If Russian linguistics or literature is attractive to you then maybe you should study in Russia. Or if the sound of a cheap education is music to your ears, then you should definitely consider a Russian University. But before you take the leap and apply to become an exchange student to study abroad. You have to consider some facts and understand some important things about becoming a prospective student at a Russian University. As you are probably aware of from Russia's presence in the news, this country is very different from our own, which means that living in one of its cities will, in turn, bring with it a unique experience. This experience could, however, be an experience of a lifetime and one that you'll never forget. You just need to know what you are letting yourself in for first! Students from different countries move to Russia every year to engage in intercultural exchange programs and accredited university courses. With over 800 universities Russia has everything to offer the intelligent student interested in international education. What's more, many Russian establishments offer great incentives to encourage some overseas students so you could benefit from a world-class degree programme for a fraction of the price you would pay for the same or equivalent course in the UK. Once enrolled, your life in Russia will be set to begin and as an international student, your experience will be an intensive but life-changing one. Russia language and culture will open up to you and enrich your overseas experience. Indeed, this is why more and more students are transferring to study in Russia, not only to pursue a vocational education or receive the diploma but to experience a lifestyle benefit too. Not to mention learning Russian during your time in the country, which is a truly fascinating foreign language. Even though Russia is a favourite country for an exchange student, it is not always the easiest one to qualify for, and the abroad programs, student visas and the cold during the winter may not be for everyone. Here is some useful information on what to expect when moving to Russia plus some essential tips for studying in Russia with confidence. Find and take Russian lessons here.

You can rent independently, but there is lots of paperwork
The best options are university housing or homestay accommodation. Photo Source: Unsplash

  1. Choose A Good University.

To choose a good university, you must know what you want to study then look for the most suitable school. For example:

  • In Russia, the Master's degree is obtained in 4 or 5 years,
  • You can do a doctorate, after a Bachelors degree in 3 or 4 years.

There is no Erasmus program for Russia, so you must do lots of research and ask lots of questions to be clear about not only what is required for enrolment but also for what is needed to live. Before even applying for a Russian exchange program you must understand what is available. With the internet, you have all the resource you need to find answers. You must use it! You must, therefore, inquire about:

  • The procedure and the application process,
  • On the options for financing your studies,
  • On the subjects taught and the type of opportunities offered,
  • Whether or not your curriculum includes Russian language courses.
  • If there are student halls or an, approved homestay option
  • If the university support with visas, or if you have to pursue the visa
  • Also, you must take stock of any support that you will have once you have arrived in Russia.

