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Student wins national Russian essay contest

June 14, 2005

Photo of Sergey ArzumanovRussian major Sergey Arzumanov placed first in the Sixth Annual National Post Secondary Russian Essay Contest, beating students from UCLA, Harvard and Columbia.

The contest, sponsored by the American Council of Teachers of Russian, received 500 essays from 52 universities. Students had one hour to write, in Russian, on the topic "When I Relax" without the aid of books or notes.

The topic was a challenging one for Arzumanov, who rarely has time to relax between his studies and work. The 24-year-old goes to school full time, with a double major in Russian and physics and a minor in mathematics. Arzumanov also moonlights as a taxi driver in San Francisco.

In his essay, Arzumanov wrote about his experience of dropping off his last passenger at 5 a.m., then watching the sun rise and the city come to life over a cup of coffee.

Arzumanov's essay won him first place in the Heritage Learners, Level 1 category, for students who have less than five years of education in Russia.

"Sergey is a rare example of what our program strives to promote among our heritage learners -- the ability to function simultaneously in two languages and cultures," said Svetlana Kristal, lecturer in the Russian Program.

Originally from St. Petersburg, Russia, Arzumanov moved to the United States with his family when he was 10.

"Although Russian is my native language, I was only able to communicate on a basic, everyday level," Arzumanov said. "In Russian, there is a big difference between written and verbal language."

Arzumanov believes that the Russian Program at SFSU has helped improved his writing skills and taught him how to communicate professionally. He also enjoys learning about Russia's history and culture as well as reading classical and contemporary Russian literature.

In the future, Arzumanov plans to continue his study of Russian in graduate school and then find a job that will best utilize his knowledge of science and understanding of American and Russian cultures.

"There is a lot of international cooperation in the science industry between the United States and Russia," Arzumanov said. "I'd like to imagine myself taking part in this -- working in physics and being able to travel and communicate with people from both countries."

-- Student Writer Audrey Tang with Matt Itelson


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Last modified June 14, 2005 by University Communications