The tightly knit countries of Eastern Europe and Russia fashion an intricately sewn quilt with seams of cultural fusion suturing one country to another. Different doctrines and dogmas, such as Roman Catholic, Muslim, and Jewish tenets, are all alive and kicking, causing the blurred boundaries to overlap like the hands of a team about to break. Eastern Europe and Russia may still be working to get back on their feet, but they know that teamwork makes the dream work! See for yourself how the region’s dramatic past is preserved and tangibly present when you study Eastern European languages and Russian!
The location of your language program in Eastern Europe and Russia will depend primarily on (yup, you guessed it) which language you choose to study. The region houses over 20 countries that all sing a different tune, yet harmonize beautifully with each other. To help ease the burden of choice, take a gander at the breakdown of the most popular locations for language study in Eastern Europe and Russia.
Russia is the world’s largest country, but don’t be overwhelmed by its enormity. When considering Russian language programs, set your sights on St. Petersburg and Moscow. Cheap and efficient public transportation in these cities will be Russian you around to experience the vodka-fueled nightlife, scenic park life, and art life while studying a language abroad in Russia. Whether you're a culture vulture in search of inspiration or an adventure addict looking for new horizons, taking a class to learn Russian in Russia amply delivers.
Hungary is blessed with an abundance of manmade and natural wonders, so there is no shortage of adventure to be had. Because roughly one-third of Hungarians live in Budapest, most language schools in Hungary are within the city limits. After language courses in Budapest, students can head out to experience the local nightlife at some of the city’s ruin bars. And then in the morning, they can join locals in “taking the waters” (dubbed the best hangover cure) in one of the many natural thermal hot springs scattered across the city.
Poland proves to be a captivating destination for people of many interests, but one of the country’s greatest attractions is the Polish language, one of the most interesting and unique languages of Eastern Europe. Language programs in Poland are particularly attractive to those who want to study a more rarely spoken language that is still enormously useful. Krakow and Warsaw should be on your radar, as they show off mesmerizing skylines brought to life by towering skyscrapers that have replaced the dark images of yesteryear. Outside the cities, woods, rivers, lakes, and hills summon you for an afternoon of fresh air fun.
Ukraine is the essence of the road not taken. If you want to journey one of Europe’s last genuine, off-the-grid experiences, consider Kiev and Lviv for a language study in Eastern Europe. Ukraine has always maintained a spirit of resilience and hard work, which is very much alive in its streets today. The quirks and eccentricity that rose up when the dust settled will welcome you like the fairytale the country illustrates with its history, landscape, and architecture.
Programs & Languages
Over 20 vernacular options vie for your ear in Eastern Europe and Russia. Take a look at this rundown of most widely spoken languages to help you sift through the all the voices telling you which path to choose.
- Russian: Russia, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania
- Polish: Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine
- Hungarian: Hungary, Romania, Serbia
- Romanian: Romania, Moldova, Ukraine
- Czech: Poland
Opportunities to learn Eastern European languages will not only provide students with the ability to speak, read, and write, but will also serve a functional purpose to improve your quality of living while abroad. Taking language courses in Eastern Europe and Russia will open you up to a better understanding of regional commerce, governance, and development.
Take your time when choosing a language program in Eastern Europe and Russia, as many different types exist. For example, you can choose to do a short-term intensive language program at a private school or program, like summer Russian language programs. This will give you the opportunity to explore the city more and practice your newly acquired skills immediately. By immersing yourself in the culture, you'll develop a clear understanding of nuances and norms that you otherwise might not pick up on.
Some students prefer university programs to learn the languages of Eastern Europe, where classes are comprised of a classroom of students and taken on campus. Others might be more drawn to smaller group classes, in order to have more attention from their teacher. The good news for international students is that many Eastern European and Russian universities are rolling out new language programs in order to regularly attract foreign students.
You may choose to do a homestay so you can practice your language skills 24/7, and truly live in the language. Other students may be more drawn to a private tutoring type experience. If you need specific advice for a program you are considering, reach out to your program advisor to get those questions answered!
Costs & Affordability
Your cost of living–with no surprise–will depend on your location. However, Eastern Europe is generally much cheaper than its western counterpart. Countries like Croatia frequently rank as more expensive than Romania and Ukraine, so everyday costs will be higher. Russian language programs might also run you a bit more than intensive courses for other Eastern European languages.
The good news is there are plenty of free activities to get out and enjoy on the weekends! If you are still being a fussbudget, remember that program fees often include everything from training to accommodation to 24-hour in-country support.
Accommodation & Visas
While accommodation varies with each language program in Eastern Europe and Russia, students can generally expect to stay with a host family or in a dorm-style situation with other like-minded humans that may be your predestined lifelong friends. Student housing usually comes in the form of a furnished apartment situated in a safe neighborhood. Living with a host family is the ideal way to be immersed in the language and experience the culture firsthand. Program providers or universities will carefully choose both options, so students will be able to rest easy.
Visa considerations vary significantly throughout Eastern Europe. Residents of Europe can embark on the trip visa-free, while others are often allowed to enter for up to 90 days. While most Eastern European countries accept international students with open arms, their visa policies can vary significantly depending on your home country and the length of your stay. For more detailed information on the visa policy of your host country, check out GoAbroad’s Embassy Directory.
Benefits & Challenges
Road Less Traveled. While Western Europe is a booming zone for tourism, the eastern half of the continent remains far less traveled. If you want a unique experience exploring a region chalk full of complex history and cultures, go rogue in Eastern Europe and Russia. It will make all the difference.
Comfort Zone. Tolerating bureaucracy, corruption, and discomfort remains an integral part of the Eastern European and Russian travel experience. However, a degree of perseverance will be amply rewarded. The beauty of its arts and the quixotic nature of its people will beguile you and it will soon feel more comfortable than home.
Say What? English is a lot less common in Eastern Europe and Russia than in Western Europe so it will be “sink or swim” in terms of language practice. You will perfect your “deer-in-headlights stare” when you don’t understand the words being spoken to you, and there will almost certainly be moments when you feel as if you aren’t making any progress at all. The first few days can be mentally exhausting, but with a little perseverance, frantic hand gestures, and deep breathing, you will be speaking like a local in no time.
Pack Stretchy Pants. If you’re partial to good home cooking (the way your grandmother used to make it) then welcome home. Eastern European food is based largely on local ingredients like pork, cabbage, mushrooms, beet, and onion, combined simply and honed to perfection, while regional specialties like duck, goose, and trout keep things from getting dull. As for sweets, it’s hard to imagine a more accommodating destination. Cream cakes, apple strudel, pancakes, and dumplings serve as the nightcap that will tuck you into a food coma for the books.
You can’t find the solutions to success in a book or by looking to someone else for the answers. But taking a page out of Eastern Europe and Russia’s book is the next clue to unlock the door. Learning a language with an intensive language course in Eastern Europe and Russia will help you realize that nobody can give you the key because it’s in your pocket. You just have to dig it out.