July 26, 2012 12:00AM
Tyler Conklin is about to embark on an adventure that wouldn’t have happened without a little bit of serendipity, a lot of perseverance and Conklin’s openness to new experiences.
Conklin, a Pittsburg State University sophomore from Owasso, Okla., will spend the fall semester taking general education and Russian courses at the St. Petersburg Polytechnic State University in Russia. It’s something she couldn’t have imagined herself doing just two years ago.
In fact, Conklin didn’t imagine herself at Pittsburg State until she came to visit a friend.
“I fell in love with the campus,” Conklin said of her visit. “It took a little bit to convince my family that it was a good decision.”
At Pitt State, Conklin, a political science major, quickly became involved on campus, joining a sorority and participating in Pitt Pals, an organization that connects international and American students.
“ I have traveled all over Europe, so I have an interest in international students and other cultures,” Conklin said.
At PSU, Conklin wanted to add a foreign language to her coursework, but because she had enrolled late, her choices were limited. She took a chance on an already over-enrolled Russian class and attended for three weeks until enough students dropped the course to allow her to be admitted.
“There was no guarantee that there would be space in the class, but she attended anyway and I could see she was serious about learning Russian so I was glad to be able to let her in,” said Megan Corrigan, the Russian class instructor and assistant director of international programs and services on campus.
At a campus study-abroad information fair, Conklin learned about opportunities to study in Russia through an American Institute for Foreign Study (AIFS) program. Conklin said she gathered information and talked to many friends, including international students in the Pitt Pals program, before applying for the fall 2012 program. Conklin was selected and will be one of 34 Americans going to St. Petersburg this fall through the AIFS program.
“AIFS offers a semester program in St. Petersburg, Russia, where students can study Russian and also take classes taught in English on politics and international studies,” Corrigan said. “This was exactly what Tyler was looking for.”
Corrigan said Conklin got course descriptions of the classes she will be taking in Russia and worked with academic departments at PSU to make sure they will transfer and count toward her degree so she can graduate in four years.
“I think Tyler will do very well abroad," Corrigan said. “She is bright and outgoing. She has infectious positive energy and academic purpose and she's a good language learner in that she isn't afraid to plunge into a sentence and make some grammatical or pronunciation mistakes but get her point across, be corrected, and learn from it.”
Conklin said the excitement is building as she prepares to leave at the end of August.
“I am excited and also petrified,” Conklin said.