Christopher Muller (St. Petersburg 2012)
Like countless individuals from around the world, former RLASP participant Christopher Muller enjoyed all the excitement the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia had to offer. His view of the action, however, was from a much different perspective than most. During the games, Chris was not in front of his TV. He was working for NBC Olympics as an intern and member of the logistics and operations teams—escorting athletes and talent to various venues and assisting with production.
Just a year before the Olympics, however, Chris was a semester student in St. Petersburg on the American Councils Advanced Russian Language and Areas Study Program (RLASP). While abroad, he was able to hone more than just his Russian language skills. Outside of the classroom, Chris enjoyed spending time with his host family and worked as an intern at the Institute of Cultural Events. He recalls, “it was a perfect placement for me, as I still had time [for classes] and gained professionalism.” Through projects such as document translation and regular interaction with Russian colleagues, Chris also gained great insight into the Russian workplace and a new level of cross-cultural understanding.
Fast forward one year and it's clear to see that his experience from St. Petersburg paid real dividends in Sochi. On how the study abroad program prepared him for the NBC Olympics internship, Chris recounts, “there was no necessary period of acclamation or adjusting. I was coming back to familiar territory and was able to focus on my work right away without any obstacles.” Many of his peers, however, found simple tasks to be more difficult with language and cultural barriers. Chris noted, “my ability to speak Russian helped me stand out. In many cases I was entrusted with higher profile tasks, escorting camera crews to Sochi or Krasnaya Polyana, and even translating for booking agents and security personnel.”
Chris has since returned to Washington, D.C. to finish his senior year at American University. When asked about professional plans for his future, Chris said, “I would enjoy any career that would allow me to interact with people of different backgrounds and nationalities, but I would especially enjoy using my Russian skills. Working in St. Petersburg and with NBC Olympics has helped me discover my passion for cross-cultural communication.”