From art to literature to religion, few countries contain as much history as Russia. There is a deep respect for the arts, with beautiful ballets, excellent theater and classical music to be found. As the largest country in the world, Russia contains a lot for high school students to see. While the winters may be cold, they are incredibly beautiful, and are made up for with long summer days and stunning landscapes.
If you're interested in a high school abroad program in Russia, you can choose from an exchange, a youth travel tour, or volunteering. Russian language programs are also an option for high schoolers.
Russia is great for students who are interested in learning Russian, the arts, volunteering, experiencing Russian culture, learning about Russian history, and making new friends.
High School Exchange
Student exchange programs in Russia can last for a semester or a full year. There are opportunities for students to join a local high school, but a basic knowledge of the Russian language is important. Programs generally include cultural excursions to churches, museums and sites of historical importance. Often, high school exchange programs in Russia can lead to a direct carry over of credits with your high school back home.
Youth Travel Tours
High school students who only have a few weeks to spend in Russia have the option of teen travel tours. Trips are organized by program providers so students get the most out of their time abroad. Activities include learning about Russian culture, studying Russian, and visiting major landmarks. Tours usually include visits to important historical sites and lessons on Russian history.
Russia has many volunteer opportunities for high school students to pursue during their time in the country. Subjects include social care, environmental conservation and education. Students can assist with teaching English and other foreign languages to adults and children to broaden their marketable skills. Medical volunteers work with the disabled and the elderly to provide basic medical assistance, aid in physical therapy sessions and support Russians going through rehabilitation.
Keep in mind that some volunteer abroad programs allow for teens to join in even if they aren't explicitly advertised as such. Be sure to get in contact with a representative to ask more details about age requirements.
Where to Go
Popular cities to visit in Russia include Moscow and St.Petersburg.
If you’re from the United States, Canada, Australia, or the UK you will need to obtain a tourist or student visa to enter Russia. Student visas are a bit more involved, requiring a completed application, a passport valid for a year and a half, a standard photo, an invitation letter from the host organization and an HIV blood test. High school students traveling with a program are normally provided assistance with visa applications.
While in Russia, staying with a host family is common for students enrolled in a local high school. This enables students to become a part of a Russian family and immerse themselves in the culture. Teen travel programs generally provide participants with hostels and shared hotel rooms.
If you’re traveling from North America to Russia, flights can cost around $850 USD, while those coming from Europe can pay around $250.
Costs for transportation, food, nights out and additional expenses in Russia are lower than Western European countries. Students should budget around $30 USD a day.
Program costs in Russia fluctuate depending on type of housing, length of stay and included amenities. It can range from $9,500 USD for a summer program to $13,000 for a yearlong exchange.
While in Russia, it's considered weird to smile at people on the streets (you'll be thought of as crazy) and keep the "excuse mes" and "thank yous" to a minimum. Remember to dress conservatively in churches. If you're there in the summer, it's always a good idea to have an extra outfit handy for visits into churches.
Russia experiences all four seasons, so if you’re going for an extended period of time, be sure to pack layers. The winter months (November through March) can be quite cold with lots of snow, while the summer months (June through August) do get hot. Russians living in cities tend to dress more formally than people from Western European or North American countries, so dress up a bit and avoid wearing baseball caps or basketball shorts, sweatpants, and PJs when you're out in public.
- Breathable and UPF (sun resistant) clothing
- Sunscreen and insect repellent
- A hat
- Warm/waterproof coat (something full-length ideally)
- Gloves, hat, scarf
- Thick socks
- Winter boots
- Solid walking shoes
- A power and voltage converter
Staying Healthy in Russia
It's recommended travelers obtain hepatitis, tuberculosis, typhoid, tetanus and diphtheria vaccinations before traveling to Russia. With a shortage of medical supplies and lack of comprehensive primary care, medical facilities in Russia do not meet Western standards. Many of the higher-quality facilities require payment in advance via cash or credit card.
Mosquitos are common at night in the summer months in Russia. Students are encouraged to use bug repellent and cover the skin. Always drink bottled water and make sure your food is properly cooked.
High school students traveling in Russia should follow general safety guidelines. Foreigners are encouraged to stay out of Chechnya, a region in the southwest of Russia that has experienced issues with kidnapping and disappearances. Acts of terrorism such as taking hostages and bombing have been known to take place in the North Caucasus region. Students should also avoid Crimea due to tensions between Russia and the Ukraine.
In Russia, it's important to be aware of your surroundings and keep your valuables close, as pickpockets work in crowded tourist destinations and on public transportation. If your credit or ATM card is stolen, be sure to report the theft and cancel your card immediately as criminals often use the stolen cards straight away.
A street scam called the “Turkey Drop” is common. An individual drops money, their accomplice picks it up at the same time as a passing pedestrian, the person who dropped the money returns and the situation becomes aggressive for the passerby. Generally, the unknowing pedestrian is robbed. If someone drops money in front of you leave the scene quickly.
American citizens should remain vigilant of their surroundings as tension between Russia and the United States has escalated in recent years.
The uses of drugs like GHB have been reported in conjuncture with the attacks and thefts in nightclubs and bars. Students should only use registered taxi services, as unregistered taxis have been a part of robbery, extortion, kidnapping and theft scams.