AC Study Abroad Logo

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 20 countries and 25 languages.

Founded
1974

Reviews

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

I initially had many reservations about the program, uncertain how effective an intensive
language program or virtual study abroad would be towards engaging in cultural exchange, immersion, and advancing my language goals. However, in weighing my options, virtual TISLP appeared to be a valuable experience, despite its newness. Financial support from the Dan E. Davidson Fellowship and other scholarships from American Councils was a major contributing factor in my ability to pursue this program. The scholarship was especially helpful when other funding I had applied for was no longer applicable since I wouldn't be in Taiwan for my study abroad program. The scholarship and others offered through American Councils ensured that I could pay for the program tuition and not stress about finances.
The 8-week program was no doubt, intensive. I started to feel the effects of immersion as I devoted most of my daily schedule to studying Chinese, attending classes, and meeting my language partner for conversation practice. Through thoughtful discussions with my language partner and teachers, and three other classmates, I slowly find myself able to articulate myself better in Chinese. The TISLP program also gave me numerous opportunities to practice voicing my opinion and has enhanced my confidence to do so. The course structure also encouraged us to engage in open dialogue to share our views on numerous topics. Being in this learning environment showed me that we can exchange differing opinions and still advance together while developing good relationships. Meeting with my language partner twice a week over video calls exposed me to cultural aspects in Taiwan as she shared numerous things with me from her life, school, and country.
I was glad that I decided to pursue this program even after it moved to a virtual format because of the pandemic.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
Because we were working virtually between multiple U.S. time zones and Taiwan, I had difficulty initially adjusting to the time I had selected as my preference for certain class meetings. In hindsight, I should've changed this earlier on to make for a more normal schedule. The program staff and faculty were very accommodating though and worked with me to make some minor adjustments for scheduling even after the program had begun.
Default avatar
Brittni
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I studied abroad with RLASP in Moscow during the Spring 2020 Semester (so right during the time when covid took over). Before covid really hit, I definitely enjoyed all aspects of the program. Mind you, I was pretty much a beginner in Russian prior to leaving and I felt anxious about the academic workload. Most of my peers had over 3-4 semesters of Russian under their belt, so I definitely felt self-conscious about my ability to truly succeed. However, you take a placement test when you arrive and the professors split you up into groups and completely tailor the curriculum according to your needs. I could barely say anything beyond planned phrases prior to leaving the US but left having conversations about Russian poetry and film. Most professors are very patient and push you to do well and speak. The classes themselves are super interesting and, in my group, we more or less directed the conversation. If we wanted to talk about climate change or American politics one day in our Russian Internet class, we did just that. We also had weekly excursions to different museums and landmarks that were held in Russian. The difficulty varied depending on the excursion.

I have no real complaints about housing. My hosts were in their 70s-80s and pretty much kept to themselves most of the time, which was fine with me. However, if you want more "active" hosts, put that in your housing form. And be prepared to travel for at least an hour to get to school. I had to do a lot of walking and train transfers, but it was doable (albeit tiring). Try looking at all possible routes you could take before you start school. I only realized midway into the semester that one bus would take me all the way there (and it was only 3 minutes from my house).

When covid hit, we all had to go back to the US and so we continued with an online format. While it took us about a week or two to work out the kinks, I ended getting a lot of out the online format, if not more, since my concentration was completely focused on lecture and I didn't have the opportunity to really drift off. While programs may be online for the next foreseeable semesters, don't worry about not progressing in your language abilities. In some ways, you might benefit more from an online format than you would originally think.

The American Councils staff and Resident Director are incredibly resourceful and are there to help, while also allowing you that independence. They won't hold your hand throughout the process since living in Russia can be a learning curve, but they will help you along the way when you need it.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
If I could do it all over, I would take advantage of every opportunity to get out and explore the city. I became complacent in mostly just going to classes since I had this idea that "Oh, I'll have time to do whatever I want to do". However, covid quickly proved me wrong and I definitely regretted not going to more concerts or buying those train tickets to different Russian cities.
Default avatar
Angela
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Although my study abroad experience was virtual, American Councils adjusted its online language program to create a great and effective language learning experience. I was hesitant at first because I didn't know how they could create an "intensive language learning" experience with students all around the country, but through daily group meetings, one-on-one instruction, challenging homework assignments and weekly meetings with our language learning partners, I felt that my Chinese speaking skills have improved immensely. I communicated in Chinese everyday within the 8 weeks of the program and I felt that I’ve gained a lot of communication skills by speaking to my instructors, classmates and language partner throughout TISLP.

