Russia is no obscure, minor language: there are around 150 million native speakers in the country alone, and well-equipped language schools throughout the major cities. While the Russian language is spoken and understood in various parts of Eastern Europe and the former USSR, there’s no better place to learn the language than its birthplace -- the mighty motherland of Russia!
Russia is huge, and there are many cities and language institutes to choose from. The major cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg offer the most exciting all-round experience, with a wealth of cultural and historical attractions for your free time. Other smaller cities may be ideal if you're looking for a quieter experience and a taste of less cosmopolitan, traditional Russian life.
For as short as one week, intensive courses suit language learners who don’t have very much time to travel, but who want to brush up on their language skills or take them to the next level. Intensive courses are often conveniently timed around holiday periods, such as Easter and Christmas, to help you fit in Russian study with your regular life.
While Russia has a reputation as a bitterly cold, snow-covered country, this couldn’t be further from the truth in the summer months. Taking a course in your summer break is a good idea if you’re studying the language at home and are wanting to advance your skills between semesters.
Academic Russian/ Business Russian
For those who have a lot of experience with Russian, an academic or business Russian course might be a good option. The grammar and vocabulary covered on such courses is very high, but still intended for those whose Russian isn't perfect. Academic Russian courses are best suited to those bilingual in English and Russian, or a native speaker of another closely related Slavic language and studying Russian.
One-on-one lessons with a teacher will help you get study at your own pace, and work on specific areas that you find most difficult. They are an ideal way to study if you feel that you are between levels, and wouldn’t fit well into a group class. Perhaps your speaking is strong but not your reading and writing, for example, or vice versa.
Preparation for the TORFL exam
The Test of Russian as a Foreign Language (TORFL) exam was established in the 1990s, and comprises six levels. You can take TORFL preparation courses for any of the six levels. While more general Russian classes would teach you many of the things you’d need to know for this test, specific test preparation courses make sure that you focus on the things needed for your level.
On work-study programs, you will spend half your time studying Russian in a classroom setting, and the other half working as an English teacher. The work component will allow you to improve your Russian in a professional setting. The idea is to help you balance work and language learning, without feeling that one must be sacrificed because of lack of time.
Studying at a Russian University
Doing your entire degree at a Russian university may be a good option -- Russia has around 50 internationally acclaimed universities! Tuition costs are low, and much cheaper than the USA. However, taking your entire degree in Russia is probably only an option for students who already have strong Russian language skills (such as if your family background is Russian), and who are up for a serious adventure!
Planning Your Trip
Staying with a host family is an ideal way to get the most out of your Russian language experience, as you’ll be using the language more and will learn more about Russian culture. Many language schools can help arrange a homestay.
Alternatives are staying in a hotel or hostel, but this can be much more expensive, and you won’t get as much out of the whole experience.
Typically, getting your visa can take a month or more. You first need an invitation, usually provided by your program, hotel or a travel agency. Invitations can be free or cost a small fee (around EU20 to EU40). Once you have your invite, you can get a tourist visa valid for a maximum of 30 days from the date of entry, or a student visa that will cover your long-stay study program (for a student visa you'll have to produce evidence of an HIV test).
Costs & Funding
The major cities of Russia are not cheap places to live. However, the general cost of living is still lower than most of Western Europe, as things like local transportation and groceries are relatively cheap.
f studying at a Russian university, you’ll find that tuition costs are much lower than US universities. Private language schools -- where most students opt to study -- vary in cost, depending on the length of the course.
The QS Top Universities website lists a number of scholarships for international students interested in learning Russian in Russia, from Russian government sponsored scholarships to those for students majoring in particular disciplines.