“The gladdest moment in human life is a departure into unknown lands.”—Sir Richard Burton
Traveling abroad does something to the soul.
You could see travel as a chance to unwind and take a vacation, and there certainly isn’t anything wrong with that.
But traveling can also present an excellent opportunity to improve your language skills, cultural knowledge and respect for foreign lands.
That’s why it’s such a great idea to travel abroad to Russian-speaking countries in order to learn Russian through immersion. There are many options for learning Russian abroad, many of which take the form of expat programs and university courses for foreigners.
However, no two Russian language immersion programs are the same. We found seven of the most reputable programs around to help you take the guesswork and worry out of finding a reliable (and safe) study abroad option.
Before we kick off our list, let’s explore what makes language immersion so useful.
What Are the Benefits of Learning Russian with Immersion?
Language immersion is a method of teaching non-native speakers a new language by completely surrounding them with a particular culture. This is done by placing the student into an environment where a majority of the conversations and lessons happening are in the language they wish to learn.
In most cases, language immersion is implemented through programs that physically bring students to the country in which the language is spoken.
For Russian language immersion, students pay for a program that brings them to cities like Moscow or Saint Petersburg where they’ll live in a Russian household, learn at a Russian school and sometimes work at a Russian job.
Some benefits of learning Russian through immersion include:
- Encouragement to learn a language quicker through exposure.
- Targeting of different areas of a language, from pronunciation to grammar.
- Helping learners understand the culture that the language comes from.
- Teaching students Russian the way that Russian people it for optimal authenticity.
If you’ve been considering traveling abroad to study Russian, we’ve included some great options in our list below.
Learn Russian Through Immersion: 7 Study Abroad Opportunities for Serious Students
Below are some of the best Russian immersion programs abroad that college students and, sometimes, “working professionals” can take.
But first, boost your Russian skills before you even leave home by bringing the immersion to you with FluentU.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Use FluentU’s annotated subtitles, interactive vocabulary lists, flashcards and more to brush up on your Russian before you embark on your language-learning journey.
Or, take the program with you as an iOS or Android app to boost your skills as you travel!
Fans of Saint Petersburg will love this opportunity from CIEE. This study abroad program focuses primarily on teaching foreigners Russian through immersion, but it also encourages learners to explore the beautiful golden city on their own for optimum language and cultural exposure.
The main Saint Petersburg program is “Summer Russian Area Studies,” which accepts applications for the following summer through March of that year.
In addition to language studies, students will also learn about history, politics, culture and business in Russia, taught by professors from the St. Petersburg State University School of Political Science, or other Russian institutions.
You can choose between volunteering for a nonprofit while you’re there or you can join in on the dozens of weekly events hosted by CIEE that allows students to interact with locals.
To apply, you must be a college student and have a GPA of 2.5 or higher. Students will earn 3-6 college credits over a period of four weeks, but this is definitely one of the more vacation-y programs on our list.
American Councils’ RLASP has been around since the 70s, making it one of the more reputable study abroad opportunities on this list.
By combining an extremely intense course routine with a seemingly endless list of optional extracurricular activities and events, students can really learn Russian quickly and explore the culture their own way. Activities and events include excursions to museums, churches, old schools, historical spots and other public places of interest.
Students will spend about 20 hours per week in the classroom, 16 of which will be dedicated to Russian language instruction. Classes are small (three to five students) and grouped by level, so you’ll be getting personalized and direct instruction. By the end of the semester, students will be required to write a 15-20 page paper written entirely in Russian. Pretty intense!
Graduate and undergraduate students can apply for this program, which takes place in the city of your choosing. Options include Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Vladimir, an ancient historical town just east of Moscow, and Almaty, Kazakhstan, which is the country’s largest city and is currently a trading and culture hotspot.
RLASP also accepts “working professionals” or Russian learners who plan to or are currently working in Russia.
The program term is around eight weeks, but students who are willing to spend a pretty penny can choose to spend a full academic year abroad.
AIFS is another oldie-but-goodie (founded in 1964!) that’s a safe and reputable choice. There are seasonal programs available, but AIFS also offers full academic year programs.
The program includes excursions to Moscow and even to various locations in Finland and Estonia, so you’ll really be seeing the world through this immersion opportunity.
Best of all, though this program is immersive, classes are taught in both Russian and English, so it’s approachable even for absolute beginners to the language.
AIFS makes it easy to budget your trip by bundling up the costs for the program, travel, meals and homestay into one price. The program is open to college students.
For more information on the full-year or seasonal programs, shoot AIFS an email via their contact page.
You might want to study abroad in Russia because you plan on moving there at some point. On the other hand, you might be studying it for business reasons, to further your career by acquiring a more in-depth knowledge of the Russian language.
This program from American Councils helps students learn the technical and business language they need for careers in Russian-speaking sectors of politics, trade, investment and other professional industries.
The program merges intensive classes with useful internship opportunities in Moscow, Saint Petersburg or Almaty. Along with an excellent language-based course, students will also learn about Russian business, the global workplace and intercultural norms.
Undergraduates, graduate students and current working professionals are able to apply, but all applicants must have completed four or more semesters of Russian in a college or university.
The Middlebury School in Russia has three excellent study abroad programs that take place in Moscow and two lesser-known cities, Yaroslavl and Irkutsk.
Yaroslavl is an old city known for its ancient monasteries and churches, located just north of Moscow. Irkutsk is a riverside town that’s also known for its beautiful cathedrals and bell towers, as well as its incredible art history and museums. Both are excellent options if you want to see the less industrial and more historic side of Russia.
This program is more flexible than most when it comes to academics since there’s a bigger focus on socializing in order to get the best Russian immersion experience possible.
There are no special requirements for students enrolling in the summer program, but for all other programs, students must have completed two years of Russian courses.
In addition to program fees, Middlebury presents prospective students with a list of estimated personal expenses (like books and meals) for each of its three host cities—perfect for planning out your budget before you go.
Liden & Denz is well-known for offering Russian immersion programs in Moscow since the 90s. The private school is dedicated to teaching Russian to expats with an academic focus on the Russian language.
If you’re a student considering an immersion program that doubles as a college degree, the Liden & Denz Russian Language Center could be an excellent choice.
The school also offers courses in Saint Petersburg and Riga, Latvia. Riga is Latvia’s capital and is nestled on the shore of the Baltic Sea, making it a wonderful study abroad location for those who want to learn about Latvia’s rich culture.
This program is offered by the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is only available for undergraduates at UW-Madison. If you’re a current student or are considering applying to UW-Madison, this is an excellent opportunity to consider.
It’s a unique chance more of Russia than your study abroad location since, on a weekly basis, students are guided to different areas of Russia or Kazakhstan.
Students can choose to travel for a summer, semester or whole academic year. The main locations for study and living include Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Vladimir and Almaty.
Be warned: The Russian Flagship coursework is intensive, focusing on everything from conversational language all the way to business and technical language.
You should also be aware that in order to take this course, you must complete an introductory study-abroad experience for six weeks. Students must plan up to a year in advance for this program and apply in January in order to reserve a spot for the following school year.
Are you already packing your bags? Many of these programs for learning Russian through immersion require students to apply well ahead of time, so plan ahead!
Em Casalena is a published author, freelance writer and music columnist. They write about a lot of stuff, from music to films to language.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Russian with real-world videos.