Due to COVID-19 I was unable to travel to Taiwan for the program; however, I still felt like I got to witness some of Taiwanese culture and language through my language learning partner. I got to see various night markets and national parks through my language partner as she showed me around Taiwan on LINE, a popular Taiwan communication app. Despite the program being virtual, I still made friends with fellow classmates and with my language partner. TISLP, overall, has been a great experience.

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
Online learning was a struggle but putting in effort to learn the material, engaging with your classmates and asking the instructor questions will improve you experience and help you learn Chinese effectively.
Default avatar
Adam
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

It was a very immersive program. I stayed with an incredibly nice host mother in a comfortable Moscow apartment. She only spoke Russian and classes were only in Russian, so I was always being steeped in the language. Excursions, classes, and my own adventures taught me a lot about the Russian mentality and language. I made lasting memories and highly recommend the program to anyone learning the language or who is interested in the region. I am now much more confident when it comes to speaking Russian and hope to return one day.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
Time goes fast when you are abroad, so make sure you aren't lazy about seeing the places/things you want to see.
Default avatar
Caroline
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I decided to apply for ERLP because I love Central Asian languages. The program was recommended to me by a friend. The program was excellent. I had one on one classes five days a week for two hours. I talked with my conversation partner for two hours a week and attended cultural activities twice a week. Though I was on Zoom, I felt that I was in Tajikistan. All these activities were held in Tajiki, improving my Tajiki quickly. The teachers will challenge you each lesson. Lessons focus on speaking, allowing you to develop communication skills. I am currently participating in the program this fall, building upon my strong foundation in Tajiki.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
My advice would be to speak as much as possible during classes.

Programs

Displaying 1 - 9 of 11

Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Victoria Saadat

After learning about the history of Kazakhstan, Victoria was hooked and couldn’t learn enough about the country, its language, and the culture. Though Victoria grew up in Virginia, she attended university and graduate school in California, at USC and Stanford respectively. As she now prepares for medical school, she continues to improve her Kazakh and Russian language skills while following the development of healthcare in Central Asia. Outside of work, study, rock climbing, and ballet, Victoria enjoys sharing her study abroad experience with the world!

Why did you pick this program?

The language I was learning when I applied to American Councils Eurasian Regional Language Program (ERLP) was Kazakh, and before that, Russian. While taking Kazakh classes at Stanford, my professor encouraged me to seek out opportunities to study Kazakh in Kazakhstan. One of my friends who recently graduated from Stanford had also been learning Kazakh and recommended that I check out the ERLP for Kazakh language. The reason I sought an international program was because Kazakh is very rarely taught and spoken in the US, and there would be no better opportunity to learn it thoroughly than in Kazakhstan!

When I read more about the ERLP, I realized how rich of a program it was: American Councils would choose a host family for me, set up a pre-departure orientation (which was two days before departing to my host country), and arrange for local advisors, speaking partners, and a whole host of activities not only in my host city, but throughout Kazakhstan. As I found out during the program, American Councils was supportive the entire time and even after I returned home.

What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?

When you get back, you WILL be a different person. However, try not to let your time abroad make you compare everything to what it was like in your study abroad country. Instead, use what you learned, saw, and did there to enrich your worldview—even if the gelato in Boston isn’t nearly as good as the one in Rome; even if the qaze (horse meat sausage) in Seattle isn’t half as tasty as the one in Almaty (hint: it’s because there is none!). You are so fortunate to have seen a different part of the world the way you did—by living, studying, and maybe even working there. Share your stories, post pictures, and, most importantly, encourage others to do the same and expand their worldview with study abroad.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Take more pictures—especially of the everyday. Even while living in a completely different part of the world, some things became routine, and I didn't notice them after a while. These include the streets, the metro, food, my room at my host family's house, and my host university. One tip I have for students studying abroad: take pictures of (almost) everything! You might think, "But I see this every day and am actually kind of sick of it," but once you come back home, you'll realize that it was also a lot of the little things that made up a big portion of your wonderful time abroad.

What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?

