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  • Amelia Parkes

Found in translation: Amelia Parkes discovers home in Russian program

Amelia Parkes found love at an early age, but not with a typical childhood sweetheart. 

Her love was for languages. She discovered this passion at 8 years old from hearing stories about her grandfather, who was French-Canadian and spoke fluent French. 

Parkes was homeschooled, and her mom didn’t speak French. So, she taught herself. 

“It was a very self-initiated pursuit. My mom gave me textbooks and would try to help me, but eventually I started studying on my own and fell in love with languages that way.” 

In 2017, Parkes committed to the University of South Carolina after meeting with Dr. Judith Kalb, the Russian program director. 

I’ve always thought Russian literature is very powerful because of the significance of language to the Russian people. Especially because of the censorship of the Soviet Union.

— Amelia Parkes 

Surprisingly, though, she entered as an International Business major her freshman year. “Everybody told me it wasn’t very practical to major in languages.”

But it wasn’t long before she found her way back.

“My freshman year in one of my literature classes, Dr. Kalb talked about the idea of the Russian writer as a prophet to the Russian people. There’s this history of the profound nature of writing in Russian culture. That has always drawn me in.”

Parkes switched to majors in Russian and French her sophomore year. Curiosity surrounding Russian people and literature inspired her SC Honors College senior research thesis, which seeks to understand the way Russians perceived their identity and experience during the changing times of the early Soviet Union.

Her thesis “‘I am simply Russian’: Post-revolutionary Russian Society in the USSR and Abroad Through Zoshchenko’ Satires and Berberova’s Billancourt Tales” went on to win the Macalester College Virtual Student Research Competition in the literature category. The yearly competition is hosted by the Macalester College Russian Studies department in St. Paul, Minn., and winners receive a cash prize.

Though the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent shutdown interrupted her junior and senior years on campus, Parkes was able to adapt easily to online learning. She attributes her homeschooling background and self-driven learning style to the quick adjustment. 

I don’t know where I’d be without Dr. Kalb. She really gave me the support that I needed and made the Russian department feel like a second home.

— Amelia Parkes 

Looking ahead, Parkes will start her Master of Library and Information Studies program at the University of Alabama with a concentration in archives this fall.

She aims to work with international materials, specifically Russian materials in government archives.

Of her time at UofSC, Parkes says, “I’m incredibly grateful for my opportunity at the University of South Carolina. I achieved things I never thought I’d be able to. I think it’s really because of the incredible professors that the College of Arts and Sciences has.” 

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