If you’re looking for an affordable, beautiful country in which to study abroad and learn Russian, don’t overlook Belarus. Tucked below Lithuania, Russia, and Latvia and bordered by Poland and Ukraine, this former Soviet country is often (undeservedly) overshadowed by its more notable neighbors. The advantage to studying Russian in Belarus is that it’s much less expensive in comparison to countries like Russia and Latvia. You also have the opportunity to learn another language while you’re there—Belarusian, one of their two official languages.
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If you’re considering studying abroad in Belarus, consider the fact that the level of English that’s found in in Belarus isn’t as high as it is in other Eastern European countries. In addition, some programs are only offered in Russian and Belarusian. Will you be comfortable living in a city or region where English isn’t widely spoken? Would you prefer to live in a larger, more multicultural city or to study at a university where you can find other English speakers? Or are you ready to be fully immersed in another language?
Language Courses at Belarusian Universities – If you are an undergraduate or graduate student who is interested in taking a language class for a semester, a year, or possibly even longer, several Belarusian universities offer courses in both Russian and Belarusian. Certificate programs in both languages are also available.
Postgraduate Studies – Through programs such as the Boren Fellowship program and the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program, eligible graduate students who are studying certain languages or disciplines have the opportunity to undertake postgraduate studies in Belarus.
The currency used in Belarus is the Belarusian ruble (Br), and as of winter 2015, 15,098.88 rubles was equivalent to 1 USD. The cost of rent for an apartment varies anywhere from $320-$550 per month, depending on the location of the apartment and the number of room(s) you rent. The average monthly utility costs are $53.16, and monthly transportation passes usually cost about $15.00. It’s advised that foreign students coming to study abroad in Belarus have $1,200-$1,500 per year, not including tuition costs.
Even though life in Belarus is a good degree cheaper than in the U.S. or Canada, it’s still wise to plan beforehand and look for ways to cut costs. This way, you have a bigger nest egg for traveling! Before you travel to Belarus, check with the program or university you’re going to study with and find out about any financial resources or tips they have for incoming students. Instead of taking taxis, use public transportation or, it’s a reasonable distance, why not walk? If you’re traveling, try Couchsurfing or staying in hostels instead of staying in hotels. Check out the websites of any tourist destinations you’re thinking of traveling to beforehand and see if they have free hours or student discounts.
CollegeScholarships.org lists different scholarships which are available for undergraduate and graduate students who want to study abroad in Belarus. Also visit our list of 65 study abroad grants and scholarships for more information.
Belarus is broken up into six regions, or oblasts: Brest, Gomel, Grodno, Minsk, Mogilev, and Vitebsk. Each region has its own particular characteristics, sites, and charms. What many people may not know is how green Belarus is: over 90% of this country is covered in natural vegetation, and it is home to five national parks. Belarus’s continental climate is relatively cool, with cold winters and temperate summers. An especially popular holiday is Kupalle, a night-long event which starts on July 6 and ends on July 7 and is celebrated with traditional dances, songs, and events like fire-jumping.