Like Russian dolls, the world’s biggest country is made up of many layers. Studying in Russia is the best way to peel back these layers of history, culture, and intrigue and get to the core of the nation. Though many have tried to conquer it, this tenacious land has always pulled through and is a place of many cultures, languages, histories, and traditions. It is an old country that also offers the many perks of an emerging nation. Study abroad in Russia brings to life tales of tzars, Faberge eggs, and interesting traditions. Time spent in this vast land is sure to create an unforgettable international education.
As the largest country in the world, Russia encompasses pretty much every kind of climate and landscape imaginable. Therefore, students exploring locations for study abroad in Russia will have plenty of options to choose from.
The Queen of the Baltic Sea, St. Petersburg was the imperial capital for two centuries, and it remains Russia’s cultural capital today. Opera and ballet reign supreme in the city’s theaters, while museums and galleries are decorated with everything from contemporary artworks to paintings of religious icons. The elegant canals that crisscross the city have drawn comparisons with Venice, and the many plazas tucked into streets of striking architecture make St. Petersburg stand out among even the most beautiful European cities.
Russia’s cosmopolitan capital is an exciting location for study abroad students. Moscow’s grandeur is easily recognizable; the city is home to dazzling structures, such as the Kremlin and the colorful domes of St Basil’s Cathedral. You won’t be able to stop and gawp at Lenin’s mausoleum and the symbolic Red Square either. Amongst the politics and weighty history of the capital is a blossoming performing arts scene, a surprisingly diverse nightlife, and an abundance of green spaces.
Perhaps best known as the last stop on the Trans-Siberian Railway, Vladivostok is a city overlooking Golden Horn Bay, not far from China and North Korea. The mountains and bay lend beauty to otherwise grey town, which is still characterised by grim Soviet buildings. This is the perfect location to study in Russia for international students that are looking to venture beyond the country’s bigger, more famous cities.
Studying Abroad in Russia
Whether you enjoy culture, sports, history, or the great outdoors, Russia is a country with a little of everything. The same goe for study abroad programs in Russia; there are courses to suit every major and interest.
One of the most popular fields to study in Russia is, dun-dun-dah, Russian and East European Studies! This will help students get a firmer grip on the history and culture of Russia, and give them a whole new lens through which to observe the country. Political science is also often a great interest of international students who study in Russia, as is international policy and diplomacy.
Studying Russian in Russia is another great choice for international students. Though many people find Russian harsh and are intimidated by the Cyrillic Alphabet, but it is certainly a manageable language to learn for adventurous students. Nearly all of Russia’s 142 million plus population speaks Russian, an East Slavic language. However, there are over 100 languages spoken throughout the country. The second most popular language is Tatar, which is spoken by the 5.3 million descendants of Batu Khan and the Mongol Golden Horde. This linguistic and cultural diversity means ethnic studies, and interreligious and interethnic relations are also interesting areas of study in Russia.
As Russia has become an increasingly popular study abroad destination, more and more courses have become available in English (and the Latin alphabet). This, along with Russia’s multinational structure, makes it easy for international students to adapt to studying in Russia.
Scholarships & Costs
The Russian currency is the ruble, and the exchange rate is generally favorable for foreign students. Rubles consist of both paper bills and coins and has no official symbol. General living costs, such as food, entertainment, and transport, are affordable compared to Western Europe or North America.
Study abroad program fees will often take care of students’ major expenses, including accommodation, course fees, and often even excursions and other cultural activities. If you enroll independently at a Russian university, course fees start at around $1000 per school year, with the most prestigious schools costing no more than $7000 a year. Keep in mind, these fees, and the cost of accommodation, tend to be lower outside of St. Petersburg and Moscow.
Since financing study abroad in Russia can be difficult for cash-strapped students, it’s a good idea to check out GoAbroad’s Scholarship Directory. There are a surprising number of scholarships and grants available for students who want to study in Russia.
Accommodation & Visas
Most study abroad programs in Russia offer students the choice between living with a host family or living in a dorm. This is almost without exception, unless you study in smaller cities like Vladimir or Yaroslavl, where dorms are rarely an option. The decision to live in a dorm versus a family is entirely up to you, but living with a family usually allows for more exposure to Russian culture and history. On the other hand, living in a dorm can allow more personal freedom and space, because Russian host families incorporate students as a member of the family. Whichever housing you choose, you will acquire more language skills and cultural experiences than you ever could at home while studying in Russia.
The visa system in Russia applies to most foreigners, including citizens of the U.S., Canada, and most of Europe. To get a visa in order to study abroad in Russia, contact a Russian consulate in your home country. Once you arrive in Russia, you will also be required to register within three days of arriving in your host city. Usually, your hotel, hostel, university, or study abroad program will do this for you. Additionally, it is important to carry your passport and registration papers at all times; policemen are known for stopping random people and asking for their documents.
Benefits & Challenges
Russia is an incredibly student friendly country. Opportunities to study in Russia for international students offer a number of advantages, including discounts on public transport, at museums, concert halls, libraries, and numerous other entertainment venues. Student life is also alive and well, and there is never a shortage of things to do after class. Russian students are active participants in sports contests, festivals, volunteer associations, and other recreational and creative outlets. Diving into these extracurricular activities is a great way to immerse yourself in campus life while studying in Russia, and subsequently make Russian friends and become familiar with the rhythms of Russian life. This in turn will give you insight into a culture that is often misunderstood or misrepresented in the Western world.
Russia is generally a safe place to study abroad, but having street smarts is always helpful. Try not to speak very loudly in public, especially if you are speaking English. Most Russians don’t speak very loudly in public, so if you are, it may draw unwanted attention from pickpockets. Additionally, St. Petersburg is well-known for more than its grandeur and cultural riche; there are also neo-Nazi elements that you need to be aware of, especially if you do not look like a white European. Amnesty International declared racism in Russia to be hugely problematic, and Anti Semitism and xenophobia are still part of the mentality of many Russians.
Russia has the most educated population in the world, with more than half of Russians holding a higher qualification; this is more than many developed countries, such as Japan, the U.S., and Canada. When you combine this with a fascinating cultural heritage and jaw-droppingly beautiful cities, there is really no reason not to rush off to study abroad in Russia right now.