Last month, as most Upper School (US) students studied for exams and submitted final drafts of their Senior Essays, Chris Lang ’18 traveled to Moscow, Russia, for six days to compete in the Olympiada of Spoken Russian (OSR), the first US student to do so since Owen Page ’15 in 2014.
Dating back to the 1960s, the OSR is a three-day contest of spoken Russian hosted by the Pushkin Institute in Moscow once every three to four years. This year, around 150 students from 36 countries attended, and Chris was one of six Americans there.
Chris became eligible for the event by winning a gold medal at a Russian competition at the Davis Center at Harvard University last April. After receiving the news of his success in August, he applied to attend the OSR by interviewing with a member of the American Council of Teachers of Russian and by writing an essay in Russian about his four sisters.
Chris heard he qualified in November and flew to Russia on December 2. On the first day of the competition, he wrote an essay about his best friend, on the second day he gave two oral presentations, and on the third and final day, he participated in three events: a grammar exam, a debate with another Russian student about a nearby tourist attraction, and—Chris’ favorite—what he called a “real-life situation.”
For this activity, judges asked Chris a hypothetical question: if your girlfriend wanted to go to the theater but you had to study for a test the next day, which would you choose?
Chris reportedly responded, in Russian, that he would choose studying.
“It was a great way to evaluate my Russian skills—to use an everyday situation while also making [the Olympiada] entertaining and fun,” Chris added.
When not competing, Chris joined other students on guided tours of tourist attractions such as the Planetarium and Moscow’s Red Square, where the president lives. He traveled home on December 9.
Chris began studying Russian in ninth grade because he wanted to try something new, he said.
“It’s nearly unheard of for a high school to have Russian as a language option, and the fact that BB&N does is a unique quality that I couldn’t resist taking advantage of,” he said.
Russian Teacher Josh Walker praised his student’s interest in the language.
“Chris is a very dedicated student of Russian and has been a great ambassador for BB&N as a host student for many Russian students,” he said.
Chris said he would participate in the competition again because he valued the chance to work with Russian students from several countries.
“I was surrounded by like-minded kids from all over the world who love the Russian language,” he said. “I befriended people from countries I knew little about, [and] it’s indescribable how special that was.”