Binghamton University students have participated in summer, semester, and academic-year programs in a variety of Russian colleges and universities. Here are some comments by students about their experiences in Russia through various types of work/study abroad. In most cases, courses taken in Russia will transfer to Binghamton for credit towards your Russian major, but it's best to meet with the Russian Studies advisor to discuss your study program before you go. In addition to the programs described below by students, you can find a directory of programs here.
It's also possible to spend a year in Russia through programs like the Fulbright research or language-teaching assistant program. Click to learn more about the Fulbright program in Russia.
Previous Abroad Program Testimonials
- Scholarship in Kazan, Critical Language Scholarship Program
I spent eight weeks during summer 2011 in Kazan on the Critical Language Scholarship Program. We spent twenty hours in class every week with courses on Grammar, Phonetics, Literature, Speech Practice, and Russian Press & Media. Our program also included a four-day cruise on the Volga River, a trip to a banya in the Republic of Mari El, a trip to Elabyga and Sviyazhsk, and various shorter trips to see ballets and a variety of museums, including Lenin's house and Maria Tsvetaeva's home and grave. While in Kazan I lived with a family in their apartment.
This was my best experience in Russia so far, I really made a lot of Russian friends. This is a very academically challenging program, so be prepared to spend a lot of time on homework!
Christine Hubbard, '12
- Summer internship in Novgorod, SUNY Brockport Novgorod summer program
I spent six weeks of summer 2010 in Velikii Novgorod on the SUNY Brockport Novgorod Summer Program. For four weeks I studied language every day and had courses in art and history. I was also able to live with a family near the center of the city. The program included an optional internship, which I chose to do. There is a list of several possible internships, and I worked at two archaeological digs (one was near the St. Sofia Cathedral and the other was the well-known Troitskii Dig, which Putin visited during my stay). I would ABSOLUTELY recommend doing an internship if at all possible! In addition to an internship we also traveled to several cities on day trips, spent four days in St. Petersburg (in a hostel right around the corner from the Winter Palace!), and toured the city of Novgorod. My favorite things about the trip include having the chance to work first hand at an important archaeological dig, learning more about Russian culture, and actually feeling like someone who lives there. The internship is a great way to get hands on experience in your field, and the whole experience will really improve your Russian. The Russian language professors, especially for advanced students, are great and really helped my Russian improve. The city is not too big to be overwhelming, but there's still stuff to do everyday. It's a worthwhile trip!
Elise DeSantis, '12
- A Summer in Novgorod, Russia
The only way to truly learn a language is to completely immerse yourself in the culture where it's spoken. This summer I went to Novgorod, Russia on a study abroad program hosted by SUNY Brockport, and had the adventure of a lifetime. I was able to take language, culture, and art classes while also completing an internship at a local orphanage. Not only did I learn Russian language in the classroom, but I was able to live with a host family who made it their mission to make me a part of their family and teach me all that they could.
The trip helped me academically but also allowed me to grow and mature as a person because of my unique internship. I enjoyed every day that I went to the orphanage, and the saddest day of my life was leaving there for the last time. My job was so much more than just playing with children --- it was about helping children to find hope in a desperate situation. I loved every minute of this trip, and would go back in a heartbeat.
Christine Hubbard, '12
- Research Assistant in Moscow, Nine-Week Internship in Moscow program, SUNY Albany
I went to Russia in the Summer of 2011 as a student on the Nine-Week Internship in Moscow Program through SUNY Albany. Through the program, I took classes at The Russian Presidential Academy of the National Economy and Public Administration.
While in Moscow, I studied Russian Language for 3 hours a day, 5 days a week. The program also allowed an optional class on Russian history, culture, and politics. Students have the option to take the class for credit by writing two papers on topics assigned by the professors. Lastly, all students had an internship. I worked as a research assistant for English language sources about Russian and NATO missile defenses for a professor at the Higher School of Economics.
Program also included weekly excursions to cultural sights in Moscow. Tours were offered in both English and Russian, based on the student's proficiency level. We visited the Moscow Kremlin, Tretiakov Gallery, and several different museums. One weekend, we went to the dacha of one of the professors. For an extra fee (usually under $150) I was able to travel to Vladimir and Suzdal with other students at the academy who had come to Russia from Georgia Tech. If you are interested in traveling anywhere else in Russia, the staff at ANE will be more than willing to help you. I travelled to St. Petersburg with three of my classmates, and one of the program interns went with us to buy our train tickets and book our hostel.
I lived with a host mom in an apartment building about a ten-minute walk away from the academy. My host mom was a widow and a professor of Russian language for foreign students, which was extremely helpful. She was always eager to talk and take excellent care of me. She would not go to bed until she knew I saw safely in for the evening and had a cup of tea.
My overall experience was extremely positive: I would recommend this program to anyone. My favorite thing about the trip was most likely my homestay. I enjoyed living "as a Russian." My host mom only spoke Russian, and spoke to me every night for at least an hour about her life in Russia. We would watch the news together, which also gave me insight into Russian culture and politics. Her seven-year-old granddaughter from Belgium came to visit, and I will never forget playing hide and go seek and other children's games in Russian with her.
