I come from Hrodna, a nine centuries old city on the western border of Belarus. Growing up in a place that had history played out differently could be a part of Poland, Lithuania, or even Russia, made me dream of traveling around the world and seeing the borders between states disappear. My dreams seemed to be coming true as the formerly impenetrable Soviet republics opened up to the outside world in the 1990s and an open border was created in the EU Schengen Area. And although traveling has never become easy for Belarusian citizens, my dream to see the world did materialize.
In 2003, I became finalist of the Freedom Support Act Future Leaders Exchange Program (FLEX). This program is funded by the U.S. Department of State to cultivate relationships between Americans and citizens of the former Soviet Union. I was lucky to leave just before the program in Belarus was terminated on the request of the Belarusian government.
Thanks to FLEX, I spent an academic year as a junior in Glasgow High School in Newark, DE and created a digital story about the future of the Belarusian language. Studying abroad helped me to see my home country from a different perspective, learning to value its uniqueness and at the same time becoming a more critical citizen. My experience has also taught me to value the choice and independence that the Belarusian students lack. This is why, upon returning home, I was determined to obtain a higher education in the United States.
In 2005, I matriculated in Cottey, a womens two-year college in Nevada, MO. Fascinated by US technology, I started as a computer scientist. However, long nights in front of the computer only increased my love for the humanities. In between math and programming, I wrote for the Cottey Spectrum, studied ballet and sculpture, played piano, learned a second foreign language, independently studied and competed in business law and international business, and led several campus clubs.
In 2007, I transferred to Smith College in Northampton, MA and declared a major in Government. Having not only combined work study with independent research, but also led the Smith Model United Nations, participated in APDA debate tournaments, experimented with computer graphics and web design, and written for The Sophian, I graduated summa cum laude in 2009.
In fall 2010, I started a Ph.D. in government program at Harvard University. I hope to grow
into a scholar, researcher, and professor and extend scholarship in my field.
I started playing piano at the age of six, and have taken and given lessons since then. However, today my artistic passion is focused on drawing and political cartooning. Cartooning allows me to connect both of my homes the United States and Belarus and two of my favorite activities writing and drawing in my work. I compose cartoons to accompany my opinion pieces for Belarus Digest, a project on Belarus in the international media, and Across the Aisle, a bipartisan blog of Partnership for a Secure America.
I have discovered that music, art, and humor help bridge political and economic differences and serves as a common language connecting people from various backgrounds.