When the world is at your fingertips

June 03, 2013

Alina Siegrist '13When you first meet Alina Siegrist, you are enchanted by the demure demeanor of this young woman. Had one not read her extensive resume, you would never know all that she has accomplished academically in her life.

Born in Sarasota, living in Venice, Fla., and graduating high school in 2009, she had the privilege to travel to Costa Rica with her zoology class during her junior year since she spoke Spanish fluently.

While she had several choices where to attend college, it was both Stetson’s charm and extensive scholarship funds which swayed her to DeLand. “I fell in love with Stetson,” she said. And her decision was the right one.

She took advantage of all it had to offer especially becoming an RA during her sophomore year in Conrad Hall, 2nd North.  She later became a member of many professional fraternities and honor societies including Alpha Kappa Psi, Beta Gamma Sigma, Phi Eta Sigma, Dobro Slova, Omicron Delta Kappa, and Phi Beta Kappa.

Starting as a business major with a minor in psychology, she decided to take a course which, ultimately, would influence her career and change her major. She tells of her first Russian language course, taught by Michael Denner, Ph.D., head of the Department of Russian Studies, whose teaching style was quite intimidating. “He’d stare right at you, yet he’d be asking a question to a student who was behind him,” she explained.

He quickly became her advisor and it wasn’t long before she decided to study abroad at the School for Russian and Asian Studies (SRAS) in St. Petersburg, Russia, and happened to be the only student from Stetson who participated in that program.

Living with a host family who only spoke Russian, she was ingratiated into the culture from the moment she arrived. At school, she was additionally taught about Russian history, culture, literature, and cuisine. She also had no phone or internet access.

Later she studied at the School of Finance and Economics (FINEC) and was the only American at the entire university.  She enjoyed attending classes with students from England, France, Germany, Checkoslovakia, Finland and Hungary.  While there, she was the only woman who would attend the gym and was actually criticized for being both fit and smart by the Russian men.

After she returned to Stetson and considered her career aspirations, she decided to join the Peace Corps. The process took over 10 months to get approved and to learn where she might be offered a position.

On June 3, Siegrist leaves for Kenya, Africa as a new Community Economic Developer. Her main responsibilities include HIV/AIDS prevention, teaching English and business development, whereby she will assist in getting small businesses off the ground.

She will first travel to Nairobi, stay with a host family, enter training for six weeks to determine her skill strengths before she is given her permanent assignment and exact village location. She is prepared for the probability to have no access to internet, phone or electricity. Her term of service will be 27 months which includes a small stipend enough to afford her basic living expenses and a $6,000 readjustment fee when she returns to the United States.

As she is the first in her family to obtain her bachelor’s degree, she is considering studying for her master’s degree upon her return to the USA. She speaks of the possibility of working with the State Department at that time.

She graduated Stetson May 11, with a major in Russian studies and a minor in international business. With her extensive background in academics as well as practical life lessons of these fields, and her future experience in Africa, there is no doubt Alina will be a shining star in Stetson’s alumni ranks.

by Mary M. McCambridge


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