Taylor Nydam '23

Homeland Security and Russian Majors
photo of student hiking in mountains

Why did you choose UNH?

I chose UNH because it has a nationally ranked Homeland Security program and it is a top tier research institute.

How did you choose your major and why?

I chose to major in Homeland Security because I want to have an impact at the global level. Whether that is working in an embassy or consulate abroad, or working on developing humanitarian policy in a developing country or country of conflict. I ended up declaring Russian as my second major after taking an elementary class in the first semester of my freshman year because of how much I enjoyed it. I had always craved to learn more about the world, and its many different cultures, and Russian satisfied that.

What do enjoy about your majors?

What I really enjoy about my majors are the freedom of opportunities that come with them, and how much my cultural awareness has grown. There are so many amazing opportunities that come with having a background in security studies and a foreign language. For example, I met several highly ranking government officials, either working or have had worked in Homeland Security, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Foreign Service. Making connections and networking with these people has been a highlight in my college education. You get to learn about their lives and hear their stories; which are nothing but fascinating. Then, majoring in a language allowed me to meet native speakers and make friends that I would have not had the chance to without knowing Russian. It is amazing how many doors open for you when you choose to study a language, and I am forever grateful for my Russian professors for that.

What do you enjoy about being in the College of Liberal Arts?

One thing that I enjoy about COLA is how diverse it is. I love walking into Murkland Hall and hearing different languages being spoken around me. You can feel the positive energy emanating from all the staff and students. It is unlike any other academic building I have been to on campus.

Tell us about any experiential learning you've undertaken.

The summer going into my senior year I was fortunate enough to study abroad in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, which is located in Central Asia and was once a part of the Soviet Union. When I told my friends and family that I will be going to Kyrgyzstan their top two questions were, “Where is that?” and “Is that a safe country?” Honestly, those questions also crossed my mind. It was amazing how little I, nor my peers knew about Kyrgyzstan; and even though we had no background on the country we associated it with negativity. In schools and in the media, when a country ending in “stan” gets talked about it is usually associated with a very negative connotation. I can say first hand that my perception of Central Asia was tainted by biased media and education. However, I was not deterred, but determined to put myself outside of my comfort zone, and I was not disappointed. After traveling, studying and being immersed in the culture, language and traditions of Kyrgyzstan, my perception changed. I got to experience a nomadic culture by riding horses in the middle of the mountains for three days, building and sleeping in a yurt, understanding the art and skill of making traditional Kyrgyz cuisine, and making local friends who made Kyrgyzstan feel like a home away from home. No longer was my perception negative, but entirely positive and I yearned to learn more. I believe that the beauty of study abroad is to forget old perceptions based on media and education and discover new ones based upon experience. Coming back to the United States after 10 weeks in Kyrgyzstan not only greatly improved my Russian skills but also gave me a new perspective on life. I encourage everyone to study abroad or travel because it truly will change the way you view the world, and make you a more knowledgeable global citizen.

Are you involved in any groups, clubs or organizations?

I am a student-athlete on the UNH Women's Track and Field team. I am also a student ambassador for the Russian program.

How is COLA preparing you for career and professional success?

COLA is preparing me for career and professional success by making me have more of a global perspective on things rather than only having an American mindset. I think it is very important to look at issues and ideas from different perspectives because by only having one is ignorance in itself.

What are your post-graduation plans at this point?

My post-graduation plans are to start my master's in national security intelligence analysis at UNH, where I aspire to become a better analyst and work in the Intelligence Community.

What is the one thing people might be surprised to learn about you?

I love watching foreign movies and shows, even if they are not in English.