Theatre and Linguistics Major Gains Broader Global Experience with Internship Abroad

Fluent in both Russian and English, Zhanna Yakubova, who was born and raised in Moscow, Russia, decided to learn Spanish too and began taking classes in high school when she moved to the United States six years ago.

“I am always learning a second language,” she said, “I learned to speak and write in English, and when I moved here, I decided to learn another foreign language, so I am learning to speak Spanish.”

Now a senior at Michigan State University, Yakubova is double majoring in Linguistics and Acting. She has always had a love for learning languages and, during her first year at MSU, she added a Spanish minor to her undergraduate education. Last summer, she completed an internship in Argentina to fully immerse herself in the language.

Woman with short dark hair sitting as a desk with a laptop computer on it.
Zhanna Yakubova wearing an MSU College of Arts & Letters T-shirt while working at the Observatorio Social in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

“The minor helped me a lot with speaking the language,” she said. “And I thought that doing an internship abroad would help me even more.”

Yakubova applied to the Internships in Buenos Aires program, which is run by Connect-123, and was hired as a Social Media and Graphic Design Intern for the Observatorio Social in Buenos Aires where she worked on their social media and their website.

“I learned so much Spanish, especially Argentinian Spanish, which is not taught in America,” Yakubova said. “I also learned how to make animations, design website prototypes, and other graphic design skills that are useful in the real world.”

However, when Yakubova boarded the plan to go to Argentina, she was having doubts even though she was excited to travel to South America and to begin her internship.

“I learned so much Spanish, especially Argentinian Spanish, which is not taught in America. I also learned how to make animations, design website prototypes, and other graphic design skills that are useful in the real world.”

“When I was on the plane and everyone was speaking Spanish, I got so scared,” she said. “I thought, ‘what am I doing here.’ I literally cannot understand anything.”

Those fears subsided once she got to Argentina where it was easier for her to adapt to the new culture because of her previous experience moving from Russia to the United States.

“You can get lots of anxiety being in a new space and there’s no way to really prepare yourself for that,” she said. “But I wanted to enjoy every day because I knew I only had two months.”

Woman wearing a pink knit hat and sunglasses with snow-capped mountains in the background.
Zhanna Yakubova at the Cerro Catedral Mountain in Patagonia, Argentina.

MSU’s Internships in Buenos Aires program comes with two weeks of classes at the Spanish school, Vos Buenos Aires, which gave Yakubova the opportunity to learn Argentinian Spanish. The school was run by the host family that Yakubova lived with during her time in Argentina.

“MSU requires you to stay with a family, and I had a wonderful time there, even though I was lost in translation in the first weeks,” Yakubova said. “You also get an advisor with the Connect-123 program who speaks English and helps you navigate through the program or any issues with the family, so it is not that intimidating to be in a new country.”

Yakubova worked at her internship four to five hours each day and also had plenty of time to explore the city.

“It was so fun to explore a new place and immerse myself in the culture,” she said.

A picture of a person with paint on their hand adding a hand print to a wall of similar paintings.
Zhanna Yakubova leaving her “hand stamp”at the Vos Buenos Aires school, which is a tradition for all students who finish classes there.

Now back in Michigan, Yakubova has continued to prioritize that she is making sure to enjoy every day, no matter where she was at.

“My goal for the next 10 years is to travel and study new languages,” she said. “Languages, traveling, and acting are my three favorite things, so I want to incorporate them into my future.”

This summer Yakubova will be participating in the British Theatre in London study abroad program.

“I was awarded a few College of Arts & Letters scholarships for the study abroad, so I am really grateful,” said Yakubova, who plans to graduate from MSU in Spring 2025. “I am hoping to get inspiration from a different continent again about the future of my life.”