I want to start by saying this program went above and beyond my expectations in every way! The program was well balanced providing both an excellent academic experience along with a profound and highly informative cultural immersion aspect.
When I was looking at studying abroad, my primary goal was to increase my proficiency in Russian. After a semester, I can say with absolute certainty that this is one of the best programs available for those who are looking to increase their language proficiency. The program is located in Daugavpils (a Russian speaking city in eastern Latvia) which makes it an ideal location for Russian studies. The academic aspect of the program is structured well with a mixture of both core Russian language classes and a wide selection of elective courses tailored to each student’s criteria. This is made possible by the excellent teachers and the fact that the classes are very small (usually 2-6 students per class). My language courses included classes on Russian syntax, a class on conversational Russian, and a class on communication and discussion of topics such as International relations and political science. My electives were all taught in Russian and included classes on the EU, Nuclear Policy, and Russian-NATO-Baltic security. In addition, each student has the chance to live with a host family which, for me, was really a crucial part of increasing my language proficiency and in acquiring a much deeper understanding of the culture and history of this region. My host family and particularly my host mother is one of the most gracious, genuine, and kind people I have ever met.
My second goal when I was looking for a program, was to study in a post-Soviet republic outside of Russia (since I had already spent a summer studying in Moscow.) I chose this program because I hoped that I would be able to experience the diverse culture of both Latvia and the larger northeastern European region. I am very happy to say that this program gave me that unique perspective. I want to emphasize this unique aspect because I think it is really important. I know most students think of learning Russian in Russia but this program gives you a unique perspective of understanding the cultures of several post-Soviet republics, particularly Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, which are all nations heavily influenced by their historical and cultural connections to Russia. This also gives you a first-hand perspective into understanding the complex nature that these post-Soviet countries find themselves in and their struggles with finding an identity. You explore all of this both in your classes and host family life but also through excursions, which are highly informative and diverse in both theme and location. I loved the opportunity to travel to Belarus! I also want to emphasize that our excursion guide and organizer, Jānis, is phenomenal! He has a deep knowledge of each location's historical and cultural relevance and I can speak for everyone on the program when I say that he makes every excursion even more fun and interesting. Not only that but he is always there to help and can assist you in organizing additional travel by giving recommendations or even personally driving you there!
Additionally, the entire program is run by highly capable and helpful management that is always there to help make sure your experience is the best it can be. Unlike many other study-abroad programs, Learn Russian in the EU was very helpful right from the start. The program head, Sergey Simonov helped me with logistics early on, long before I had arrived in Latvia. Secondly, this program is by far one of the most affordable. Compared to programs in Moscow or Saint-Petersburg, this program is half the price, and even cheaper when you consider the extra costs of living in expensive cities like Saint-Petersburg or Moscow. In addition, this program benefits from the fact that it is inside the EU. This makes traveling around Europe easy.
From past experience in other study-abroad programs, I can say that this program is by far the best of those I have partaken in and especially for those who want to master Russian.