ACTR Russian Language Program in Russia
The American Council of Teachers in Russian (ACTR) acts as a liaison program for American students, providing study opportunities in a variety of Russian locales, as well as in greater Eurasia. For Reed students interested in spending a semester or year in Russia strengthening their linguistic skills, the Russian Language and Area Studies Program (RLASP) will most likely be the best fit. This academic program focuses on the intense amelioration of reading, writing, listening and speaking skills in Russian, as well as courses on Russian history, politics, culture, and society. Students entering the program with a GPA of 3.3 or higher may be nominated as honors students, which allows swapping RLASP courses for actual university courses at their Russian host university. Students will spend around 20 hours per week working on linguistic skills, with one day set aside for weekly group outings. If requested, the program will assist students in lining up volunteer work and/or internship opportunities. Students studying through this program will have the choice of living either in a university dormitory, or with a host family. Before flying to Russia, all students collect in Washington D.C. to undergo a pre-departure orientation program. This program has multiple locations, offering study in Moscow, St. Petersburg, or Vladimir, Russia. Students must have at least two years of college-level Russian or the equivalent, as well as a 3.0 GPA to qualify.
Further info can be found at: http://www.acrussiaabroad.org/index.php
For studies in greater Eurasia: http://www.aceurasiaabroad.org/
The program almost entirely focused on language gain; the elective courses were still at the root language classes with a topic or theme. The course load was not difficult. I liked this, however, because it left plenty of time for exploring and learning about the city and culture on my own. The homestays all seemed well chosen. The host families for the most part seemed good at meeting students' needs. The dorm situation seemed to me not very pleasant (it was nothing like an American dorm and it was hardly a dorm at all-it was really sort of a crappy hotel) I would not recommend any future students on this program elect to live in the dorm. I think ACTR is probably the best program in St. Petersburg. I knew students at Smolny, and while they did get to take a wider variety of classes and learn things other than just language, the 2 students I knew did not seem to be learning much of anything. That, of course, could have been just those two. I'm not sure. The main program fault is that it is hard to meet actual Russian students. It can be done, however. As corny as it sounds, I learned a lot about myself. I'm especially glad I traveled on my own around Russia after the program ended, I learned a lot about independence during that time and finding my way on my own. I also just learned a lot about another culture, and though I'd traveled outside the U.S. some, it really took living abroad to open my eyes to how different people's lives can be in another country.
I feel that the program does an suburb job of teaching the acquisition of the Russian language and a good job of teaching about Russian culture. Reed students on ACTR do not get Reed level courses on literature, history, or mathematics, but that is not what the semester pretends to provide. Russia is not as luxurious as the West. However, everything was comfortable enough. I ate well. The food was less greasy than commons. I think the Host family situation they have set up is excellent. It is probably the program's best quality. If you're a Russian literature person, go to St. Petersburg. Everything is cheaper, there is less English, and everything is closer together. Also, it's the cultural center of Russia, not the business center.