Check the British-Russian system to find out about degree equivalencies If you are in a big school or a college of engineering in your home country, you may have the chance to go on an exchange program, either for the entire academic course or just one year. But once you return home, you have to check that the work that you have done in Russia is enough to receive your degree. It is essential to check that your degree will be well recognised where ever you plan to live and work in the future. You can check if a dual degree option is available as this can sometimes solve this issue. Understand that it is not available in all Russian universities. Which is why you should always make sure you select a high ranking university. Such as universities in Moscow, St Petersburg or Kazan. If you have any doubts, you must speak with the university in your home country to check what your degree will be worth if completed abroad. Top Russian Universities Lomonosov Moscow State University Lomonosov Moscow State University was "the first Russian University founded in 1755 on the initiative of Mikhail Lomonosov, [and] students convene here, as they have always done, to study, to research, to push at the frontiers of knowledge. Today, the emphasis is on advancing the applied science: new materials, genetics, biomedicine, pharmaceutics, cognitive sciences, ecology, and information technologies. We work hard to preserve our heritage and develop our traditions of a comprehensive approach to higher education and science. Moscow University has a rich academic history. Yet the major commitment remains the same as it has been in centuries: to provide outstanding teaching, scholarship and research. But what makes our University so lively is this intellectual spirit combined with inexhaustible curiosity. We keep open the University doors to anyone who strives for new discoveries, creativity, and self-improvement." The establishment offers the following courses: Bachelor's degrees, Master's degrees, Specialist degrees, Post-graduate programmes and Russian language courses. The website states that "Today’s academic world is inherently international. In accordance with this absolute and within the University Development Program, Moscow State University aims to develop international academic cooperation in the areas of academic mobility, scientific partnerships, double diploma programs and programs taught in foreign languages, collaboration with international associations and initiation of international forums with the participation of Russian and foreign universities, support for international language centres in Russia and promotion of the Russian language and culture abroad. More than 10 000 foreign students, graduate students, interns from 90 countries annually visit Moscow State University for the purpose of training and participation in joint scientific programs. About 2 500 students study in the foreign branches of Moscow University in Astana (Kazakhstan), Tashkent (Uzbekistan), Baku (Azerbaijan), Dushanbe (Tajikistan), Yerevan (Armenia), Koper (Slovenia). More than 300 undergraduate and graduate students study at MSU-BIT University in Shenzhen (China), established jointly by Moscow State University and the Beijing Institute of Technology in 2017. Moscow University promotes internationalization based on the principle of equality of all participants and within the framework of more than 700 agreements on scientific and educational cooperation with governmental and international organizations, foreign universities and research centers in Europe, Asia, North and South America, Africa. As part of cooperation agreements with foreign partners, about 500 MSU students are going abroad for inclusive training, the same number of foreign students come to MSU from partner universities: Humboldt University, Sorbonne University, Peking University, Sapienza University of Rome, University of Barcelona, University of Helsinki, University of Vienna, Tokai University, Stockholm University and other foreign universities." Novosibirsk State University Novosibirsk State University is: "the non-official capital of Siberia and the scientific center of Russia. Moreover it is one of the most rapidly growing cities in the country being its Siberian cultural and economic center as well as a major transportation hub. In Novosibirsk one can obtain high-quality English taught training at comparatively low cost of living and education. Novosibirsk is among top 20 Best Student Cities in the world according to the availability of education. Ranking specialists especially point out the unique R&D atmosphere of the Academgorodok [centre] where Novosibirsk State University is located." If you want to experience raw, natural Russia, then this location "in the woods" can offer you peace and tranquillity as well as the opportunity to see a range of local wildlife like hedgehogs. ducks and squirrels running about. Akademgorodok, one of the nearby towns (located around 30km away), offers lower living costs than the large cities like Moscow and St Petersburg yet the local university is the second best in Russia. There's also a huge theatre where you can watch the oh-so-famous ballets that Russia is so proud of. Learn Russian London on Superprof.

  1. Interview Former Russian Speakers About Their Experience

Join forums and groups online where you can talk to previous and current exchange students. Ask them lots of questions about the good the bad and the wonderful. Travelling to a new place to study can seem very romantic, but if you don’t speak Russian and you want to live in Russia which has a low instance of English proficiency in the population. Then you should understand the reality of your choice to be in Russia. The great things are you are going to learn a new language, meet a new culture and learn a lot about yourself in the process. However on the journey, there will be challenges, knowing these in advance will help you make your choice. You can meet people on Facebook, via your school's exchange program and speak to a student who has returned, you can even search for blogs of international student and learn about the experience and prepare for the trip. The questions you could ask:

  • How does the application work?
  • Why study abroad?
  • What level of Russian do I need to study there?
  • What are the everyday costs like?
  • Should I apply for a student loan?
  • What is the social life like?

The blog Grass Route Adventures did just that and asked students about their experiences of being a student in countries like Russia, Italy, China and much more. One of the people they interviewed was Kendal, an American pupil who spent time studying in Saint Petersburg. See extracts of her interview with the blog editors below: "Name: Kendal Karstens Country/place of origin: Maryland, United States Where you studied abroad: Saint Petersburg, Russia When you studied abroad: Spring 2017 College/university that you studied abroad with: High Point University with the AIFS Program Describe your study abroad experience in 3 words: Unexpected, challenging, beautiful Why did you decide to study abroad? Why did you go where you went? I studied abroad in high school for an entire year, so I knew study abroad must absolutely be part of my college experience. I decided on Russia for three reasons: 1. Since high school, I have had a deep curiosity and interest in Russia’s culture and history 2. Traveling to Europe is simpler than other regions of the world, so I wanted to travel somewhere not as accessible 3. Few Americans will ever have the opportunity to live in Russia. What was the best thing you ate while studying abroad? Russian food is amazing, however сырок (pronounced ‘sirok’) is something I will miss at home and cannot cook on my own. They are frozen cottage cheese desserts usually covered in chocolate or caramel. If you like ice cream you will be as obsessed as I am with these little treasures. What did you miss most about home when studying abroad? Running outside. Most days are below freezing and icy, conditions I am not comfortable running in. Russia had an uncharacteristically lengthy winter the semester I studied abroad; it was not until the last week I was able to run outside a few times. The day before I left in May, it snowed again! What was the biggest challenge you faced while studying abroad? Adjusting to the drastically different culture. At first glance, Russia seems not so different. As you live in the country longer, you realize just how many drastic differences there are. There is nothing right or wrong about Russian culture, it is just different. It took some time to roll my eyes at some things and move on. What is your fondest memory from studying abroad? My first weekend in Russia, a bunch of the students decided to walk around Nevsky Prospekt at night and to see the city’s lights. We noticed locals playing on the frozen river and decided to join them. Dancing and skating on the frozen river is a memory I will never forget. How has your study abroad experience impacted your life? After studying abroad in Russia, I have a new understanding of this often-demonized country. People are people everywhere; we all want to have full stomachs and a safe place to rest our heads at night. We are not so different after all."

