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Conflicts and Policy in the post-Soviet states

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Academics

    9

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Cultural Immersion

    9

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    8

Post Soviet excursion

I couldn't believe the extent to which this program went to get us in contact with the highest level of professionals each country had to offer. The experience we had is unbeatable in terms of language training, cultural immersion, and political understanding. Since the program, I have not seen the same level individual attention given to each member of our group, and still keep in contact with the program's teachers and administrators. If given the opportunity I would definitely return to learn even more about the tumultuous political climate in post Soviet Union states

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Academics

    8

  • Living Situation

    8

  • Cultural Immersion

    9

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Health and Safety

    9

  • Social Life

    7

Conflict and Policy in Post-Soviet Space: Do it!

As a "Slavophile" obsessed with Russian language, international politics, national identity, and political history -- I can only recommend this program. I did not have access to study these subjects at my small private university, which is why I chose this program. I came in with barely any Russian what so ever and faced a very steep learning curve. However combined with my two "host-moms," the brilliant program coordinator Inna Motsar, conversation tutors, and 2hrs of intensive Russian every day with the extraordinary Elena Koposova, I achieved high beginner proficiency and comfort conversing with the Georgian friends I made. From Georgia we traveled to Moldova, Romania, Armenia, and I traveled independently to Ukraine to visit friends.

The policy course is highly active and engaging in contrast to "nose-in-the-books" programs.
Our meetings with civic organizations, freelance journalists, politicians, and scholars were just as formative as the texts we read. Prepare yourself to have an opinion and "fix the problem" through research and writing succinct policy briefs on the conflicts. We traveled to many religious sites, and I learned much about art history, Orthodox iconography/hagiography, and different ethnic groups in Georgia, Armenia, and Moldova.

Like any abroad program, prepare to deliberately dislocate yourself from the familiar. Make yourself uncomfortable. Speak Russian (and Georgian!) when you know you will mess up. Get in a marshrutka. Ask for directions. Volunteer, as you will have some free time! I interned with an LGBT organization in Tbilisi, an experience which altered my interests from international relations to sociology, advocacy, and social justice. Journal all your experiences! (If you're a coffee fiend in Batumi, I recommend Cafe Gardens, Renew, and Literatur Cafe!)

A precaution: In the countries we visited, LGBT people cannot be out to many of their friends or family members due to traditionalism or hyper-nationalism. Many of my Georgian LGBT friends, especially those who are gender-non-conforming, experienced some kind of violence. For my own safety as a gay man, I had to code-switch and police my mannerisms constantly. I was fortunate enough to not experience any problems on that front. Program staff were very supportive.

Overall, know what you want from the program. Even if that changes, you will find a way to meet those interests and needs! This program was one of the most formative experiences of my life so far, and I would do it again.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Academics

    10

  • The Campus

    9

  • Living Situation

    8

  • Cultural Immersion

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

Spring 2015

This is an amazing program where students learn the language and the culture of Eastern Europe. Conflict lectures were given by government officials and individual activists who have lived and influenced the various conflicts. Lots of beautiful travel, we had opportunities and experiences that I could never have traveling without NovaMova. I highly recommend this program to anyone wanting to learn Russian and to learn about culture and conflict in the Post Soviet States.

Overall Rating

8/ 10

  • Academics

    9

  • The Campus

    9

  • Living Situation

    7

  • Cultural Immersion

    10

  • Program Administration

    6

  • Health and Safety

    8

Have an open mind

I attended the NovaMova school in fall of 2015 and still think about it every day. At first glance, there doesn't seem to be anything special about this program; in fact, you're probably thinking that you can travel and learn Russian in Russia, not in the tiny country of Moldova. But by living in Moldova, you are able to experience a section of the post-Soviet world through a unique lens. Moldova has its problems, especially with Russia, but the main thing that's different about Moldova is that its people and culture can't be defined by one set of rules or stereotypes. Romanian, Russian, and Ukrainian cultures all mix together to create a Moldovan "culture"; you can eat mamaliga (famous Romanian/Moldovan food) and then order a side of borsch (famous Russian soup) while hearing Russian, Romanian, AND English spoken all around you. And because of this, there isn't one, distinct, point of view about anything in Moldova. Whether that be Romanian unification, the Russian sphere of influence, the annexation of Ukraine's Crimea, or NATO/EU membership, you get to see every culture represented in these arguments and hear, first-hand, stories about why one culture is better than another or why one country is better; it's truly fascinating.
Aside from Moldova, the program administration is fantastic. Inna is the guide that travels throughout all of the destinations with you and she is absolutely amazing. She speaks about fifteen thousand languages (not really, I think it's only five, but that's still more than most people in America) and has an astonishing capacity to plan out details and support everyone on the trip. Also, she's one of the funniest people you'll meet; I still remember going to this Italian restaurant with her in Moldova and just laughing about everything. Haha. She's supportive if you need help, she reminds you about important events, and she asks about you. She makes you feel like you're not alone, even though you're 10,000 miles away from everything and everyone you know and love. Honestly, without Inna, my experience would've been completely different, and I don't think I would've enjoyed it as much as I did.
To finish up, this program is amazing, but you'll only get out what you put in. If you immerse yourself in the language and culture, refuse to speak English (even though you'll look pretty stupid at the beginning), and have an open mind about the people and the environment, you'll see parts of yourself you didn't know existed and you'll never forget those few months you spent in a little country, that few even know of, with a hilarious Ukrainian woman by your side.
If you do this, I promise you won't regret it.