Probably my favorite story is about my first day in Kazakhstan. It seems awfully simple and mundane, but I think it is a feeling that many a study abroad student can relate to and relish. Recalling your first day in a new country bring up those feelings of excitement, anticipation, and ready-to-take-on-the-world inspiration. So here is my first-day story:

Setting: I flew into Almaty International Airport at one in the morning and took a cab my host family’s apartment. After a quick tea and a tour of the house, I went to bed-physically tired but mentally buzzed-and slept a solid five or six hours. In the morning, the first thing I remember opening my eyes is looking up at the high ceiling of my bedroom in my host family’s Soviet-era apartment, thinking, rather anti-climactically, “ok, this is new…” It was around seven A.M, and I was ready to get up, even though that meant I’d have to drudge through my two suitcases for my toothbrush, face wash, and contacts. This not having deterred me, I made my way to the bathroom and fumbled around until I figured out how the shower worked (read: a good six or seven minutes).

Showered, teeth brushed, and hair combed, I went to the kitchen and, lo and behold, was a grown man, possibly hung-over, and surely just sitting there. I asked him (in Russian) if he also wanted tea and proceeded to make him a cup, as well. The funny part was that he didn’t even ask who I was, what my name was, or what I was doing there. He just grumbled a couple times, and I sat down and had breakfast and tea with the stranger in silence. Before I finished my breakfast, he got up and left the kitchen. The sound from across the hallway was him apparently flopping back down on the couch, most likely to fall right back asleep

I washed the dishes and got dressed in my street clothes (read: Pac Sun plaid shirt, scruffy sneakers, and some ripped jeans) and made my way out the door and out of the enclave of apartment buildings and to the main boulevard. It bustled with a certain energy that I could never have been prepared for. It was an amazing feeling to walk out of the house and into the city of Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Did you go to other parts of Kazakhstan? If so, where, and what did you do?

We went on one weekend trip to Astana, the capital city of Kazakhstan. The trip was organized by my host university, KIMEP (Kazakhstan Institute of Management, Economics and Strategic Research). We traveled on an overnight train to Astana with a group of around 10 international students who were also studying at KIMEP, but on a different summer program. The 12-hour train ride took us across the Kazakh steppe, which one may think is boring (it was pretty much the same view for hours on end), but I thought it was beautiful! Many Kazakh folk songs describe the beauty of the vast, open skies and the sun setting on the expansive steppe, and now I have seen with my own eyes why it is, in fact, so captivating.

We spent two days in Astana, which is completely different from Almaty; It is a newly-built city, where most of the government buildings and offices are located, and where many people in business and government live and work. I would highly recommend to anyone going to Kazakhstan to see both Almaty and Astana in the same trip because it will really put a lot of Kazakh current events, policies, and social and cultural aspects into context and completely increase your understanding of this fascinating Central Asian country.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Sarah Krueger

Job Title
Program Officer

What is your favorite travel memory?

I have quite a few favorite memories. Ones that stick out to me are from my childhood. I was very fortunate to tag along with my Dad on his work trips. Having adventures with my family all over the U.S. sparked my love of traveling. Later, when I was studying abroad in St. Petersburg, Russia, a favorite moment was when my Russian language skills finally got to a point where I spoke freely and wasn’t so caught up in my pronunciation or grammar.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

AC Study Abroad works in many diverse regions – including Russia, Eastern Europe, Eurasia and Southeast Europe and I’ve been fortunate to travel to some of these places, such as Russia, Serbia, and Armenia. Through my travels and my work with AC Study Abroad, I have learned so much about these regions. Working in this field also made me appreciate the opportunities I had to study abroad – they were life changing and I hope to help as many students as possible to study abroad.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

This fall I attended an alumni event for students that have participated in our study abroad programs. It was amazing to meet the students and hear how much they learned, how much their language skills developed and to hear what they have been doing since participating.

Which destination is most underrated? Conversely, which is most overrated?

I don’t know about underrated or overrated, but a few places I love are Montevideo, Uruguay; Yerevan, Armenia; Ouro Preto, Brazil; Novi Sad, Serbia; Lake Baikal region, Russia; and Vilnius, Lithuania. These are a few places I would like to travel to: Moldova, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Finland and Bermuda.

What unique qualities does your company possess?

We have been running study abroad programs for over 40 years in Russia and over 20 years in Eurasia and are very knowledgeable about the regions. Our staff in Washington D.C. and overseas are very enthusiastic about study abroad, cultural exchanges, and developing language skills. We have an extensive support system worldwide and I am proud of that.

Describe a time when you felt especially proud to be part of your current team.

I am honored to be a part of AC Study Abroad every day. We take a lot of pride in our work and want to see everyone have the opportunity to travel overseas. We work very hard to ensure all the logistics are handled and have a great time doing it! We also love learning new phrases in other languages and try to use them on a daily basis.

We are very proud of the programs that AC Study Abroad offers and are ready and willing to assist students in any way we can.