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Studying the Intersection of Chinese and Russian Studies


Emma Belanger '20 in Russia
Emma Belanger '20 in Russia

Hamilton is proud to recognize our seniors who have been awarded national fellowships and scholarships, many of which involve international travel. The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, which oversees the Fulbright program, will delay the start date of 2020-2021 Fulbright U.S. Student Programs until after January 1, 2021. This revised January start date assumes that the travel warning levels have been reduced by that time.

Emma Belanger ’20 knew that she wanted to explore a new city and pursue her interests in Chinese and Russian language and culture after graduation, but initially she didn’t know how to make it happen. Then, while participating in Hamilton’s Associated Colleges in China program last year, she learned of Harbin, a town in China on the border of Russia.

A few months later, to her surprise and excitement, she learned that she had been awarded a Fulbright grant that would allow her to travel to Harbin next year to begin a research project.

“I didn’t even know if I would be able to do something that would combine my two interests,” Belanger said. “I thought I was going to have to choose ... but [the project] is the perfect combination.”

Impacted by international trade and Russian imperialism, Harbin is a city steeped in intercultural developments and population shifts. According to Belanger, Harbin’s Chinese and Russian influences have produced a city with an interesting cultural blend of tourism, language, food, and architecture. Her Fulbright research will entail learning more about the region’s history, particularly regarding the preservation of Russian culture and the effects of tourism.                                                                                                                          

About Emma Belanger ’20

Majors: Chinese and Russian Studies

High School: Strath Haven High School

Hometown: Nykøbing Sjælland, Denmark

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Belanger dedicated her college years to perfecting her skills in Chinese and Russian. One reason she chose Hamilton was because she believed an open curriculum would allow her to “focus on what [she] wanted to focus on” while still getting “a well-rounded education.”

And focus she did: Belanger spent her junior year abroad, taking classes in Russian during the fall of 2018 and in China during the spring and summer of 2019. While still on College Hill, she worked several jobs, including as a Chinese tutor, Russian teaching assistant, and student assistant for the Associated Colleges in China program.

Belanger’s Chinese thesis focused on the development of Russian language in China, touching on her passion for Russian and helping provide foundational understanding for her Fulbright research. “I think what’s really helped me is that the Chinese and Russian departments at Hamilton have been amazing,” she said.

Belanger said that she feels drawn to her Harbin research project and passion for languages due to her experience living in the United States and Denmark. “One of the things that’s really important to my Fulbright and why I wanted to go abroad is my upbringing,” she added. “Being half-Danish, half-American, growing up speaking two languages is a huge part of why I ended up studying languages and going abroad and wanting to go abroad again. That’s why I find this multicultural community in China interesting.”

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