Ratislav Krylov is smiling.
The Georgia State University Presidential Scholar of the Class of 2021 has found exactly what he was looking for.
When the Apalachee High School Class 0f 2017 graduate began considering colleges, he wanted to find somewhere where he was able to pursue the various threads of math and science he was interested in, and he wanted to be able to do undergraduate research that could have a real-world impact.
Despite a resident of Metro Atlanta in nearby Barrow County, Ratislav wasn’t as familiar with Georgia State and its academic and research opportunities as he was those at other Atlanta universities.
“More than any other school I talked to, Georgia State had an energy—a pride—about its growth and future,” said Ratislav. “It’s growing so much and isn’t rigid and set in its ways. I’m getting the freedom to study and research what I’m interested in.”
When he joined his cohort in the Honors College that first fall semester, Ratislav knew he was where he belonged. The last time he started a new school, he wasn’t so sure.
Ratislav Krylov didn’t entirely trust their smiles.
The new Apalachee High School freshman had been in the United States for several months, but was still unsure about the smiles and friendly demeanor that seemed to be standard accessories for his classmates.
Ratislav had seen My Super Sweet Sixteen and other MTV programs featuring American teenagers. His classmates seemed nothing like the spoiled and vapid kids he saw on TV. But the smiling…
In his native Moscow, people just didn’t walk around smiling.
Mid-way through the 8th grade school year, Ratislav moved with his mother and older sister from Russia to Barrow County, Georgia. If his preconceptions about Americans—informed by the grotesque avatars of American teenhood he saw on TV and the low-level thrum of hostility towards Western cultural he’d absorbed in Russia—didn’t make the adjustment hard enough, his new school was the biggest he’d ever attended. In Moscow, he was one of about 400 students in his school comprising grades 1-12. He had as many students in his class at Apalachee High School.
Starting a new school is always a challenge. Doing so when you don’t know anyone, when you’re “the new kid” is even harder. Ratislav barely spoke the language.
Between the language barrier and not having a car, it was difficult for Ratislav to get enmeshed into his new school’s social fabric. He spent much of his free time helping his stepfather rebuild a 1968 Chevy Nova from the frame up. While Ratislav, befitting a typical teenager, would have rather been hanging out with his friends, he now appreciates the hands-on experience he gained working on the Nova.
“Entirely rebuilding that car complemented my academic knowledge with practical experience with tools,” said Ratislav. “I wasn’t afraid to go off on my own to college because I know that if something breaks, I can fix it.”
Over those months, Ratislav was also easing into the life of Apalachee High. He got involved with the Future Business Leaders of America and the Math Club. He tried to start a chess club, but found his interest in the game wasn’t matched by many of his peers. The cross-country team provided him a valuable outlet. A diverse group of students possessing a broad range of interests comprised the team and Ratislav fit right in.
By his senior year, Ratislav had distinguished himself in the classroom, received awards and accolades, and found a group of friends. Somewhere along the way, he even picked up that American “subtle smile” he’d at first found so disarming.
While his interests in the fields of math and science are broad, Ratislav is focusing his studies on machine learning.
“I want to make a difference in the world, and in machine learning, I can apply my interest in math to the type of productive research that can have an impact,” said Ratislav.
In between his class work and research and campus social life, Ratislav is looking forward to continuing his self-education in American cinema (“I feel like a missed out on a golden age of American directors”).
In short order, life at Georgia State will no longer be new to Ratislav. It’ll be challenging and exciting, but it will be familiar. The beginning of his university experience, however, differs significantly from the last time he started a new school.
This time, he’s is very happy to be here.
Ratislav Krylov is smiling.