To Russia with Love: UCF student interns abroad

Through much of February, the world will focus its attention on Russia for the winter Olympics in Sochi. But Shannon Payne, a junior anthropology major, will be focused on Russia even after the fanfare dies down.

Payne will be traveling to Moscow this summer to work in the U.S. embassy as a Department of State intern. As a cultural affairs intern, she will work for 10 weeks doing tasks including preparing remarks for meetings, taking notes, meeting with exchange groups and assisting public affairs officers.

Shannon Payne

Shannon Payne, an anthropology junior, researches and compiles notes as part of her Global Perspectives at UCF spring 2014 internship.

Payne said she’s looking forward to her trip, and is grateful that she won’t be in Russia during the Olympics.

“It’s a little scary, just because this is the first time I’ve really been paying much attention to the politics behind the Olympics, but, I also feel like this is the first time that there’s been so much politics involved in the Olympics,” said Payne. “I feel like this time it’s just one thing on top of another.”

The 2014 Olympics has caused political concerns. According to, Russian law bans communicating to minors the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations.” Anti-gay laws have resulted in protests regarding the treatment of gay Olympians.

But Payne’s internship begins in May, and by then, the Olympic buzz will have faded. Though, that doesn’t stop Payne and her family from worrying.

“The first thing that my mom said when I called her and told her I got the internship was, ‘oh, I was hoping you wouldn’t get it,’” said Payne. “She doesn’t want me going to Russia. There’s a lot of safety issues; I’m worry about getting robbed; I’m worried about blending in.”

However, Payne should be prepared for the challenges she may face thanks to the education and experience she has received at the University of Central Florida.

Payne is currently in her second semester as an intern for Global Perspectives.

“The Global Perspectives office is sort of all things international,” said Jessica Gagnon, the program’s public affairs coordinator.

Gagnon said that internships are comprised of three pillars: office, research and events. For her research, Payne is studying the European Union and Russia and is creating weekly current event briefs.

If Global Perspectives has prepared her to speak the language of international relations, UCF’s Russian program has prepared her to speak the language of the people.

Payne has taken four semesters of Russian –the most that the school offers. In order to take her language skills further, Payne is considering taking an independent study with Russian professor Alla Kourova in the fall.

“It will be interesting to have an independent study with her because then for myself –she took four semesters in Russian, she spent internship in Russia, and it will be from the point, not only as a professor, but from the point of research even for me to see how she progressed,” said Kourova.

Payne characterizes herself as determined, and if she applies this work ethic, her language progression may be apparent upon her return.

“I just try to give my best; whether it’s in terms of schoolwork or friendship,” said Payne. “I try to give the best that I can, and if I try to do something and it doesn’t work out, at least I tried my hardest –then I can’t really hold it against myself.”

But, she might have to worry about her professor’s expectations.

“I mentioned to Shannon … ‘I’m going to be very hard on you this semester because I don’t want my friends think, “she did not teach you well enough to use Russian,”’” Kourova said.