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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 20 countries and 25 languages.

Founded
1974
Headquarters

1828 L ST NW
Washington, DC 20036
United States

Reviews

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

I am so glad that I decided to study abroad with American Councils. This program allowed me to be fully immersed in the Russian language and culture. My language abilities grew immensely due to this program's policies. Living with a host family and taking classes taught in Russian pushed me out of my comfort zone in the best way possible. I also loved living in a city that has so much to offer such as Saint Petersburg. Every time I had free time I would take advantage of all of the amazing museums and restaurants in Saint Petersburg.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Take advantage of all of the amazing museums in this city!
Default avatar
Haley
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

This entire adventure changed my life. I have been abroad many times before; however, this program provided a unique opportunity in which I was able to cultivate a deeper understanding for a language and a culture without the typical classroom frustrations/setbacks. From the hilarious and dedicated professors to my incredibly caring host family, everyone was so supportive and patient with us. I truly felt like a Muscovite by the end of August!
But going past my growth as a Russian student, I could easily tell that I had developed certain life skills I definitely had not left the States with. I previously had always felt uncomfortable going anywhere alone. I literally never ate at a restaurant or went to a museum without at least one other person, but while I was in Russia, I noticed that I didn't even really care. All I wanted to do was explore the things that interested me the most, and my passion allowed me to overcome that fear.

What was your funniest moment?
One of the funniest moments to me had to have been when we decided to go to a "Russian Banya." I'm not entirely sure what we were expecting, but getting asked if we wanted to be whacked with birch leaves after steaming off five pounds was definitely not on our minds. It was quite possibly one of the most uncomfortable experiences in my life, as we all sat in a hot room, sweating off about a year's supply of water. One girl was so miserable, she began crying. However, it was also one of the best bonding moments we all had, and the noodles we ate afterwards were delicious too!
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Finn
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The BRLI program is a unique learning opportunity that you cannot find anywhere else. It provides you with amazing learning instruction, taught by extremely caring and dedicated professors, while also allowing you to have a chance to see what the Russian business culture is like through an internship. The courses you take are specific to business. They are the same courses that fortune 500 companies enroll their employees in to learn the business language of Russia. This means the knowledge and experience you gain from this program can become an asset, not only a new bullet point on your resume but a cultural and business awareness that companies and professionals value all around the world. You will leave Moscow with a better language ability, enhanced knowledge of the complicated Russia Business world, and numerous memories.

What was your funniest moment?
My funniest moment was participating on a Russian game show. Through the university I met a Russian student who worked for a television company that was looking for foreign participants. I signed my name and a week later I was on Russian television. Although I made a few mistakes it was the opportunity of a lifetime. This trip allows you to see so many new things and meet new people, the possibilities of where the new acquaintances and knowledge can go are endless, it may lead to you being on TV or new business opportunities.
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Alex
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Preface:

The Taiwan Intensive Summer Language Program (TISLP) is a relatively new program (established in 2016 by American Councils Study Abroad). Its purpose is to allow Chinese language learners to learn approximately one year of academic Chinese in two months or eight weeks. I was a participant in this program during the Summer of 2019.

My thoughts about the program:

The program promises what it states. You will learn one year of academic Chinese in two months. National Cheng Kung University's Chinese Langauge Center administers TISLP. The instructors are knowledgeable in their teachings and make it easy to comprehend the material. Also, they are super friendly. I did not feel embarrassed approaching my instructors if I had simple questions about Chinese. The staff works hard to support the participant's success. For example; part of the program's curriculum had a language performance night called "Taiwan Night". for the program to be successful the instructors were heavily involved to sure the students were saying their scripts correctly.

The program itself is very structured. For five days a week (Monday to Friday), From 8 am. to 2 pm (with a lunch break), you will be learning Chinese. There is a grammar class, a speaking class, and a discussion class. Almost every day, there will be new material to learn. The program gave me this 400-page textbook with 16 chapters, two dialogues a chapter and in each dialogue had new grammar structures and new vocabulary. Every day of class we learned a new dialogue, basically two chapters a week. That is a lot of Chinese learning. To give perspective on how much Chinese that was, in my Chinese classes back at my University. A course would review on average five chapters for the whole semester. The term intensive should not be taken lightly.