Emily Elliott, '12
- Hard work in Rural Russia, World Wide opportunities on Organic Farms
As a student of Binghamton University, I went to Russia only once, in June of 2010 for a month. I did not go with any specific program through a university but instead arranged my stay through a program called World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF). This is essentially an online database where hosts from around the world can advertise their farms and anybody interested in that kind of work can browse what is offered. Arrangements between hosts and volunteers are conducted entirely by them and are often a direct exchange of labor for boarding and food.
Through the WWOOF program, I found a host with a small farm about two and a half hours from Moscow and arranged a stay. My hostess lived alone in a small ten by ten foot house. Her farm in that location was less than two years old and accordingly undeveloped. She sustained herself on her single cow (named Zvyozdochka, or little star), which she milked twice a day. She sold the milk to neighbors and quenched our appetites with it as well. I lived in a comfy tent next to her house, which skirted a beautiful but mosquito-ridden birch forest.
My work consisted of basic chores such as bringing grass to the animals (my hostess had an old horse as well, which did little more than eat her grass and look stoic), cutting and stacking firewood (a much needed commodity for surviving winter in the Russian countryside), etc. She also gave me more interesting tasks like building a chicken pen for new born chicks and renovating her horse-drawn wagon. She often overestimated my skill sets in this regard but the work got done in good time and quality and I learned more than I realized from it.
My experience with this life was far from easy. It pushed me to grapple with a life that was very foreign in a world with few of the comforts I was used to. I say these things not to brag but to give fair warning to those who wish to embark on similar excursions. It will be the time of your life, but such things cannot be without a fair bit of struggle. My Russian improved by leaps and bounds when I was forced to rely on it alone to communicate. I also achieved incredible insights into the Russian people, from their history to their cultural values. Many of these things remain on my mind to this day as I try to understand them within their own context. I look back on that month as a brief reflection on the kind of life I wish to lead and how unprepared for that life I was. It has inspired me to look deeper into the human experience in order to conquer the fears within me that lie dormant at home. I eagerly await a return to Russia in September of 2012 with all the enthusiasm and passion for life that a twenty-one-year-old can muster.
Another prudent warning to those interested in programs like WWOOF, don't expect interpersonal relationships to go smoothly. My dear hostess ended up conflicting with me and after two and a half weeks she threw me out. I was doing what I thought was best and she was doing the same. Somewhere in there was a cultural, linguistic void that was not broached and we had a falling out. I ended up spending the rest of my time with a wonderfully generous Russian family nearby, with whom I still keep in contact. This story illustrates how the WWOOF system is a less secure way of traveling abroad in that there is no umbrella structure to protect the traveler from unexpected events. This is a higher risk route, but such challenges often garner the highest rewards.I highly recommend it.
Peter Ward, '12
- Winter Holidays in Moscow, Higher School of Economics
I studied in Russia for three weeks over the 2011-2012 winter break while participating in the International Winter Session at the Higher School of Economics (HSE). The program included trips to Russia Today, the Carnegie Center, and the Public Interest and Law Initiative, while our daily course work consisted of Russian Grammar, Advanced Russian Usage, and Advanced Vocabulary for Russian Economics and Politics (each course met for two hours a day). I had an incredible experience studying Russian at a level much higher than is possible here in America and living in the HSE dorms. The only drawbacks were that the program was very small and started during the Russian winter holidays, so if you would like to try this program, be prepared for the cold! On the whole, however, the winter session at HSE is a great opportunity to visit Russia during winter break.
- A year at the Crossroads of Europe and Asia in Kazan, Russia
My year-long stay in Kazan was for many reasons an eye opening experience. For one, not only was I exposed to the true variety of cultures and people within Russia, but also to the many voices, opinions, ideas, and aspects of Russian life. Also, in this instance, I wasn't studying abroad, but rather teaching English abroad, as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. I wasn't surrounded by other Americans as I had been in Novgorod, but I was rather constantly interacting with Russians, Tatars, professionals, teachers, and students, and people from different walks of life in the Russian Federation.
I was given a choice as to where I would live for my year in Kazan and so I chose to live in a Russian apartment, where I would be completely independent, and pretty much on my own when it came to day-to-day survival. I had no one watching over me, and no one would be waiting for me when I came home, as my host family had graciously done in Novgorod. This meant I had to buy my own groceries, pay my own rent, ask my Russian-only speaking landlord, Airat, for help with the apartment when I needed it. For example, my refrigerator had stopped working within a week of my staying there, and Airat had the refrigerator was replaced without any cost to me, (and without a single exchange in English).
The independence I found through this program was such that when the university classes ended for winter break, I was able to make my own travel arrangements, and travel throughout Russia. With the ability to create my own plans, and because of the lack of time constraints, I was able to literally ride to the other side of Russia, from West to East, into Siberia. Here, I was exposed to even more of the various peoples and cultures living in Russia.
The knowledge I gained from the experience of interacting with Russians in Moscow and Izhevsk, Tatars in Kazan, and Buryats in Ulan-Ude and around Lake Baikal is invaluable, and the impression of Russia that I left Kazan with was a dramatically different image from the one I had arrived with.
For more information on study abroad programs visit the Office of International Programs web-site.