Erin Waters

In fifth grade my math teacher asked my class if we wanted penpals from the USSR. I was intrigued and that’s when I started writing to Natasha, who lived in Yalta, Ukraine. Of course we wrote in English, as Natasha had been attending spets-school since kindergarten. In Exeter, NH, where I grew up, there was, at that time, a well-established Russian program in both the junior and senior high schools so when I was given the choice of French or Russian in seventh grade, I jumped at Russian. I’ve been at it ever since. Although I left that Russian program in high school when I went to Phillips Exeter Academy, I was lucky enough to be able to host Natasha when she came to the US for a month in 1994. The following summer, via Moscow and a long train ride south, I found myself in Yalta living with Natasha and her family. At that time, I had never come across the Russian work kushat’ and so at dinnertime the first night, I was tremendously confused when everyone was telling me to idi kushat’. Because of my wonderful time in tropical Yalta, even before orientation at Hamilton College I knew that I would go to Russia my junior year. I spent 1999-2000 in Yaroslavl on the Middlebury program and that’s why I’ll base myself in Yaro for the Fulbright. Since I’ll be interviewing and photographing babushki, it won’t be difficult to travel around and see the country. In the interim year between Hamilton graduation and the Fulbright, I worked in Washington DC for The Russia Journal, an English-language paper based in Moscow that was starting out in DC just as I moved down. I cannot now imagine my life without the Russian twist in it and look forward to the next year. On the side, I will also pursue my interest in 19th century Russian photography and in music. I love to sing and I also play the clarinet. I have dabbled with the balalaika and yearn to be an accordion player.

The Fulbright Program in Russia. Institute of International Education.
Strastnoy Bulvar 8A, 4th floor, Moscow, Russia 107031
Tel: +7.495.966.9353 Contact: