbekistan's political and cultural identity, shaped by so many outside forces throughout history, is evolving yet again in the 21st century.”
Powers particularly enjoyed his experience as a Russian teaching assistant at Oberlin, and he hopes that through teaching English he can facilitate cross-cultural communication and mutual understanding. “Ultimately I want to help open up the world for my students in the same way that studying foreign languages has opened up the world for me. I'm also looking forward to bringing my knowledge of Uzbekistan back to the United States, because I feel like most Americans know just as little about Uzbekistan and Central Asia as I did before a couple years ago.”
Powers was enrolled in a study abroad program in St. Petersburg, Russia, in Spring 2020, but his time was cut short due to the pandemic. He wrote his honors thesis on Russian literature. In addition to language studies, Powers was a research assistant in the politics department. He also served on Oberlin Student Senate for four years and worked as a resident assistant.
Following his Fulbright year, Powers plans to apply for additional funding through the Oberlin OCREECAS grant to stay in Central Asia or Russia in summer 2022 to do independent research. He is considering a master’s in Russian/Eurasian studies, law school, or potentially pursuing a PhD in Slavic studies. “In any case, I definitely plan to continue studying Russia and the former Soviet Union.”
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