The Balkan Language Initiative offers intensive, highly- individualized instruction in Albanian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Macedonian, and Serbian in six different countries. Through homestays, conversation partners, in-class instruction, and a wide range of extracurricular activities, participants enjoy an unprecedented opportunity to immerse themselves in daily local life in a region largely unserved by study abroad programs.
Academics / Courses
Participants receive 15 to 18 hours per week of classroom instruction - either individually or in small groups - designed to strengthen speaking, listening, reading, and writing proficiency in the target language. Course work typically includes classes in phonetics, grammar, and conversation as well as composition, oral comprehension, and reading. Language courses also cover topics in literature, history, politics, culture, and area studies. All classes are conducted in the target language by host-country faculty with extensive experience teaching foreign students.
Participants receive academic credit through Bryn Mawr College, an institutional member of American Councils. Upon successful completion of the program, Bryn Mawr College issues:
- 8 undergraduate/10 graduate credit hours for the summer program;
- 16 undergraduate/15 graduate credit hours for the fall or spring semesters;
- and 32 undergraduate/30 graduate credit hours for the academic year program.
Languages & Locations
BLI currently offers the following languages:
- Albanian in Tirana, Albania
- Bosnian in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina
- Bulgarian in Sofia, Bulgaria
- Macedonian in Skopje, Macedonia
- Serbian in Belgrade, Serbia
- Serbian in Podgorica, Montenegro
To aid cultural integration and support academic learning, participants have the opportunity to meet with conversation partners two hours per week. Conversation partners introduce participants to local people, accompany participants on sightseeing tours, organize cultural activities (cinema, museum, etc.), and provide student with academic support. The conversation partners are expected to speak only the target language.
Excursions & Activities
As part of the program, participants engage in a number of excursions and cultural activities. Activities outside the classroom are designed to give participants a deeper understanding of life, culture, and history in the Balkans. While excursions and activities vary from year to year and by location, past participants have enjoyed excursions to the following sites:
- National Museum of History (Tirana, Albania)
- Cathedral of Saint Alexander Nevsky (Sofia, Bulgaria)
- Stari Most (Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina)
- Kale Fortress (Skopje, Macedonia)
- Old City and Fortress along Bay of Kotor(Kotor, Montenegro)
- Ada Cigalija (Belgrade, Serbia)
Program participants are encouraged to pursue volunteer opportunities in their host country. American Councils staff can provide advice and assistance in identifying volunteer opportunities in fields which are of interest to students. Engaging with the local community offers a unique insight into the host country society, rich cultural experience, and a deeper sense of personal fulfillment.
Housing & Meals
All program participants live with a host family for the duration of the program. Living with a host family provides valuable cultural experience to complement the academic program. Host families expose participants to authentic, everyday life in the host country while also providing a supportive environment for students to practice their growing language skills. While staying with a host family, participants are provided with a private room, two meals per day, and keys to the apartment or house. All host families are screened, selected, and monitored by American Councils staff.
All program participants are required to attend a mandatory pre-departure orientation in Washington, D.C. at the start of the program. Orientation sessions address health & safety, academic culture, host-family life, culture shock, and strategies to maximize language gain. Students also have a chance to meet and get to know fellow participants during the orientation. Lodging and meals are provided. Upon arrival in the host country, participants attend an informative in-country orientation.
While overseas, participants have access to in-country program staff that provide around-the-clock emergency support. The local American Councils office, employing both expatriates and host-country nationals, arrange the academic program, cultural excursions, housing, in-country orientation, and medical care. During the program, the AC Study Abroad Team in Washington, D.C. stays in close contact via email and telephone with in-country program staff and provides updates as needed to study abroad offices, university partners, and family members.
Participants are enrolled in comprehensive overseas health, accident, and evacuation insurance through Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI) for the duration of the program. CISI provides medical coverage of up to $250,000 per accident or illness. Enrollment in the CISI plan also provides full coverage for emergency medical evacuation.
All participants are provided with a single-entry visa (if applicable) to the host country for the duration of the academic program. It is the student's responsibility to obtain any other visas required by their individual itineraries. Visa application information and forms are provided upon acceptance to the program.
American Councils established the AC Study Abroad Scholarship Fund to help provide additional financial support for students to study abroad. All applicants to American Councils summer, semester, or academic-year overseas programs are eligible for partial scholarship awards from this fund including the following:
- AC Study Abroad Alumni Scholarship
As a way to thank our returning participants, all AC Study Abroad Alumni that enroll in another AC Study Abroad program will automatically receive a $500 scholarship towards a summer program, or a $1,000 scholarship towards a semester program. Interested alumni should contact the AC Study Abroad Team via email.
- AC Study Abroad Diversity Scholarship
Beginning with Summer 2016 programs, the AC Study Abroad Diversity Scholarship is available to students who have traditionally been under-represented in study abroad and educational exchange programs. This includes, but is not limited to, individuals who identify with certain racial, sexual, ethnic, religious, gender, disability, age, origin, ancestry or veteran statuses. The scholarship is also available to first generation college students, students from low income families, and students with a history of overcoming adversity.
- AC Study Abroad Language & Area Studies Expert Scholarship
Students that participate on consecutive summer area studies programs and semester or academic year language immersion programs will automatically receive an AC Study Abroad Language and Area Studies Expert Scholarship of $1,000 towards the cost of their semester-long program. Interested individuals must apply to both programs by the earlier deadline, and contact the AC Study Abroad Team via email. Cannot be combined with the AC Study Abroad Alumni Scholarship.
- AC Study Abroad Need-Based Scholarship
All applicants to American Councils summer, semester, or academic-year overseas programs are eligible for partial fellowship awards from this fund.
Awards are made on the basis of financial need and academic merit, and typically range from $500 to $2500 unless otherwise noted.
Title VIII Language Fellowships
Applicants who hold a Bachelor's degree or higher and plan to participant in the Balkan Language Initiative are eligible to apply for a Title VIII Language Fellowship, provided by the U.S. Department of State and administered by American Councils. Title VIII fellowships are awarded on the basis of financial need and academic merit, and may cover up to 75% of the program cost.
Visit our Financial Aid page for more information on scholarship and funding opportunities through American Councils and outside sources.