Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Daily Gazette: What is your Fulbright project? Where will you be living, who will you be working with? You’re a Russian major, so clearly you speak that—do you have plans to learn other languages while in Kazakhstan?
Latavia Elmore: I’m going to study how Kazakhstan imagines itself as nation through its diversity and how what ethnicity. Kazakhstan has called itself both a Kazakh state and a multi-national state while having significant ethnic (53.4% Kazakh and 30% Russian) and religious (47% Muslim and 44% Orthodox Christian) breakdowns. In addition to these breakdowns, many Kazakhs have been well Russified to the point where they do not know the Kazakh language.
I will be living in Kazakhstan’s capital, Almaty (in the South near Uzbekistan), with a host family. I hope to travel to Aqtau (in the west), Petropavlovsk (in the north) and Pavlodar (in the east) to see as much of Kazakhstan’s diversity as is possible.
For the Fulbright application process, I did not need to secure my job placements. All I had to do was make suggestions: The Center for Conflict Management, Kazakhstan Institution of Management Economics and Strategic Research (KIMEP) and UNESCO.
I would love to pick up some of the Kazakh language, if possible, but I think being Kazakhstan will be an excellent opportunity to get my Russian to an excellent proficiency.
DG: Where did you get the inspiration to apply for a Fulbright?
Elmore: I spent my junior year in Turkey and Georgia, so I got a taste of Turkish chauvinism and Georgian pride. I became very interested in Georgia’s conflict in terms of space and place and especially after I had met with Abkhazian and Georgian delegation. When I returned to Swarthmore, I decided to write my Russian and sociology/anthropology theses on the Georgian conflict and how Georgians, Abkhazians and South Ossetians have imagined themselves as nations. For the Fulbright, I wanted to expand on the ideas that I had in my thesis in a place that was more diverse and “peaceful.”
DG: What are your post-Fulbright plans? Do you hope to use your Fulbright to build on further goals?
Elmore: I think that the Fulbright is a great preparation for grad school. I want a masters in Eurasian and Central Asian area studies and social work. I haven’t visited Africa or the Balkans yet, so I hope that before grad school I will have another year of exploration. My long time dream has been to start my own study abroad program for African-American students. I believe that sometimes a person can better understand their community by stepping outside of it. Studying abroad really does broaden a person’s perspective and forces him to be an ambassador in both his own community and in another community.
DG: Any advice you have for other students who might want to apply?
Elmore: Start early! It takes time to get your Fulbright proposal to where it needs to be.