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A Guide to Learning Russian Abroad

Whether you want to learn about the KGB or read Tolstoy’s Война́ и миръ (War and Peace) in its original language, there’s an intensive Russian immersion program out there that can help you reach your goals (not to mention enjoy some delicious, authentic borscht or perogies!). If language proficiency is what you’re after, then immersive language schools will help boost your ability much faster than a more traditional approach. Pack your bags, fill your iPhone with operas from Tchaikovsky, and head to a Russian-speaking country. As they say in the Motherland, Давайте изучать русский язык – let’s study Russian!


From Moscow to Sydney, there’s a location that will surpass your expectations and help you along your journey to learn the Russian language.

Some would say that learning Russian in Russia is the most ideal scenario, as it boasts the most authentic variety of Russian. Moscow is the largest city in Russia and home to one of the most famous landmarks, St. Basil’s Cathedral (it was rumored that Ivan the Terrible blinded the architect who built it so he could never build anything that beautiful again – yikes!). St. Petersburg, also known as the “Venice of the North,” also hosts a number of language schools. All offer rich a combination of in-class language practice and opportunities to practice the language when visiting the many landmarks.

During the spread of the Soviet Union, several countries adopted Russian as a first or second language. As a result, other countries where you can attend Russian language school include Ukraine, Armenia, the Czech Republic, and more. Let’s take a look at what some of these places have to offer.

Moldova, a country that is often overlooked, is home to breathtaking landscapes and a wine industry that would make even Napa Valley blush… like the wine. If popular tourist traps are not your thing, then why not try living off the beaten path in a country that has a great deal of beauty to offer. Although Romanian is the official language of Moldova, Russian is the second most commonly spoken language. Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, is a great melting pot of Western European and Middle Eastern cultures — the perfect hotspot for Russian language programs.

Latvia is blessed with sprawling forests and rivers to help you enjoy the outdoors. Be sure to be there on June 23rd, because that is the night of the Jani Festival, where people sing and dance all night to celebrate the summer solstice. Riga, the capital and home to the Russian language schools available, consists of small class sizes and rolling modular classes. It boasts many museums and concert halls to help you connect with the Latvian culture – be sure to check out the Medieval Old Town!

Georgia shares borders with Russia and is at the intersection between Asia and Europe. The city of Batumi is located on the Black Sea and is a bustling tourist town that attracts people to its long beachfront and nightlife. With Russian language courses Monday through Friday, and available in the morning and the afternoon, you’ll be able to find a schedule that will fit your lifestyle.

Russian Language Courses Abroad

Russian language programs come in a variety of different types, some are intensive and require several hours a day of study, while others are more traditional, where you take courses in the target language at a university or school. For instance, private tutors or language partners are a great addition to your Russian immersion program.

Intensive Courses at language schools may vary depending on the statement and ideology of the school. But most will have you focus on how to learn the Russian language for several hours a day, more time than in a standard class to practice. Some intensive courses are one-to-one courses and can be during the morning or evening to fit your schedule. These types of language courses can be a great way to learn but can be a little… intense.

Standard Courses are comparable to intensive courses in regards to content and structure. The difference is the time you will receive in standard Russian language courses is less than in an intensive course and you can be in a larger group of students. The most important thing to consider is what you want to achieve from your experience abroad. If you want to get the most out of your time studying, than an intensive language program would be the best.

University programs can be structured as an intensive language course where students spend several hours a day studying Russian and once a week learning about the culture of Russia. Also included in this and many programs like it are weekly excursions that are provided for in the cost of tuition. While this program is more specific to learning Russian, there are other university programs that will allow you to take regular university courses; but be aware, if you would have trouble taking a class on Russian history in English, then taking it in Russian might be too much to handle.

Tips & Advice to Learn Russian

Language learners often ask, “How long is it going to take me to be fluent in Russian?” and “What can I do to improve my language quickly?” There’s good news and bad news. Like anything in life, you get what you put in. Some things to consider are what age you started learning, how hard you practice, and your purpose for learning. The truth is, most people don’t need to be fluent to achieve their language needs. There are many ways that language learners can improve their language acquisition; below is a list of helpful tips to implement while attending Russian language school:

Building your vocabulary is one of the most important things you can do; if you build it, grammar and fluency will come. While living in the country you select, keep a journal of Russian words you learn or words that you see but don’t understand. This can be a great way to improve your vocabulary and have a quick resource to review on long train rides (Siberian Railway, anyone?!) or the like.

Russian uses the cyrillic alphabet; while learning a new alphabet may be daunting to some, it’s only seven more letters than English and many of them will look the same. However, don’t be fooled. Most of them represent a different sound than in English, the lowercase Russian “g” is equivalent to the English “d.”

You should aim to befriend locals whenever possible instead of confining yourself to social circles of others who share your language. Start making friends before you even get there with Vkontakte (Russian Facebook)!! Watching TV and listening to music in Russian while enrolled in Russian programs is a great way to practice listening and pass the time – not to mention connect more easily with your new Russian friends.

Benefits & Challenges

One of the biggest benefits of Russian language programs abroad is the little everyday adventures you’ll find yourself in and the history you’ll be exposed to— like having your “naked friends” beat you with branches in a Russian Sauna (don’t worry; it’s more relaxing than it sounds). The people you’ll meet there are incredible. Don’t be put off by the stereotype that Russians are cold people, it’s only the weather – with a little vodka and a pickle to chase it, you’ll be a Russian in no time.

The other side of that coin is because of that history, some stereotypes might be placed on you. But these are usually mild biases held onto by the older generation, even if you choose to study Russian. On the brightside, young Russians have adopted many parts of western culture, are very open to foreigners, and would love to sit down and get to know you.

People learn Russian abroad for a variety of different reasons; for school, work, to make friends, or to travel. If you don’t know what you’re looking for when you start, that’s ok, GoAbroad will help you find it along the way!

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A Guide To
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