Another critical component of the program is the language pledge. A language pledge is a promise that the participant must speak the target language at all times. The language pledge tests the participant's ability if he/she knows the language. I struggled at first because I was one of the lower levels in the program, but as time progressed, My speaking and listening fluency increased to a considerable amount.

Life in Tainan, Taiwan

Life in Tainan, Taiwan, is a great place to live. The people there are super friendly. Besides, it is very affordable to buy food there. Twenty American dollars can potentially last one week in terms of food. Every day, I had amazingly tasty food. If you are a "foodie" Tainan is an excellent place to be.

Overall TISLP is an excellent program for a person that wants to improve there Chinese.

Default avatar
Will
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I had an incredible eye-opening study and intern abroad experience in Russia this past summer, and I hope to one day return and see more of the country. Before participating in this program, I had completed a few internships and had studied Russian for a year, so I was mostly looking to add to my resume, explore a new business and work culture, learn about history and food, meet locals, and visit the sites. I'd say I accomplished a lot of that and more during my summer in Moscow.

While there, I worked at a contract research organization during the week and also participated in a weekly cultural class and optional two-hour language session with a professor from the host institution. The internship was an interesting experience, and I learned about a subject area that I did not previously know too much about in a foreign environment. The tasks and field of study weren't directly in line with my career goals, but I'd still say it was a worthwhile experience and great for building interpersonal skills and cultural awareness. I formed some connections with the people there, and we were able to share different things about our respective cultures and interests. Most of my tasks involved reviewing presentations, translating documents, and creating a presentation. Regarding the language classes, I enjoyed going each week, but I don't feel as if my skills improved dramatically. I mostly picked up on some new vocabulary and reinforced some of the grammar skills I had learned before I arrived in Russia. The weekly culture class was interesting, and during it, we mainly discussed our experiences at work, with locals, in our host families, at the dorm, etc. (We also had to submit a weekly assignment on different topics).

My favorite aspects of the program were being able to live with a host family and enjoying the culture and historical sites. The family I lived with was absolutely wonderful! We got along very well, and they took an interest in helping me with practicing my language skills through conversation. They also took me around to see the sites, museums, etc. I also went on walks with them around their neighborhood and other parts of the city. I even went on a side trip by train to St. Petersburg with one of my host family members, and he introduced me to his friends and family there! I was provided a private room and two meals per day (though the always offered more food!), I really felt as if I were part of the family. I'm fortunate to have lived with a great group of people. In addition, I was able to explore many museums, tourist sites, food markets, parks, restaurants, and more on my own and with other people in the program. It was truly an amazing experience!

Travel and money-wise, I had to arrange all of my transportation to the orientation and to and from Moscow, as well as any weekend trips I wanted to take. As far as my budget, I spent about $50 USD per week, excluding souvenirs and travel-related expenses (i.e. I had to buy a new suitcase), but it depended on the week and what I was I doing. I found most things to be pretty cheap, especially transportation and food (the metro is amazing -- fares are low and it goes everywhere quickly!). When I had to walk around alone, I made sure to do it during the day, or if at night, it was in brightly-lit areas or near people. Safety wasn't an issue, despite protests going on in the city (which we were told to stay away from). Also, American Councils staff there were on call if we had any issues or emergencies.

Overall, I would recommend this program to those who want a unique experience abroad, particularly in a place that is riddled with stereotypes, and are seeking professional experience (an interest in Russian culture and language helps, too). You will likely get more out of this program, though, if you already speak Russian to a high degree or at least have some command of the language because it'll make communicating and forming connections with locals easier. However, there is no foreign language requirement or proficiency level needed to apply or participate. I recommend living with a host family because those who lived in the dorm had some issues and unexpected inconveniences.

What would you improve about this program?
It would have been nice to know who I was living with more in advance of the trip because we weren't told about our host families until a couple of weeks before. Also, including built-in trips and excursions for our specific program would have been cool because we were mostly left to exploring on our own time. We were usually invited to go on excursions with the other programs in Moscow, but the program itself doesn't include any. In addition, I wish some of the important program materials, such as a packing list and program handbook, had been sent prior to orientation because I would have appreciated something to refer to while preparing to leave.

Programs

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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?

cityscape with mountains in the background

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.

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.

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 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.

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.