College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

UM Students Post Strong Showing in National Russian Essay Contest

Director of UM Russian language program provides encouragement, guidance


University of Mississippi students won medals in the 2018 American Council of Teachers of Russian essay contest for college students

University of Mississippi students won medals in the 2018 American Council of Teachers of Russian essay contest for college students

University of Mississippi students won medals in the 2018 American Council of Teachers of Russian essay contest for college students, placing among the top in the field of nearly 1,300 essays from 60 schools across the country.

The National Post-Secondary Russian Essay Contest, which was established in 1999, has become a signature Russian language contest for students taking Russian at colleges and universities around the country. Three judges in Moscow read each essay and independently ranked them. Four UM students were recognized.

The UM students worked very hard and produced some excellent essays, said Valentina Iepuri, UM assistant professor of modern languages and director of the Russian language program.

“I’m really proud of them,” Iepuri said. “I was moved to tears by their work.”

In Category C, Level 4, Nika Arkhipova, a senior nutrition and dietetics major from Moscow, won a silver medal for her essay on her hometown, which mentioned the music she grew up hearing, including the songs “Moscow Nights” and “Golden City.” She also won a silver medal in the same category last year, which is for native Russian speakers.

“I tried to write about everything I like about it, including some historical facts about it, and some architectural and other information related to the city,” Arkhipova said. “I mentioned (a) couple of songs I grew up listening to about Moscow.”

Amy Cain, a junior political science major from Southaven, won a bronze medal in Category A, Level 2, for her essay on living in Memphis, Tennessee, and spending her summers in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She said the Russian professors at UM did a great job of preparing her and other students for the challenging contest.

“I sent in an essay last year as well, but I guess that does not make the task any less intimidating the second time around,” Cain said. “It’s a whole different experience from writing class assignments with a textbook and dictionary open. While the topic is broad, the hardest part is narrowing down the topic to something you actually know how to articulate in Russian.”

Philip Ouyang, a sophomore chemistry major from Kunming, Yunnan, China, received an honorable mention for his essay about the Chinese city he was born in, including information about the lifestyles, climate and the seagulls that migrate there from Siberia during the winters.

“I am interested in Russian language and have been to Russia once when I was in junior high school,” Ouyang said. “Writing the essay to me is like recalling the precious journey. As a newbie for Russian, of course, I don’t have enough vocabulary to depict the scenes, and Dr. Iepuri helped me (with) a few words and cases as well, which is pretty helpful for memorizing commonly used phrases.”

Olivia Myers, a sophomore international studies major from Baton Rouge, also received an honorable mention in the same category as Ouyang. She wrote about UM and also her Louisiana hometown, but also how she wants to live in St. Petersburg someday. She said she was nervous, but it all came together nicely, thanks to the preparation with Iepuri.

“The experience of taking on this essay reassured me that Russian is a passion that I want to continue,” Myers said. “I love how learning a language never ends, and I plan to use Russian in my daily life not only in school but also for my future career.”

Daniel E. O’Sullivan, chair of modern languages and professor of French, said the strong showing isn’t surprising.

“Every year, Dr. Valentina Iepuri encourages several of her students to enter into the Russian essay contest, and every year, one or more of her students place in the competition,” O’Sullivan said. “It is a testament to her dedication as a teacher and to the hard work of her students.”