American Councils Study Abroad

Program Reviews

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Nicholas
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I had a fantastic experience on the American Councils RLASP program even with the disruption caused by the COVID pandemic. This program gave me a solid foundation of academic instruction while leaving me the latitude and freedom to explore and interact with the environment and culture in which I was studying.

The course of study was rigorous and fast paced but still gave me plenty of time to actually explore the city where I was studying (Moscow) and concentrate on developing my speech through interactions with locals. I am extremely grateful for their expertise in matching students to extracurricular activities such as internships which I found to be hugely valuable for developing career relevant skills as a researcher and introducing me to colleagues in the Russian historical profession and their approaches to the work of historians.

My hat is off to the support staff both in Moscow and D.C. who did their best to keep us updated with timely information and bent over backwards to move the program into an effective online format when we were recalled to the U.S. during the middle of the Spring term. I would happily study with this program again.

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
Going out on day one fresh off the plane to buy my metro card and cellphone in Russian.
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Kyra
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

There's no better program for students to learn Indonesian than through the Indonesian Overseas Program at Universitas Negeri Malang. The teachers at the BIPA (Indonesian language program) program at UM are incredibly dedicated and excellent teachers, and made class not only incredibly productive, but also engaging and fun. I came to class every day excited to learn from them, and they were able to challenge me just enough to grow fast without making me feel overwhelmed, despite conducting all instruction in Indonesian from the first day (even though I spoke no Bahasa Indonesia before I started the program). Despite the many disruptions over the course of the semester because of COVID-19 and a few health issues I faced, my teachers worked with me to make my semester enriching, even when it transitioned online. Additionally, my language partner was one of the main reasons that my language skills developed so quickly -- she was *so* patient, especially the first few months when I couldn't talk about a lot of topics, and helped me feel more confident in my speaking abilities and feel at home in Indonesia. Malang is an amazing city and is the perfect balance between a bustling college-town, while way less hectic than Jakarta. The city is also less-hot than other cities in Indonesia and has incredible hiking opportunities. If you're interested in obtaining a high proficiency of Indonesian quickly, this is the best program to do that.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
Hiking with friends I had just met hours before! One of my closest friends at the school gym I went to invited me to go hiking, and we joined 4 of her other friends to hike one of the mountains near Malang. Although it was still during rainy season, we made the 6 hour trek to the basecamp before it started raining, and got to witness the view of Malang from the heavens before sunrise that next morning. Learning to say "yes" to new opportunities and not letting fear blind me was one of the most valuable things I learned.
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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!
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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.

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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.
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Caroline
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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.

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Chandler
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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.

Cydnie
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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!

What would you improve about this program?
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.