Special Considerations for Russian Major

Professor Peggy Mills urges Russian majors who study abroad to do “everything they can.” Live with a Russian host family, meet the students, eat the food, read the news—and of course, study the language. If you’re a Russian major, you probably know that the Russian language plays an important role in American foreign policy and that it’s a relatively difficult language for native English speakers to learn. Studying abroad in Russia will not only improve your language competency by giving you the opportunity to interact with native speakers, but also provide you with an experience of Russian culture that will broaden your worldview and give you a competitive edge in applying for graduate programs and jobs.

While there is no usual post-graduate trend for Russian majors, recent graduates are Peace Corps volunteers in Russian-speaking republics, ESL teachers in Russia, U.S. government and foreign service workers, and graduate students. Many of the positions Russian majors consider post-graduation require advanced language skills and knowledge of Russian culture.

Whatever your post-graduate plans are, study abroad in Russia is an experience that will benefit all Russian language students. From 8-week summer programs to full-year programs, there are plenty of opportunities for you to earn credit toward your degree.

Various scholarships are available for Russian majors who want to study abroad, including the Presidential Scholarship for Study Abroad and Rotary Foundation Scholarships. Information about how to fund your study abroad experience is available here.

For more information about study abroad opportunities in Russia, check the Russian Language Program website and/or consult with an advisor in the Office for Study Abroad.

About half of UI Russian majors don’t declare their major until the semester following their freshman or sophomore year. Don’t worry, you still have plenty of time to study abroad! In fact, because the Russian language is so tough to learn, it’s highly advised that you complete Third-Year Russian I and II before travelling to Russia. Generally, the summer after your junior year, your senior year, and any time during the your first post-graduate year are ideal times for you to study abroad.

Freshmen

Your first year is best spent fulfilling general education requirements and language prerequisites.

Sophomores & Juniors

Depending on your language level, study abroad during your sophomore or junior year is possible. If you are unsure whether you are at the right language level for study abroad, check with your major advisor in the Department for Asian and Slavic Languages.

Seniors

Assuming you’ve completed three years of language study at the college level, senior year is an excellent time for study abroad. Just double check that all of your course requirements will be met for graduation upon your return. Refer to the Fulfilling Academic Requirements section of this MAP for suggestions for coordinating your study abroad experience with your major requirements.

Post-graduation

If you can’t seem to fit study abroad into your time at the U of I, consider studying abroad post-graduation! For more information about post-graduate study abroad options, contact Peggy Mills.

Russian Major Courses

Be sure to review your major requirements before registering for courses abroad. In general, Russian majors can transfer up to 16 credit hours per semester toward their major (as long as those credits were earned in Russian-speaking classrooms). The Department of Asian and Slavic Languages is relatively flexible about transferring credit earned abroad and will work with you to suit your individual needs. For the most part, Russian language, literature, civilization and culture courses taken abroad will be transferrable upon your return.  

Peggy Mills is the sole advisor for both majors and non-majors wanting to study abroad in Russia. Consult with her and visit the Office for Study Abroad to discuss study abroad courses you can take to fulfill your major requirments. Once you choose your courses, you’ll need to fill out a Study Abroad Credit Approval Form (available in the Office for Study Abroad) and return it to your Study Abroad Advisor prior to your departure.

General Education

Because the courses you take abroad will be taught in Russian, general education courses are best fulfilled at the UI (i.e. you probably don’t want to learn calculus in a Russian-speaking classroom). Also keep in mind that it will be trickier to transfer study abroad credit through the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences than through your major department.

While many international students participate in exchange programs to manage the cost of study abroad, most Russian universities don’t offer exchange programs. Traveling to Russia can be quite expensive, but don’t let cost dissuade you! As a Russian major, it will be particularly important for you to apply for scholarships to fund your study abroad experience, and there is plenty of funding available.

Most of the scholarships available to you will have application deadlines far in advance of your departure, so be sure to apply for funding early. Also note that the Rotary Foundation is currently a year behind in their application process and should be applied for a year (or two) in advance.

Due to the linguistic and cultural challenges of studying abroad in Russia, it will be particularly important for you to organize your study abroad experience through an accredited program that will provide you with a lot of infrastructure (embassy contact, a residency director, etc.). For this reason, the UI Russian Department is adamant that their students travel through The American Councils Advanced Russian Language and Area Studies Program, a linguistic and cultural immersion program based at universities in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Vladimir.

ACTR Language and Area Studies Program

A program of the American Council of Teachers of Russian (ACTR), the Language and Area Studies Program is a nationally accredited program that provides students from all over the country with the opportunity to study abroad in Russia for an academic year or semester. ACTR also offers an 8-week language-immersion program in the summer.

Most program participants live with Russian host families (screened in advance by American Councils homestay coordinators) for the duration of their stay. On-site residency directors provide students with contact information for peer tutors recruited from host universities as well as information about volunteer and internship opportunities. Excursions to local sights of social, cultural or historic significance take place weekly and are conducted in Russian.

Two years of college-level Russian is required. A program orientation is held in Washington D.C. prior to departure for Russia.

According to Peggy Mills, ACTR's Language and Area Studies Program boasts a 99.9% acceptance rate of UI students who are well-known and well-liked at participating unversities. Further, because it is an accredited program, participants rarely have trouble transferring study abroad credit when they return to the UI.

Current and complete information about the program, as well as application instructions, can be found at the ACTR study abroad web page. Also be sure to attend the ACTR information session hosted by the UI Russian Language Program (usually in the winter or early spring).

Before or after mailing an application to ACTR, students must consult with Peggy Mills and Study Abroad Advisor Maria Hope concerning UI registration, financial aid, and other procedures. To schedule an appointment with Peggy Mills, email her at margaret-mills@uiowa.edu. To schedule an appointment with Maria Hope, contact the receptionist for the Office for Study Abroad at 335-0353.