Advanced Russian Language & Area Studies Program (RLASP)

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About

One of the longest-running and most respected language and cultural immersion programs in Russia, RLASP combines intensive classroom instruction with a wide range of extracurricular activities, including internships and community service, regional field studies, peer tutoring, and discussion groups with local students. Participants have approximately 20 hours of class per week in language study and a variety of academic disciplines --all taught in Russian by expert host-institution faculty. Complementing our academically rigorous coursework, students participate in regional field studies and weekly excursions to local sites further enriching their knowledge of Russian culture and society. As part of the immersion experience outside of the classroom, students have the opportunity to live with a host family. We also provide comprehensive pre-departure and in-country orientations and staff support.

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Reviews

9.67 Rating
based on 9 reviews
  • 9-10 rating 88.89%
  • 7-8 rating 11.11%
  • 5-6 rating 0%
  • 3-4 rating 0%
  • 1-2 rating 0%
  • Academics 9.7
  • Support 9
  • Fun 9.5
  • Housing 9.5
  • Safety 9.7
  • Instruction 9.3
  • Support 10
  • Fun 8.7
  • Housing 8.7
  • Value 9.3
Showing 1 - 8 of 9
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Brittni
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Most Memorable Semester

I studied abroad with RLASP in Moscow during the Spring 2020 Semester (so right during the time when covid took over). Before covid really hit, I definitely enjoyed all aspects of the program. Mind you, I was pretty much a beginner in Russian prior to leaving and I felt anxious about the academic workload. Most of my peers had over 3-4 semesters of Russian under their belt, so I definitely felt self-conscious about my ability to truly succeed. However, you take a placement test when you arrive and the professors split you up into groups and completely tailor the curriculum according to your needs. I could barely say anything beyond planned phrases prior to leaving the US but left having conversations about Russian poetry and film. Most professors are very patient and push you to do well and speak. The classes themselves are super interesting and, in my group, we more or less directed the conversation. If we wanted to talk about climate change or American politics one day in our Russian Internet class, we did just that. We also had weekly excursions to different museums and landmarks that were held in Russian. The difficulty varied depending on the excursion.

I have no real complaints about housing. Most hosts were in the 70s-80s and pretty much kept to themselves most of the time, which was fine with me. However, if you want more "active" hosts, put that in your housing form. And be prepared to travel for at least an hour to get to school. I had to do a lot of walking and train transfers, but it was doable (albeit tiring). Try looking at all possible routes you could take before you start school. I only realized midway into the semester that one bus would take me all the way there (and it was only 3 minutes from my house).

When covid hit, we all had to go back to the US and so we continued with an online format. While it took us about a week or two to work out the kinks, I ended getting a lot of out the online format, if not more, since my concentration was completely focused on lecture and I didn't have the opportunity to really drift off. While programs may be online for the next foreseeable semesters, don't worry about not progressing in your language abilities. In some ways, you might be benefit more from an online format than you would originally think.

The American Councils staff and Resident Director are incredibly resourceful and are there to help, while also allowing you that independence. They won't hold your hand throughout the process since living in Russia can be a learning curve, but they will help you along the way when you need it.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
If I could do it all over, I would take advantage of every opportunity to get out and explore the city. I became complacent in mostly just going to classes since I had this idea that "Oh, I'll have time to do whatever I want to do". However, covid quickly proved me wrong and I definitely regretted not going to more concerts or buying those train tickets to St. Petersburg.
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Adam
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The Best Experience of My College Career

It was a very immersive program. I stayed with an incredibly nice host mother in a comfortable Moscow apartment. She only spoke Russian and classes were only in Russian, so I was always being steeped in the language. Excursions, classes, and my own adventures taught me a lot about the Russian mentality and language. I made lasting memories and highly recommend the program to anyone learning the language or who is interested in the region. I am now much more confident when it comes to speaking Russian and hope to return one day.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
Time goes fast when you are abroad, so make sure you aren't lazy about seeing the places/things you want to see.
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Nicholas
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Highly recommend RLASP as a Masters Student in Russian History.

