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Student writes her own ticket to success in Russian essay competition

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SYLVANIA CAMPUS – Olga Kiser, a first-year Russian language student at Portland Community College, competed against the country’s elite and won. Olga Kiser. Kiser, a native of the Czech Republic, tied for a silver medal for the first-year category in the national American Council of Teachers of Russian Post-Secondary Russian Contest. In the non-heritage learners, Kiser tied with students from University of Notre Dame, Columbia University and American University. “I was surprised,” said Kiser, who lives in Lake Oswego. “I certainly didn’t expect it. It was funny because here I am from PCC, listed among students from Harvard, Yale and UCLA. I think I’ve done well because I love the instructor. She makes the lessons fun and exciting.” The contest is divided into heritage and non-heritage language students and had four divisions for each category, based on number of years spent studying the language. Kiser had one hour to sit and write an essay on what she likes to do with her free time. There were 506 essays submitted from 52 universities and colleges. Each essay was ranked by three judges in Russia. There were more than 100 students from 40 institutions throughout the United States who won gold, silver, bronze or honorable mention certificates. “It’s a very impressive list of winners and I’m so proud of Olga for being a top national Russian language student,” said Kristine Shmakov, PCC Russian instructor. “The contest is extremely competitive and draws students from the best Russian programs in the U.S.” Kiser came to the U.S. in 2000, first living in California before moving to eastern Oregon where she attended Treasure Valley Community College. Last fall, she came to PCC to complete her associate’s degree in science and hopes to earn an associate’s in nursing. Kiser is fluent in Czech and is learning the Russian language in order to communicate with Russian-speaking patients. She grew up understanding a little Russian, but hasn’t spoken the language in two decades. “Since I’m fluent in Czech and it’s also a Slavic language, it is probably not as difficult for me to learn Russian,” Kiser said. “But I’m better at writing it than speaking. I’m not fluent yet. When I was younger I didn’t care about learning Russian, but now it’s so much fun to learn.”

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »