Do you want to study Russian in Nizhny Novgorod this summer?
You have until May 20th (or June 15th, if you’re an EU citizen) to apply!
Last July, I attended the “Russian Summer” program at Lobachevsky University in Nizhny Novgorod. It was a good program: 20 academic hours of instruction a week, housing in dorms or homestay, and lots of afternoon excursions.
Lobachevsky (also called University of Nizhny Novgorod, UNN) is trying SOOOO HARD as an up-and-coming school of higher education. They’re doing a good job at it, too! Look at how far they’ve come in just a decade:
If you’re considering a short language immersion program, I nominate this one. It’s more affordable than programs with a “prestige tax” (think Moscow or St. P) and the school makes it super easy to apply. On your first day, they even give you a printed schedule of events, a long welcome lunch, a bunch of souvenirs, and some UNN-branded gear. And yes, I can be easily swayed by cheap free swag, but I also think this indicates an amazing level of organization for any 4-week exchange program in Russia. School staff mentioned numerous times how hard the school is working to expand its international program, attract new students, and improve the university’s rating.
Since the application deadline is coming up fast, here’s some info to help you decide if the program is right for you.
GETTING IN THE PROGRAM
Go here to read about the program and apply online. You basically need to be healthy, possess a passport, and have 50,000 rubles. These days, that’s about $871 USD.
Then you’ll get a ton of paperwork to fill out for a visa invitation, hooray. And you’ll need to wire money to the university to hold your spot. This was the only tricky part of the process for me, since my bank freaked out when they saw an international transfer going through 2 Russian banks.
GETTING THE VISA
Step 1: Apply for your student visa. You can do this in person at the embassy or do it by mail. It’s a little cheaper to do it at the embassy, but that’s assuming you live near an embassy and can be there at exactly the right time (like 10:22 AM to 10:28 AM only on Tuesdays, something crazy like that. I may be a little bitter after a previous experience.) For this post, let’s assume you’re going to apply through the mail using ILS.
Step 2: Actually finish applying for the student visa because you have to go look up a bajillion dates and addresses.
Have you ever changed jobs before entering your current job? If you have ever changed your place of employment, you must list a maximum of 2 previous places of work.
Are/were you a member of professional, civic, or charitable organizations? If the answer is yes, you will have to indicate all organizations mentioned in the question.
Have you visited any countries in the past 10 years? If the answer is yes, you must list all countries (with dates) you have visited in the past 10 years.
Have you ever been a drug abuser or an addict?
Do you you have any specialized skills related to firearms, explosives, nuclear, biological, or chemical substances?
Oh, and you’ll have to go off to the doctor for an HIV test and a letter showing your negative results. You’ll also need a copy of your last university transcript.
Step 3: Double check your paperwork and mail everything off with your passport to ILS. Cross your fingers and remember what you agreed to on the ILS website: “In the case of your carelessness, forgetfulness, or mistake, please don’t complain.”
Step 4: Enter the slightly stressful period of do I buy my ticket now so it’s cheaper, or do I wait to get the visa first? I paid extra to expedite processing and shipping, so my visa came back around a week later. And that’s it, you’re ready to go to Nizhny Novgorod!
CAMPUS PHOTO TOUR
Meanwhile, elsewhere on campus…
As summer students, our campus activities were mainly limited to the foreign student floor in the dorm, the main classroom building, and the cafeteria. Everything in these areas was modern and shiny. I got to explore one building with a little more character when searching for the school’s IT department (a room with two unsmiling guys.)
If you go to summer school, you’ll likely end up in the lobby of this building at some point. A gruff-looking security officer will look you over suspiciously as you feed money into a machine to pay your internet bill. But the internet connection on campus is a dream, seriously! You can get wifi from many places + a wired connection in the dorms. At some point I was trying to keep track of all my internet receipts- failed big time on this- but the total bill for a month of internet (while using it to work remotely) was probably under $20 USD.
…or, The (Gossip-Based) Story of 2 Groups.
First, the elusive group of Americans sometimes spotted around campus. This group of students supposedly all traveled to UNN together from the same US university. Again, supposedly, they were under strict rules to speak only Russian the entire month- even to each other when alone in their dorm rooms. They had their own class and their own excursions, so we were never able to mingle together. Everything I heard was passed along from someone who knew someone who had spoken to the group. It would have been so interesting to meet one of those students and hear about their experiences.
The second summer school group (our group) was more mixed. Most people didn’t know any Russian yet, so our excursions were all in English. We all lived together on the international floor of the dorms, sharing space with the Persians and Africans who were already living there. For Russian classes, we were divided into 3 groups: beginner, lower-intermediate, and upper-intermediate.
At first, our summer school group was about 50% Singaporean & Korean / 50% European, but a big group of Chinese students came halfway through the month and from there on out, it was beautiful linguistic chaos and clamor. Polyglot heaven!!!
The moral of this is that if you sign up as a random student, you can be in the mixed group and LEARN ALL THE LANGUAGES!
But about those Russian classes….
There is a three-letter word that perfectly describes the classes. (Haha, not the one you’re thinking of! 😉 This one is in English.)
The word is meh.
Our teacher was young, inexperienced, and unsure of her explanations. She was also the most dedicated copy machine user on the planet. Let’s be honest- it can be pretty boring to study Russian in a classroom. Rushing through 20 random worksheets daily doesn’t liven things up.
In fact, I once missed a Monday and Tuesday of class. On Tuesday night, my classmate brought me what I had missed- almost 30 worksheets! I think we only played 1 game during the entire course.
By the way, this was a classmate’s “toss” pile at the end of 4 weeks of lessons. The remaining worksheets she took back home to review again later.
However, there was one class that stood out. At the end of the program, we escaped the classroom and walked through Switzerland Park with our teacher. Not a single worksheet was in sight, what a relief!
A genius thing that UNN did was to match each summer student up with a local volunteer. This by far made up for the lackluster classes. Each week, you’d meet your volunteer several times to talk about life over tea or explore the city together. Here’s Sveta, my volunteer-turned-friend, showing off a mildly nightmare-inducing attraction in her neighborhood.
On the other hand, students in different classes said positive things about their instructors. Overall, I think UNN classes might not quite compare to a private language school like Liden and Denz, but you get a lot of extra bonuses- a personal volunteer, housing, excursions- for a very decent price.