Russia is not only the largest country in the world, but also one of the coldest places in the world. But, do not fear! You’ll find little time to complain about the weather when learning about the nation’s rocky relationship with the rest of Europe and its communist past. The country offers a captivating story that plays perfectly into a student’s hungry mind.

Every year Russia becomes more and more popular country for studying among young people from around the world. It has one of the best educational systems in the world, especially in the fields of engineering and medicine, with literacy rate 99,6 %, that is higher than most of counties in Western Europe. Foreign students in Russian state universities pay only 10-20 % of educational costs while 80-90% is subsidized by the Russian government. Russia is also the largest country in the world, with very unique culture, history and traditions.

So, there are still vodka bottles full of information just waiting to be discovered and a future that is sure to take unexpected twists and turns. Thankfully, the subway system is well run and just stunning—moving from relic to relic is as attractive as eating a warm heaping of Beef Stroganov.

Popular Destinations

Some would say that Russia has two capitals—St. Petersburg and Moscow. Both cities are ripe with political activity, a rich culture, and an energetic student body.

St. Petersburg: Located in northwestern Russia, St. Petersburg does not look like a city originally built in a marshland. Also known as “Venice of the North”, St. Petersburg was built by famous Italian and French architects, and therefore, has a very unique character. Paris has the Eiffel Tower and Rome boasts the Coliseum, but St. Petersburg has become a global model of architectural beauty—just take a stroll down the three-mile long Nevisky Prospekt Avenue to gaze at the monuments, canals, and bridges.

There’s more to the city than pretty sights though: St. Petersburg is arguably Russia’s most westward-leaning and progressive cities, making the city perfect for study abroad. For example, the famous “white nights festival” during summer is an amalgamation of dancing, music and art that culminates in the Scarlet Sails (most of the people that celebrate this last event are students). Certainly, a fun and cultural celebration perfect for students! Studying abroad in St. Petersburg can help study abroad students gain a greater appreciation of Russian politics, history and culture, with a slightly different feel than Moscow. The famous Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky called St. Petersburg the “most abstract and intentional city on the entire globe.” I guess you’ll have to study abroad in St. Petersburg to discover exactly what Dostoyevsky means…

Moscow: Moscow, the nation’s capital, is home to sprawling squares and spiraling minarets. The city’s 190-mile long subway system is the second largest in the world, making Moscow’s economy a hub of activity and constant interaction. It hosts many famous historical attractions and is world-renowned for its rich night life. Along with Saint Petersburg, Moscow is home to some of the best universities in the country, where young people can develop a close personal connection with Russian culture. Every corner teems with photo opportunities so never stray too far without a holster-full of film.

Popular Universities for Study Abroad in Russia

Now that you have a bit of an idea of what each city has to offer, it's time to choose a University to study in!

St. Petersburg State University (St. Petersburg)

It is the biggest University in the city and the second best multi-faculty university in Russia after Moscow State University. The university has a popular reputation, having educated the majority of Russia's current political elite, including presidents Vladimir Putin and Dimitry Medvedev. The Philological Department of the University offers Russian courses for foreign citizens in its “Russian as a Foreign Language” (RKI) programs.

The St. Petersburg I. I. Mechnikov State Medical Academy (St. Petersburg)

It is one of the oldest and largest Russian Higher Medical Schools and is a leading institution for training specialists in preventive and clinical medicine. It has a long tradition of educating Russian and international students. Today people from about 80 countries in the world study there.

Lomonosov Moscow State University (Moscow)

The oldest and largest University in Russia and is one of Russia's most prestigious institutions of higher learning. It has well-established contacts with many universities in the world, exchanging students programs and lectures with the leading international institutions of higher education.

It houses the UNESCO International Demography Courses, the UNESCO Hydrology Courses, the International Biotechnology Center, the International LASER Center. It provides courses and seminars on Russian as a foreign language. It’s 40 facilities provide a wide range of educational services and educational programs with demanding entry requirements for prospective students. Programs are offered in Russian and English languages.

Moscow State Institute of International Relations (Moscow)

It is the diplomatic school of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Russia and is the oldest and most famous institution for preparing professionals in international relations and diplomacy. As such, the institute offers 56 languages study classes, making it the largest selection of languages courses in the world.

Bauman Moscow State Technical University

This university is the oldest and largest Russian technical university offering B.S., M.S. and PhD degrees in various engineering fields and applied sciences. Admission is competitive with a 3 exam entry-requirement, with a focus on math, physics and Russian.

Planning Your Trip

It’s easy to get lost in Russia’s cities, not to mention Russian universities, so it’s best if you can arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible about life there. Below is some basic, but fundamental, information that one should consider before signing off on a program.

Language: The Russian language is the 8th most popular in the world. Although Russian sounds bold and completely foreign to the English-trained ear, learning Russian as a student is a great way to more deeply understand Russian culture. The CIEE Study Abroad Program at St Petersburg State University offers small classes that are only taught in Russian. Don’t sweat it if you would rather take English-instructed classes; there are plenty of options for that -- but be sure to check our your Russian language learning options if you'd like to hone your skills!

Housing: Depending on your personal preference, student living in Russia can involve one of two paths: staying with a host family or braving a university dormitory. The KEI Study Abroad Program at Moscow State University offers student dormitory living. Then again, coming back to a bowl or tasty Russian Pelmeni or Borscht courtesy of your host mother might be more up your alley.

Academic Life: Russia traditionally combined undergraduate and graduate studies in a 5-6 year period until 2007 when a two-tier bachelor and masters structure was adopted. Classroom attendance and participation are monitored carefully and may have a significant impact on final grades. The academic year is divided into two parts: from September to January and from January to June, with winter and summer exams respectively.

Russian universities implement a five-point grading system: “1” is “poor” and “5” is “excellent.” Moreover, a “+” or a “-“ may accompany a number to take the teacher’s evaluation one-step further. Thankfully, 1s are rarely given and 2s are handed out only if the student shows absolutely no knowledge of the subject. If you put in an adequate amount of work and show interest in the class, then passing through your academic life in Russian universities is very feasible.

Social Life and Student Culture: Day life as well as night life in Moscow and Saint-Petersburg has a lot to offer. Cultural understanding can be enriched through a series of museum visits, boat tours, person-to-person interactions and field trips to other cities or sights of historical significance.

In spring and summer time, it is especially popular for tourists to visit the ex-residences of past Russian tsars and tsarinas. Most popular museums and tourist attractions offer free entrance or large discounts for students.

Student Visas for Russia

To obtain a Russian visa, certain documents are required:

  • An original letter of invitation from the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs
  • HIV test results that are completed at least 90 days before departure
  • Proof of departure from the airline

Check out VISA HQ and Education in Russia for more information about student visas in Russia.


Russia is part of the European Union but the country operates on the rouble, a currency that is renowned for being stronger than the dollar and thus more expensive. Thankfully, scholarships are available to help keep a student’s already low bank account from drying out.

Contributed by Ekaterina Zharkova

Study Abroad in Russia

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