Want to learn the language of some of the world’s greatest composers and writers? To figure out strategies of geopolitical powers? To see what lies beyond the old Iron Curtain? While on location, with pelmeni to munch on and a mazurka playing in the snowy background? Taking the plunge into an Eastern European studies degree program may get you odd looks, but the rewards far outweigh the risks. It is a dynamic region, and current political situations could lead to many career possibilities. Pursuing Russian and Eastern European studies degrees will lead you to not only learn the turbulent history of the region, but also to discover some of the most welcoming cultures in the world.
Why Earn a Degree Abroad
A relevant degree from an Eastern European institution allows for complete immersion and a deeper understanding of the region. Whether you want a better understanding of Russia’s political situation, enjoy fresh ouzo and feta in Greece, or to see Croatian cities that serve as King’s Landing in Game of Thrones, Eastern Europe holds a trove of knowledge, culture, and history that is waiting to be explored.
If you are looking to enter the diplomatic or international relations field, firsthand experience in a high-profile region in the world is the most productive way to open your horizons and gain a competitive edge. The experiences in the region can lead to networking opportunities that wouldn’t have happened unless you took the risk to go there. Combining your studies with global exploration might just be your wake-up call to the next big idea in international relations, journalism, or the humanities.
Earning Russian and Eastern European studies degrees abroad is also a great opportunity to gain the intercultural communication skills that will be necessary for your future career. No matter where your studies take you, increasing global competition for employment means the more experience abroad you’ve had, the better off you will be professionally. With an international Russian and Eastern European Studies degree, you’ll not only learn the customs to succeed in international destinations, but also develop the skills to engage with all kinds of people. Developing an understanding of Slavic languages, the inspirations of the great Russian artists, or making the perfect goulash can lead to grand opportunities.
Getting this degree certainly doesn’t translate to a limited area to explore. Russia alone has the same surface area as the moon! A full list of countries and cities would make this guide near endless, but here are some of the top destinations to help you get your program search started:
It (almost) goes without saying that Russia is the most prominent place to get this degree in Eastern Europe. This country has a thing for domination: from the czars and communists to present-day Putin. As the capital, Moscow is the hub of Russia, with the Kremlin, Saint Basil’s cathedral, and many museums. Along with the history comes the classic staples of vodka and beef stroganoff, which make any study session better. While Moscow may hold the political heart of Russia, the intellectual soul of Russia lies further West in Saint Petersburg. Want to be a little closer to the Baltic Sea? If so the province of Kaliningrad offers a glimpse into the region’s German past.
If Russia seems too massive for you, there are Russian and Eastern European Studies degree programs in Ukraine and the Baltic republics of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. In Kiev, many locals speak Russian, and the city has many art museums and attractions that people from all over the world come to see. Cities in the Baltic republics tend to be smaller. The largest city you will encounter is the Latvian capital of Riga, but don’t let it’s small(er) population fool you; it’s bustling with all sorts of cultural treats and culinary goodies.
If you want to study areas where the Russian grip is weaker, you can start in Poland and work south to the Balkans. The capital city of Poland, Warsaw, offers a chance to explore old Jewish ghettos, while Krakow boasts the haunts of Pope John Paul II, and the world’s oldest salt mines can be explored in Wieliczka. In the Balkans, the former Yugoslavia is now a collection of countries that are ready to open to the modern world. Whether studying in the epicenter of the 1990’s wars in Belgrade, standing on the street corner where World War I began in Sarajevo, or studying the Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and Yugoslav influences along the Dalmatian coast in Croatia, Eastern Europe is incredibly diverse yet uniformly magical and welcoming.
Russian & Eastern European Studies Degrees
Russian and Eastern European studies covers a myriad of classes. Make sure you have a focus on what you want to study about the region when reviewing the best colleges for Russian studies. Degree foci range from language to social sciences, from humanities to the arts. Once you have a plan, the options and opportunities are limitless!
Undergraduate Russian and Eastern European studies degrees take between three and four years to complete, depending on the program. The course requirements will surround various aspects of the region, and, depending on the country you choose your program, you’ll likely be taking some language courses. Aim to incorporate the culture from your host country into your degree as well.
Masters and PhD degrees in are more specific than the general knowledge and structure of the region, but will still have the added cultural value, as the foreign language will be used outside of the classroom and applied to different situations. These take between two and three years to complete, and might come with some fun outside-the-classroom learning requirements.
Benefits & Challenges
Language. While pursuing a degree in Eastern Europe abroad will most likely be in English, you will have to interact with the native language wherever you go to study. Make the concerted effort to learn the native language. Not only will it help you survive, but it’ll be appreciated by locals, which in turn can lead to new BFF’s and lifelong relationships. Moreover, further knowledge in the local language will increase your professional skillset, which is always a good thing.
Travel. One of the greatest things about getting a Russian and Eastern European studies degree abroad is discovering new places and cultures. The area is as diverse as its size is big. Any area you want to study in has travel options to somewhere totally different. The smaller nations of the Baltic countries and the Balkans provide easy getaways, or if you want to leave the region, the Trans-Siberian Railroad can take you across eight times zones to China.
Political Climate. Unless the news isn’t your bag, you might have heard a few things going on involving Russia and Eastern Europe: invasions in the Crimean Peninsula, fighting in Ukraine, and the U.S. troop build-up’s throughout the region. While it is best to check travel advisories and play it safe, don’t let media paint the entire image of a country. Just because a political situation may not be the most peaceful at the moment should not deviate you from interaction with a new culture. It’s keeping these lines open that can get us past the propaganda.
Pursuing Russian and Eastern European studies degrees abroad can open doors to different cultures and populations. This area of the world remains a political hot-spot and the troves of cultural and artistic history offer endless amounts of material to study. Set yourself up to gain an upper hand in your professional life and experience a connection to a region that still remains a mystery to the West.