In the fall of 2014, American Councils launched a new Russian Language and Area Studies Program (RLASP) at the Al-Farabi Kazakh National University (KazNU) in Almaty, Kazakhstan for students who wish to study Russian in an immersion setting but are unable to travel to Russia due to funding restrictions or other concerns. Modeled after RLASP in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Vladimir, the new program provides intensive Russian language instruction for students who have completed at least two years of college-level Russian or its equivalent. Faculty from KazNU’s department of Philology, Literary Studies and World Languages, provide participants highly individualized instruction in small groups or tutorials.
KazNu was founded in 1933 and is the oldest university in Kazakhstan. More than 20,000 graduate and undergraduate students are enrolled in its departments of mechanics and mathematics, physics, biology, chemistry, geography, history, philology, journalism, international relations, eastern studies political science and philosophy, economics and business, and law. The university’s campus is the largest in Almaty, comprising a total area of 100 hectares in one of the city’s most scenic areas.
Home to approximately 1.5 million people, Almaty is one of the most culturally diverse cities in Central Asia. Approximately 51 percent of the city’s population are Kazakh, and 33 percent are Russian; the remaining 20 percent of the city’s residents includes Koreans, Tatars, Uyghurs, and Ukrainians. While there is a growing national interest in speaking and learning Kazakh, Russian remains the country’s lingua franca; all official information, as well a street names, road signs, and public announcements are produced in both Russian and Kazakh.
RLASP serves undergraduate students as well as working professionals. Program features include homestays, weekly excursions, travel to local regions in Kazakhstan, conversation partners, and a wide range of opportunities to pursue internships, volunteering, hobbies and personal interests in a Russian context. All courses are taught in Russian by expert faculty with experience teaching foreign students. One day per week of the academic program is set aside for local cultural excursions. Excursions and travel include major sites such as art galleries and churches, but also include destinations off the beaten path. Students also participate on an extended regional field studies outside their host city.
Participants have the option of living with host families or in university dormitories. Host families provide private rooms and engage students in conversation and culture. All participants receive two meals per day. American Councils conducts an informative pre-departure orientation in Washington, D.C. and an in-country orientation upon each group's arrival. Full-time, expert resident directors are available to assist participants abroad. Additionally, participants receive comprehensive overseas medical insurance for the duration of the program.