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American Councils Study Abroad

About

American Councils offers study abroad and research programs to fit numerous academic and professional endeavors in Russia, Eurasia, the Balkans, and Asia. From language immersion and area studies, to the business and policy sectors, American Councils has a program to advance your education and career - in more than 19 countries and 25 languages.

Founded
1974
Headquarters

1828 L ST NW
Washington, DC 20036
United States

Reviews

Default avatar
Caroline
10/10

As a Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies major, much of my academic background and cultural familiarity pertaining to states that used to be members of the Soviet Union was very Russia-centric. I figured that interning in Yerevan, Armenia through American Councils would be an ideal opportunity to grow professionally, deepen my understanding of the Eurasian region beyond Russia, and have a chance to experience a different culture. I interned at the Startup Armenia Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides Armenian startuppers with resources and networking opportunities to help them grow their businesses. During my internship, I worked to aid Startup Armenia in expanding their reach internationally, conducting research on venture capital, angel investors, universities, non-profits, and international networking events that could potentially become future partners for Startup Armenia abroad. In addition to learning about international involvement in the economic development of Armenia's startup ecosystem through my tasks on the job, I had the fortune to be working alongside incredibly down-to-earth, motivated individuals, with whom I still keep in touch to this day. In addition to the internship experience, my time on the OPIT program was memorable and special because of the chance to live with an Armenian host family. One thing that I noticed very quickly in Armenia is the importance of family. While my host family on paper included my host dad, host mom, and their adorable four-year-old son, in reality, my host family included them, as well as my two host grandmothers, my host uncle, and all of their relatives, whom I saw frequently on our weekly trips to the family farm in the countryside. Being welcomed into their family, and memories including dinners with my host parents, spending time after work in my host grandmother's kitchen, and playing with my host brother, made my summer internship experience meaningful not just professionally but personally as well. The American Councils office staff was always extremely helpful and readily available, giving myself and the other American interns on the program with me a judgment-free zone to ask questions and address any issues during our weekly meetings. I would definitely recommend the OPIT program to anyone looking for a professionally and personally meaningful experience abroad.

Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Chandler
10/10

This summer, I was lucky enough to study abroad at National Chengchi University in Taiwan through the American Councils' Tradition and Modernity in Taiwan program. During this month long program, I took courses related to Taiwan's history, politics, culture, and contemporary issues. This coursework was supplemented with daily language instruction centered around practical language application in addition to several cultural excursions. Places we visited during the program included Taipei 101, the National Palace Museum, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Tzu Chi Recycling Center, the headquarters of Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party, and (my person favorite) Yilan aboriginal village. While in Yilan, we hiked through beautiful mountains while learning about the aboriginal peoples' hunting techniques. That night, a few of my friends and I sat down with a local family and conversed in both English and Chinese, discussing popular American and Taiwanese singers, and eventually teaching one another dances: we taught them how to do the cupid shuffle while they taught us a local dance of worship. We laughed, talked, and listened to music for hours. It is a night that I will never forget.

The Tradition and Modernity in Taiwan program provided me with invaluable memories, lifelong friendships, and a rich academic and cultural understanding of Taiwan. I would recommend this program to anyone who is looking to step outside of their comfort zone and try something new, you will not regret it! My experiences in Taiwan remain some of my favorite memories to date, and (if I could) I would definitely participate in this program again.

Yes, I recommend this program
Cydnie
8/10

My experience interning on the Overseas Professional and Intercultural Training Program in Moscow, Russia, was an exciting and eventful one. This program was enjoyable in that you get to negotiate your hours with the company you intern for, get to go on excursions with students who are studying abroad on other programs through American Councils, and are guided through any feelings (both good and bad) that you may feel during your time abroad. I got to see much more of Moscow than I ever even expected.

I worked at a start-up company called CINEMOOD, and our office was located very close to the heart of the city. I was also in Russia during the 2018 FIFA World Cup, which was also exciting to see the city buzzing with energy.

As a double major studying both Linguistics and Russian Studies, I was able to work with translating texts and files for our company. Overall though, I was more excited about being able to work in an environment where I could speak Russian every day. I've been studying the language for over 5 years, so getting the immersion and the practice allowed my language skills to skyrocket while still getting professional experience!

How can this program be improved?
I would have preferred getting my host-family assignment a little sooner. I ideally wanted to be able to reach out and get into contact with them before I met them, and unfortunately was not able to do that.
Yes, I recommend this program
Araxie
10/10

This summer I had the wonderful opportunity to intern in Armenia through OPIT. I worked with Article 3, a local human rights organization. For my internship I researched, wrote, planned, and did video work for a project about the circumstances, effects, and continuations of Armenia's recent political revolution. I am a rising sophomore in college and I had really wanted to get some experience and insight into the non-profit field to inform my major and career decisions, so the opportunity to work here was very important and influential to me. I was able to meet a lot of people, not only in my organizations but also others in the field, which was very informative in helping me to learn about it.

In addition to the work component, I was able to live with a lovely host family in Yerevan for six weeks. They were really nice and did everything to take care of me and help me make my way around the city. I had told the program staff that I spoke a little Armenian, and they gave me an opportunity to practice with a host family that didn't speak much English (the others in my group got English speaking hosts, however). It was challenging, but a very helpful experience in the long run.