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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Lauren
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Study Abroad in Saint Petersburg, Russia

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

Advanced Russian Language & Area Studies Program (Moscow)

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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Natalie
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Camel, Kumis, and Kazakhstan

When I signed up for a six months in Almaty, Kazakhstan, I knew it would be an adventure, but no one could have told me how much of an adventure it would be, and how utterly life changing I would find every moment. I made some of my best friends, made tremendous gains with my Russian language abilities, and learned that the world while being dramatically different, can somehow still be a familiar place.
Kazakhstan is a unique and beautiful place in the world. The excursions we took, official and unofficial, took us to Turkestan to see Muslim holy sites on the edge of the Uzbek desert, the planned capital city in Astana, the beautiful mountains and lakes outside Almaty, the Kazakh “Grand Canyon” and a funky little beach town, Aktau. I rode a camel and a motorcycle for the first time, and got lost at least once a week. Each place opened my eyes to how people lived, and helped me understand Kazakh, post-Soviet space, and current Eurasian geopolitics.
The friends and family that I had in Kazakhstan helped make Almaty a home away from home for me. Although their traditions and practices were different, we talked politics, religion, and history, as I do at home. My host sisters and I loved going to the movies and going shopping together. I learned how to be a good “Kazashka” from helping clean the family apartment from top to bottom to preparing Kazakh dishes and serving them for parties.
The food in Kazakhstan is different; Americans are often told the “horror stories” of Kazakh food: they eat horse, sheep heads, and drink fermented horse milk known as kumis. All of that is true, and none of it is as bad as it seems; I actually enjoyed the kumis I had! My favorite dish was plov (rice and meat cooked a very particular way—a must try). I got very used to drinking tea almost all the time and I miss the very fresh and natural fruits and vegetables that my host family would buy from the bazaar.
Academically, American Councils did an incredible job setting us up and interfacing with KazNU in Almaty. We had wonderful instructors who genuinely cared about our wellbeing as well as our education, and worked to ensure that our time in Kazakhstan would be wonderful and memorable. While their Soviet teaching style that predicated memorization over creation wasn’t always helpful, as we moved more towards advanced essay writing and reading more difficult topics, my Russian significantly improved. Moreover, speaking Russian all the time significantly improved my abilities to hold a conversation on anything from finding the nearest ATM to debating American politics with my host dad.
American Councils offers a very comprehensive and helpful Russian language program, that I would absolutely recommend for anyone looking to study abroad. The staff does an excellent job keeping students safe, as well as interfacing with Kazakh bureaucracy. They are kind, caring, and helpful. The teachers are absolutely the best Russian teachers I’ve ever had, and have made a huge difference in my education. My family and friends sold me on Kazakhstan forever—I can’t wait to find my way back!

What would you improve about this program?
This program could be improved with more professional staff. While the staff took very real concern in our day to day lives, which really helped the feeling that there was someone there who cared, sometimes personal relationships impacted the staff's professionalism, which impacted the lives of the students. I was vocal about this while I was there--and there's a chance that it might have been changed, but at the time, it was something I had to deal with personally, and I found it frustrating.
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Anna
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Summer in Moscow

This past summer was the best summer of my life. With the RLASP program in Moscow, I spent two wonderful months learning about Russian culture and history while improving my language skills at least ten-fold. In the first two weeks, I learned more than I would in a whole semester back home. The first afternoon in Moscow, I couldn't read a menu. By the end of the summer, I was talking about political history. That's how good the academics and immersion process are with ACTR. My host family played a key role in encouraging me and getting me to practice my Russian, as well as exposing me to life in an everyday Russian household - pretty different from the States! But my summer wasn't all studies and hard work - we had cultural excursions every Friday that took us all around Moscow, plus a week-long Regional Field Studies trip to Karelia in Northern Russia. There was plenty of time to get to know Moscow on my own (and with friends), too! Classes ended at three, giving us all afternoon and evening to explore (in the summer, when it doesn't get dark 'til 11, that's a lot of time). There is always something going on in Moscow - concerts, shows, festivals (the Ice Cream Festival in July was much appreciated, especially since there's no air conditioning). All in all, the program gave me a chance to explore a new culture and country while teaching me so much about the Russian language and Russian history. I'd do it again in a heartbeat!

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Sydney
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Expontential Language Gains

I achieved greater gains in speaking Russian than I could have hoped for in less than four months. The language classes were very small (usually 3-4 students per class) and so the wonderful teachers were able to give individual attention to each student in the program. I had a wonderful experience with my host, and I loved hanging out with my peer tutor-- both of whom helped to improve my conversational skills, and were always happy to suggest a new restaurant to try, or place to see in the city. I absolutely fell in love with St. Petersburg, I hope that I will be able to return (and travel elsewhere in Russia) soon!

What would you improve about this program?
I would like to see the excursion/free days (currently on Wednesdays) moved to Fridays, allowing for more opportunities for short trips (to Vyborg, or Pskov for instance.)