Thursday, May 23, 2013
BY LESLIE BRIDGERS
Malina Dumas, 22, of New Sharon stands in front of the Golden Gates in Vladimir, Russia, where she’s working on a tourism project this summer. In August, Dumas will leave for Moldova to study human trafficking as a Fulbright scholar.
A New Sharon native and the 2006 valedictorian of Mount Blue High School is leaving for Moldova next month to study the human trafficking problem there as a Fulbright scholar.
Malina Dumas, 22, who was awarded the yearlong scholarship from the U.S. Department of State, graduated this spring from Wellesley College with a bachelor's degree in Russian.
She's spending the summer in Vladimir, Russia, making video walking tours of the city to promote tourism. Last summer, she worked as an intern at the U.S. Embassy in Bulgaria.
After her Fulbright year, Dumas said she'd like to pursue a master's degree in Russian and Eastern European studies. Eventually, she said, she'd like to work as a diplomat in the U.S. Foreign Service or for an international organization abroad.
This week, Dumas responded by e-mail to questions about how she became interested in Eastern Europe and what kind of work she's done and plans to do.
Q: How did you become interested in Russian language and culture and then decide to major in it? Are you of Russian descent?
A: I took an intensive elementary Russian class at Wellesley over winter session my freshman year. We covered a semester's worth of material in three weeks, and, although it was a ton of work, we had an amazing professor and his enthusiasm for Russian language and literature was instantly contagious.
Upon entering Wellesley, I thought I would major in philosophy or cognitive science, but after taking this course I almost immediately declared a major in Russian, and soon I was working for the Russian Department and heading to St. Petersburg for an advanced Russian summer course.
Although I'm not of Russian descent, my name is coincidentally the word "raspberry" in Russian, so I always get a lot of weird looks when I introduce myself with my real name to Russians.
Q: How did you end up interning at the U.S. Embassy in Bulgaria? What exactly did you do there?
A: Through my own research on the Internet I found out about State Department internships at embassies abroad for college students. I applied for an internship in Bulgaria, because I wanted to learn more about Eastern Europe, and the Bulgarian language is very similar to Russian so it would be easy to pick up.
I worked in the political and economic section of the embassy, so I learned a great deal about Bulgarian politics and was lucky because I arrived in Sofia right when elections were taking place. I worked on reports about human rights issues, specifically regarding organized crime, human trafficking and the rights of asylum seekers in Bulgaria. I also had the opportunity to act as the staff assistant for the interim ambassador when he arrived in August. In that capacity, one highlight of my internship was when I accompanied the ambassador to a meeting with the Bulgarian Minister of Foreign Affairs as the official notetaker.
Q: What did the Fulbright application entail? How did you decide where you wanted to work and what kind of work you wanted to do?
A: Through the research I completed during my internship, I gained an interest in the issue of human trafficking in Eastern Europe and decided to apply for a Fulbright research grant to pursue this interest further.
The Deputy Chief of Mission at the embassy, who I looked up to as a role model, gave me the idea to apply specifically to Moldova. One of her first posts was in Moldova, and she told me that human trafficking is one of the most grave issues the country faces. In fact, Moldova is the number one country in the world for trafficking in human beings per capita. She also told me that I would be able to speak Russian there as Russian is one of the official languages, and Moldovan would be easy to learn as it is a Romance language very closely related to Italian.
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