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Back to Russia, With Love

Allison Stroyan is currently studying in Russia through Dickinson's study-abroad program.

Allison Stroyan ’18 

During her senior year of high school, Allison Stroyan ’18 was selected as one of six students to represent the United States in the 13th International Olympiada of Spoken Russian in Moscow, a contest that tests the Russian-language skills of students from all over the world. Last year, after spending a summer in Russia and studying Russian film, she wrote the English subtitles for a documentary, commissioned by the Russian Ministry of Culture, about the 1952 execution of Jewish anti-fascists.

Now, Allison is back on Russian soil, where she's spending her junior year studying abroad in Moscow. She was recently invited by the director of the film she subtitled to attend the premiere of his latest play. 


Russian and computer science.

Clubs and Organizations:

Russian Club, Multilingual Writing Center, CommServ and Russian House.


Dana Research Grant, Alpha Lambda Delta, Dean’s List

Favorite book:

Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer.

Favorite movie:

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

On choosing a major:

I started taking Russian when I was in eighth grade, because I wanted to be an astronaut. By the time I realized that my eyesight was way too bad to do that, I had grown to like Russian more. I always used to make up languages and codes when I was younger, so studying a real language felt natural and exciting. Computer science interested me for similar reasons; it’s learning new languages and solving problems with them.

Favorite place on campus:

Russian House common area.

Favorite Dining Hall food:

Spinach and shells at the KOVE.

Proudest accomplishment so far:

In 2014, I was selected as one of six students to represent the United States in the 13th International Olympiada of Spoken Russian in Moscow. This was my first time in Russia. Definitely a peak.

On studying abroad:

I studied abroad in St. Petersburg. Navigating to a museum by myself seriously forced me out of my comfort zone, since I’m from a town with basically one main road. But I did it! And I rode home on a tramvai, which I’d been wanting to do ever since I’d gotten there.

Favorite class so far:

The Russian department’s Workshop in Translation, with [Associate] Professor [of Russian Alyssa] DeBlasio, was a blast. It helped me hone crucial translation skills and build my translation portfolio. As part of the class, we worked on translations of volcanologists’ papers about a group of volcanoes on the Kamchatka peninsula.

About my cinematic final project:

After taking Film in the Putin Era with Professor DeBlasio last fall, I took her Workshop in Translation class [see above]. For the final translation project, [DeBlasio] offered me the opportunity to translate film subtitles for a director, Alexander Zeldovich, whom she personally knows; we watched one of his films in this class. 

I translated the subtitles of the documentary The Process (2002), which is Zeldovich's response to the Ministry of Culture's request to make a movie about the execution of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee. For several weeks, I worked without a script, which proved to be a real test for my Russian listening comprehension. I learned a ton in the process, though, like how to work with subtitle writing software. Eventually, I did receive the transcript, which really sped along the translation.

Over the summer, Professor DeBlasio informed me that Zeldovich was going to be putting on a play in October, during my first semester in Moscow. I got in contact with him recently and went to the closing night of the production, where I was able to meet him in person! It was humbling meeting such a respected director, if even for a few minutes. That has to be the most rewarding part of translation for me—knowing the author appreciates my work, and that my work will be out in the world and of use to people.


Drawing. My phone recognizes my pencil portraits as people.

About my internship:

I interned over the summer with a startup based in New York City, assisting the lead designer with creating web and app user interfaces. The internship introduced me to the startup scene and greatly helped me improve my approaches to graphic design.

Post-Dickinson plans:

Ultimately, I would like to find a career where I can utilize my art, linguistic and computer science skills to benefit a cause I care about.

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Published October 28, 2016