I adored this program. So much so, that after six weeks teaching in the camp, I came back for a weekend visit during a different study abroad program, and then again to help out after that program had ended. I really couldn't let the place go, simply because there's a certain charm to Nerekhta, the camp, and the people in it. It's really hard to describe in words, but here's three reasons why I loved the experience so much:
1) The novelty. Every day was unlike the last, and every two or three weeks, there arrives a fresh batch of kids with their own crazy (and sometimes way too crazy) personalities. Also, Nerekhta, a town of 20,000 people, is the complete opposite of New York City. But that doesn't mean you'll be river bathing and squatting! On the contrary - the house where they put you up is very, very nice. If you like adventure, this is for you.
2) The people, of course. There will be other English speakers (from the UK and America) along with Russian speakers, all with their own quirks. You'll gel with 99% of the them (sad truth), and will share many, many laughs. They are all so caring. I was going to miss a train in Yaroslavl, a town about an hour and a half away, and the parents of a kid I had taught offered to drive me there on a whim. Incredible.
3) Russian. I learned so. much. Russian. But this is largely dependent on you. If you take advantage of the constant access to Russian speakers, you'll make incredible language gains. Likewise, if you don't put yourself out there and start speaking, regardless of mistakes, you will stay at the same level.
Those are just some of the reasons, and this review is already getting quite long. Let me sum it up. In my experience (key word my), what Crossroads provides is a intimate experience in Russia and a streamlined visa application process. You may or may not find this elsewhere. If you think you can handle the visa process alone, by all means! But they do make it easier. I wouldn't trade this experience for the world. Give it a shot.