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Advanced Russian Language & Area Studies Program (RLASP)

One of the longest-running and most respected Russian language and cultural immersion programs, RLASP combines intensive classroom instruction with a wide range of extracurricular activities, including internships and community service, regional field studies, conversation partners, and discussion groups with local students.

Program Description

Advanced Russian Language & Area Studies Program (RLASP)RLASP serves both graduate and undergraduate students as well as working professionals. The academic year, semester, and summer programs provide approximately 20 hours per week of in-class instruction in Russian grammar, phonetics, conversation, and cultural studies in Russia or Kazakhstan. Program features include homestays, weekly excursions, travel to other regions of Russia/Kazakhstan, conversation partners, and a wide range of opportunities to pursue internships, volunteering, hobbies, and personal interests in a Russian-language context. Credit for area studies coursework is offered in such subjects as literature and history, political science, and contemporary society. All courses are taught in Russian by expert faculty with experience teaching foreign students.

Program Components

AcademicsAcademics / Courses

American Councils semester, academic year, and summer programs maximize linguistic and cultural immersion into Russian society. All programs feature approximately twenty hours per week of in-class instruction; roughly sixteen hours of which are dedicated to Russian-language study. Students are placed according to proficiency level in groups of three-to-five for language classes. 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, mass media, and area studies.

Academic year and semester students in Moscow and Almaty have the option of auditing classes at their host university. In recent years, RLASP participants completed courses at their host universities in Art History, Mathematics, Engineering, Sociology, Theater Studies, Russian History, Religion, Psychology, and Literature.

Academic year participants with advanced Russian skills may substitute an independent research project for one of the American Councils area studies courses while continuing their language classes during the second semester. Research projects culminate in a 15- to 20-page research paper written in Russian. Recent participants in the academic year RLASP program have completed research projects on topics such as Napoleon's invasion of Russia, Russian theater, Russian attitudes towards the Caucasus, nationalism in music history, the acquisition of listening skills in Russian, and contemporary urban youth movements.

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.

LocationsLocations & Institutions

RLASP is currently offered in the following locations:

  • Moscow International University in Moscow, Russia
  • Russian State Pedagogical University (Herzen Institute) in St. Petersburg, Russia
  • KORA Center for Russian Language in Vladimir, Russia
  • Al-Farabi Kazakh National University (KazNU) in Almaty, Kazakhstan

TutoringConversation Partners

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 students with academic support. The conversation partners are expected to speak only the target language.

ExcursionsExcursions & Cultural Activities

One day a week of the academic program is set aside for travel to local sites of social, cultural and historical significance. All excursions are conducted in Russian and include sites such as museums, churches, schools, research centers, theatres, and historical estates.

At approximately mid-semester, resident directors arrange a week-long regional field studies trip outside of the host city. For summer participants, these regional field studies take place at the end of their program. RLASP groups in Russia have visited sites such as Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, Rostov-na-Donu, Samara, Sochi, Suzdal, Volgograd, and Yaroslavl. RLASP groups in Almaty have visited sites such as Astana, Borovoye, and Shymkent.

VolunteerVolunteer/Internship Opportunities

Upon arrival in the host country, American Councils staff can arrange internships or community service placements for academic year and semester RLASP participants. Summer participants are encouraged to pursue volunteer opportunities, such as sports and clubs. Internship placements depend significantly on the participant's Russian-proficiency level and the needs of the organization. Internships are unpaid and non-credit bearing.

Participants consistently rate their internships and community service as substantive and valuable; many former students report that their out-of-classroom experiences gave them unique insights into the host country society and Russian language, as well as a deep sense of personal fulfillment.

Program participants have recently completed internships at the following organizations:

Academy of Sciences, American Chamber of Commerce in Russia, Anna Crisis Center for Women, AVC Advisory, Bakhrushin Theatre Museum, the BCS English Institute, Best Buddies Russia, Carnegie Moscow Center, Center of International Cooperation, CTC Media, Hermitage Museum, Institute for Cultural Programs, International Banking Institute, Moscow Times, Museum of the Bolshoy Theatre, Museum of the Political History of Russia, NGO Development Center, Russian State Geology Museum, the Samantha School, State Cultural Committee of St. Petersburg, UNAIDS, Vitrina Press, Women's Crisis Center in Vladimir.

Housing & MealsHousing & Meals

Program participants have the option to live in a university dormitory or with a host family.

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 home-stay coordinators and resident directors.

Participants who choose the dormitory option share a room with other American Councils participants or with other international students. Two meals a day are provided.


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 and safety, academic culture, host-family life, culture shock, and strategies to maximize language gain. Students will also have a chance to meet and get to know their resident directors, fellow participants, and alumni during the orientation. Lodging and meals will be provided. Upon arrival in the host country, participants attend an informative in-country orientation.

ScholarshipSupport Services

Support Staff

While overseas, participants have access to in-country program staff that provide around-the-clock emergency support. A full-time resident director oversees the academic and cultural program; assists participants in academic, administrative and personal matters; and coordinates activities with the host institution faculty. 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 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.

SupportFinancial Aid

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 Need-Based Scholarship
  • AC Study Abroad Diversity Scholarship
  • Language & Area Studies Scholarship
  • Alumni Scholarship

Awards are made on the basis of financial need and academic merit, and typically range from $500 to $2,500.

Fulbright-Hays Fellowships

Provided by the U.S. Department of Education and administered by American Councils, Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad fellowships are available to advanced-level Russian speakers who plan to participate in the American Councils Advanced Russian Language and Area Studies Program in Moscow. Eligible participants must have a strong commitment to teaching Russian in universities or in K-12 schools, or to applying their language skills in government, international development, or other professional fields. Participants must also be U.S. citizens or permanent residents, who are undergraduate students with upperclassmen standing (juniors or seniors), graduate students, or U.S. K-12 teachers in order to be eligible for Fulbright-Hays funding. At the conclusion of the semester abroad, participants who received Fulbright-Hays funding are expected to conduct outreach activities in the U.S. to promote Russian study to the larger community. Fulbright-Hays fellowships are awarded on the basis of financial need and academic merit; fellowship awards are available for semester programs only and are made in the amount of $7,000.

Title VIII Language Fellowships

Applicants who hold a Bachelor’s degree or higher and plan to participate in the Advanced Russian Language and Area Studies Program 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.

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