Levi Bochantin first became interested in the German language when he was a senior in high school, teaching himself the language because his school district didn’t offer any German courses. He found the language interesting and was curious enough to pursue studying it on his own.
When he arrived at Missouri State, his German studies shifted from self-taught hobby to degree-track classes.
“When I enrolled at MSU and took a language proficiency test, I was placed in fourth semester German, which ended up exceeding my Spanish placement even though I took three years of Spanish in high school. Because of this, I eventually ended up making German my major under the Modern Language degree, and ended up spending a year in Germany, as well as taking part in a summer language program in Germany while at MSU,” says Bochantin.
The Study Away Programs were a big part of the draw for Missouri State when Bochantin was choosing colleges—he knew going in that he wanted to study overseas. Bochantin explains, “The summer German language program was incredibly influential on my later research interests and ultimately my master’s thesis; I lived for a month and a half in Wittenberg in
former East Germany, where I lived with a wonderful host mom who lived most of her life in the [German Democratic Republic], yet was incredibly pro-reunification and happy with the direction Germany has taken post-1990. Meanwhile, some of her neighbors who I met were the opposite—nostalgic of the past and the securities they once had. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, this juxtaposition sparked my interest in memory, remembrance and heritage of the communist past in the broader Central and East European region.”
Shortly before his graduation from Missouri State, Bochantin was accepted to a master’s program in Central and East European, Russian and Eurasian Studies through the University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom (U.K.). The program would take two years to complete and had a primary goal of spending time in the region itself; Bochantin spent the first semester in Tartu, Estonia, the second in Glasgow, and the entire second year in Kraków, Poland.
“The program allowed me to branch out beyond my modern language background and into the political and social sciences. It required some adjusting and getting used to, and was especially testing due to the program requiring us to constantly move from country to country, but in the end the experience and all the friends I made along the way made it invaluable. Much of my master’s research revolved around exploring how German museums work to create heritage of their East German past, and I’ve also developed interest in how this past is negotiated in the broader [Central and Eastern European] region,” Bochantin says.
Bochantin graduated this past December, and returned home to visit family and friends for a short time. Unfortunately, COVID-19 lengthened his stay. It didn’t take long, however, for Bochantin to get back on his feet. “At the end of August, I was fortunate to start an internship with the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage remotely, assisting one of the program curator’s with a plethora of projects. I’m still interning there, and now considering what to do once the internship finishes at the end of the year; I am still trying to find work in the meantime, and considering the idea of returning back to university to do a PhD,” says Bochantin.
As for his more long-term goals? Bochantin wants to return overseas so he could be closer to many of his friends and “once again be immersed in the part of the world that is so near and dear to my heart.”