The Russian Heritage Speakers Program is intended to address the specific needs of students who speak Russian at home or with relatives, or who grew up speaking Russian and wish to strengthen their Russian skills. Program participants work with American Councils staff and host university faculty to develop an individualized program serving their unique needs as language learners. All programs focus on the development of Russian language skills, including grammar, conversation, and phonetics. Participants receive a minimum of twelve hours per week of in-class contact hours. Program features include homestays, weekly excursions, travel to other regions of the host country, conversation partners, and a wide range of opportunities to pursue hobbies and personal interests in a Russian context.
Academics / Courses
Participants in the Heritage Speakers Program take an active role in shaping their own curricula. When applying to the program, applicants write a short essay outlining their study goals and describing the academic program that they believe will best meet their needs as language students. American Councils Washington staff, resident directors, and Russian university faculty then work with each student to develop these initial proposals into effective, individualized programs. All programs focus on intensive language gain in the areas of grammar, conversation, and vocabulary development; courses in literature, history, and area studies are available for advanced students. Participants attend at least 12 hours per week of intensive, individualized classes. While almost all classes are conducted one-on-one with the teacher, students may study in pairs on some occasions.
Academic year and semester students in Moscow have the option of auditing classes at their host university. In recent years, participants completed courses at their host universities in Art History, Mathematics, Engineering, Sociology, Theater Studies, Russian History, Religion, Psychology, and Literature.
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.
Locations & Institutions
HSP 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
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.
Excursions & 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. HSP participants attend excursions with participants on the Advanced Russian Language and Area Studies Program (RLASP).
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. HSP and RLASP groups in Russia have visited sites such as Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, Rostov-na-Donu, Samara, Sochi, Suzdal, Volgograd, and Yaroslavl, while groups in Almaty have traveled to Astana and Ust-Kamenogorsk.
Upon arrival in the host country, American Councils staff can arrange internships or community service placements for academic year and semester 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 & 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.
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.
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
The AC Study Abroad Diversity Scholarship is available to students who have traditionally been underrepresented 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.
- Dan E. Davidson Fellowship
Established in honor of American Councils’ founder and President Emeritus and his four decades of leadership in the field of international education, the Dan E. Davidson Fellowship supports highly qualified and deserving individuals who demonstrate a dedication to successful international collaboration and the development of greater mutual understanding between the U.S. and countries around the world. Fellowships of up to $2,000 will be awarded for summer study, up to $6,000 for semester study and up to $12,000 for academic-year programs.
Awards are made on the basis of financial need and academic merit, and typically range from $500 to $2500 unless otherwise noted.
Visit our Financial Aid page for more information on scholarship and funding opportunities through American Councils and outside sources.