In addition to the work experience in this program, we took a class with a small number of assignments for university credit. The staff in Yerevan was very helpful and checked in with us a lot to make sure we were doing alright and see if there was anything they could help us with to improve our experiences. They also organized some free excursions for us with alumni of their Armenia-US exchange program, which was really fun and let us meet new people and see more of the country. In addition, they helped us to organize our own travel outside of program activities.

One of the best part of my experience was the internship group that I went to Armenia with. There were seven of us, all from different backgrounds, different parts of the US, and working in different fields, but we got along really well, and it was much easier to navigate the challenges of living abroad since I had American friends to talk with. In addition, our group went on two weekend trips together, which was really fun as well as making travel and seeing different parts of the country far easier since we had more people.

Finally, in terms of costs to this program, they offer scholarships for interns in certain areas. My internship did not qualify, but I was able to get a grant independently through my university because it was in the field of public policy and service. Overall, a really amazing experience that made the adventure of living and working in another country accessible, informative, and fun to do.

How can this program be improved?
One thing that would be helpful is if we were able to get our host family information sooner, since we got it the day before we left. Also, I think it would be nice if the class assignments were optional because my university does not accept the credit anyway, so having to pay for the class was not helpful to me.
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Keely
9/10

First of all, something of a disclaimer: I received a massive scholarship for this program. Now, this goes both ways; my own experience was of a massive bargain, which I cannot imagine is shared by those who paid the full $8000 or so dollars, and is not the average experience; on the other hand, you can see that the scholarships for this program are very generous. I believe most of my classmates received some sort of financial aid. Personally, all told, I paid about $3000 dollars for this two-month program, including housing, a variety of daily language-learning classes, and many extracurricular lessons and excursions - although keep in mind airfare and food is NOT included, the first totaling something like $1000 each way and the second something like $500 for the two months (there is no school cafeteria, but as a college town, food is accessible and cheap).
Now for, in my opinion and that of all others in the program whom I asked, the best aspect of this program: the education. The teachers are actual Taiwanese people, almost entirely women, equally versed in the Traditional Chinese used in Taiwan and the Simplified version of China which I myself study (meaning that one can just as easily study one as the other), and who are all fluent in English and passionate about what they do. I've heard it often said that the best language teacher is one who does not speak the native language of their students, and certainly we all benefited from bans on speaking anything other than Mandarin, but I'd add the caveat that the best language teacher is the one who does understand the language of their students but refuses to use it. This bilingualism meant that as we struggled to translate phrases too literally from English to Chinese, these teachers could understand what our meaning was in English and tell us the proper Mandarin saying.
Aside from the classes one would probably expect - every weekday there's one on grammar, followed by another on new vocab and reading comprehension, and both focused strongly on speaking skills - there was also something of a poly-sci class held in very small groups (max, mine had three people) in which we discuss problems in the modern world that effect both American and Taiwanese peoples. On top of all that, to start off the day we had hour-long individualized tutoring sessions with graduate-school students working toward their teaching degrees who were just as talented as the full-time language teachers we studied under for the rest of the day. The teachers are so lovely, shockingly young - were any even in their thirties? - and a mix of strict and understanding that I've actually never experienced before. Although, I will say - you will spend most of your time studying. Be prepared: this is not merely an easy way to explore Taiwan!
We had many excursions, my favorite of which was a visit to a small island off the southwest coast where we snorkeled with endangered sea turtles. A warning: although I didn't really mind, every class, every activity, every excursion, is required (unless otherwise mitigated by health reasons), which many of my classmates found stifling. They often compared it to a summer camp rather than an academic program - although again, that was a complaint only about these extracurriculars and not about the rigorousness of the classes themselves.
Two months is a long time, and in a city without great public transportation, yes, it sometimes became a little stifling. I certainly was very homesick for nearly the entire trip. Many everyday problems will come up, which are exacerbated to a massive degree by being on the opposite side of the globe from your hometown in a city small enough that many businesses institutions survive without any or minimal internet presence (which makes looking things up very difficult) and surrounded by people speaking an entirely different language from your own - and in my case, using even a different writing system (remember, Traditional Characters!). Sometimes, yeah, when I asked questions of teachers and other program officials, they seemed confused by my inability to find things online and thus were not terribly helpful. So you will indeed need to be pretty self-sufficient. But hey, even those experience I would not trade for the world! A program like this is not merely about studying language in the controlled classroom environment of the weekday, but also the learning to how to navigate totally foreign situations totally on your own, without parents, without teachers, often even without friends or classmates to buffer to awkwardness that will inevitably arise as you repeat your drink order for the fourth time, clueless as to which word you are pronouncing wrong since the server is clearly not understanding.

How can this program be improved?
Sometimes program workers, in-country, and Taiwanese natives, seemed not to understand the difficulties that came up for us as foreigners - finding banks, withdrawing money, and everyday tasks like that were not really something that those "in charge" seemed really to be able to help us with.
Yes, I recommend this program

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