Advanced Russian Language & Area Studies Program

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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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based on 4 reviews
  • Academics 9.5
  • Support 9
  • Fun 9.3
  • Housing 9.3
  • Safety 9.8
Showing 1 - 4 of 4
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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!

How can this program be improved?
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.
Yes, I recommend this program
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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!

Yes, I recommend this program
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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!

How can this program be improved?
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.)
Yes, I recommend this program
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St. Petersburg with ACTR

My favorite part of studying abroad with ACTR was our weekly excursions. We went to a KHL hockey game, Moscow, Pskov, the Catherine Palace, and other places around Russia. It was a lot of fun to explore Russia with my classmates.

The classes were great too - while they were rigorous in schedule it was the best way to improve my Russian. The professors have all taught Russian as a foreign language for at least five years. They speak English and can help you understand a concept in English, although I recommend trying to understand it in Russian as it will help you more.

How can this program be improved?
I think it would be great to go on more trips for our weekly excursions - there are a lot of little towns around St. Petersburg that are perfect for day trips.
Yes, I recommend this program


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About American Councils Study Abroad

American Councils offers study abroad and research programs to fit numerous academic and professional endeavors in Russia, Eurasia, the Balkans, and Asia. From language immersion and area studies, to the business and policy sectors, American Councils...