UT studen smiles for the camera with a green hill behind her

Exploring Academic Interests in Eastern Europe

  • Apr 13, 2018

Studying in another country gives you the opportunity to learn a new language, explore global issues, explore new cultures, and break down myths and misconceptions.  

That’s what Charlie Bacsik, a junior majoring in Government and International Relations, has discovered during her experience abroad. A first-generation college student and the first one in her family to study abroad, Bacsik is spending her entire 2017-2018 academic year in Eastern Europe. In this profile, she shares the highlights of her experience in Ukraine and Russia, how it has shaped her, and how it’s preparing her for her career. 

Charlie, tell us about yourself.  

I am a junior at UT majoring in Government and International Relations with a focus on International Security.  My core focus is Russian, European, and Eurasian Studies. 

I am predominantly interested in the energy sector. I did not realize that until now. My family has a background in gas, so that really sparked my regard for the topic. I know Ukraine and Russia have very different views on oil and gas so it will be really interesting to see what I can pick up on that.  

In regards to career goals, I really like the Russian language so I will consider any career than can give me the opportunity to use it. I am also considering careers in the energy sector.  

What interested you in studying abroad?  

Picture of 9th Century monastery in Armenia

I have been thinking of studying abroad since high school. I started taking Russian classes during my sophomore year of high school. I was picking it up with reading and writing, but my speaking ability and comprehension was lacking. I figured that the best way to practice the language was to visit the location where I had to use it on the daily basis.  

How did you select your programs?   

For international relations you have to study abroad at least once and my credits allowed me to take courses outside of the U.S. for more than one semester. 

I started meeting with Daniel Ach a year ago, to discuss options. I had so many questions and was all over the place. I did not just want to go to St. Petersburg for a year. I wanted to go to different places. For this reason, I looked at different countries and courses. I had to do a lot planning and research but I am very confident of what I chose.  

My first program is predominantly based in Kyiv, Ukraine (SRAS in Ukraine).  I chose to study here because the program offers Policy and Conflict and heavy Russian language classes. I chose my second program (SRAS in Russia) in St. Petersburg because I want to practice the language and see how much I have learned. I will also be taking Russian history classes and cultural classes.  

Planning a year in advance helped me find funds that will cover costs for studying abroad for a year.  

We understand you are the first one in your family to study abroad.  How was the planning process for you?  

It was super exciting. I've had amazing people, including my professors and advisors, who have helped me coordinate it. They gave me information on the various countries. This is why I never felt nervous.  

Daniel and everyone at the Texas Global have been supportive; they covered everything. I kept stressing thinking that I would forget something, but they helped me through the process—through finding courses and funding.  

What informed your decision to study abroad in Kyiv and St. Petersburg?

Picture of Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine

I think that my Poppa (grandfather) sparked that early on. He is actually from the Czech Republic and my mom is part Irish and Polish. I grew up with a lot of Eastern European food in the cultural setting and I was the only one in my family who enjoyed it. When I got to college I was looking at what language to take for my Liberal Arts degree and Russian just stuck.  

In regards to professional experiences, I interned for the Institute for the Study of War in Washington, D.C., this summer and they put me on the Ukraine portfolio. I really dug into their energy project to see how their energy sector can stabilize or destabilize the country.  

Did you receive any scholarships?  

Planning a year in advance helped me find funds that will cover costs for studying abroad for a year.  The University Leadership Network is helping me fund my program.  I received The First Abroad Scholarship since I am the first in my family to go to college and the first one to leave the country. I was also awarded the FLAS (Foreign Language and Area Studies) Fellowship. I received that one through the European Studies Department and they have funded for me to go abroad.  

What are your housing arrangements?  

I am staying with a host family in Kyiv. A mom and dad with a son and a daughter who are fairly close to my age. I will be staying in the dorms during my spring semester in St. Petersburg.  

How do you stay in touch with your family and friends?  

I will have my phone. I will have WhatsApp, Facetime, Facebook, and Skype.  

Do it! Funding is out there. 

What advice would you give to students who are thinking of studying abroad?  

Mountains in Georgia

Do it! Funding is out there. You have to write a lot of essays, but it is totally doable. If your family has no idea of what is going on, the study abroad unit and professors are more than willing to sit down with you and go through it.  That was something that I realized pretty quickly when going through the process.  

What aspect of studying abroad are you most excited about?  

Going somewhere where I can't speak the language. That is the most exciting and the most terrifying part of it. I am also excited about experiencing a different culture.  

What are you hoping get out of your study abroad experience?  

Meeting a lot of people and getting to know their lives. Hearing their opinion. I think that is what I am trying to take from it.  

What are three items that you packed for your study abroad adventures?  

My Russian-English Dictionary which is essential.  

Gifts for my host family.  

My favorite sweater. My best friend convinced me to pack it in case I get homesick. 


There is a whole world out there waiting for you. If you’re a first-generation college student thinking of studying abroad, explore scholarships we offer just for you. Explore study abroad