  1. Go Through The Selection Procedure Of The Government Of The Russian Federation

The Russian education system is so attractive because studying in Russia is so cheap that it is almost free, even in terms of housing or daily living expenses. The procedure to apply is a multi-step process and is, of course, different from applying to a university in your home town and distinct from an application made directly admission to a university: The steps are roughly as follows:

  • When the call for applications is open, fill in your profile on the Russia Study website,
  • Complete and fill in the requested forms,
  • Add the required documents (usually including a copy of your passport),
  • Press enter and wait for a reply.
  • In Russia, it is considered that being a student is full-time work in itself: So you are not allowed to work for financial gain while studying in Russia.
Essential Tips Prior To Going To Study In Russia
What is life like outside of the classroom? Photo Source: Unsplash
  1. Take some Russian lessons

No matter what before you step onto Russian soil you must make sure you have taken some Russian lessons. Russian people probably will not speak to you in English and why should they if they are in Russia. Learn at least the basics of the language, You can do this with an online tutor, language apps or physical classes. Understand clearly that you can not get by in Russia if you do not speak some Russian. Even worse, your English will not help you, nor will speak louder or slower. Russians in Russia speak Russian, and you will be expected to try at least to do the same. Yes, this is even true in some hotels and areas that are considered touristic. For sure no matter what make sure you have a good translator app on your phone and a phrase book. To learn the basics, you have several solutions:

  • Check if your current university has evening classes,
  • Take private lessons of Russian, through platforms like Superprof (see more below),
  • Learn with an app, but it will be slow.
  • At least, learn the letters of the Cyrillic alphabet to be able to start to read things like road signs, buses, directions and your student program.

Learning Russian With A Superprof Tutor Before you travel to Russia, you might want to learn the basics of the language. On the Superprof platform, you can find a range of private tutors offering Russian lessons either in your area (so, face to face lessons) or anywhere else in the world (i.e. via video calls, emails, etc...). In fact, there are three principal types of tutorials available on the platform: private tutorials, online tutorials, and group tutorials. Opting for a private tutor is usually the most expensive option but it also offers the highest level of teaching and tutorials that are tailored to the individual. Online tutorials are generally cheaper as the tutor has fewer expenditures and can schedule more tutorials per day since they don't have to travel. Finally, group tutorials are even cheaper because the cost is divided among the students but you won't get the lessons tailored to each individual student. However you decide to learn Russian, be sure to get to know the culture too so you can discover more about etiquette and traditions when in the country.

  1. Prepare Your Budget

Sorting out your finances is important as you are not allowed to work while in Russia studying to supplement your income. Understand something about your budget and start to understand your Russian rubles. To finance your studies in Russia, there are a few options:

  • Either you've been admitted to a government-sponsored program (scholarship), then you won’t have too many expenses.
  • If you go on an exchange program, you will need to pay tuition.
  • Or if you have no sponsorship, you will have to pay all of your fees.

Rough expenses to cover your costs:

  • Russian School fees vary from 0 to 2,500 euros per year depending on the school and location.
  • Budget about 300 euros per month to live, excluding housing and registration fees

The advantage of Russia for foreign students is that the cost of living is not very high. You can eat out for less than €10 for 2 plates including beer!

apply for scholarships competitions or an internship
Apply for funding or set up your own private funding to pay your tuition. Photo Source: Unsplash

  1. The Application

Make sure you have supplied all of your documentation and formalities for Russia correctly to avoid denial or refusal. Before you send in your forms ask at your university for help filling in the forms because it can be just a small detail that can get your application denied. Without a Russian student visa, you have no hope of ever studying in Russia, so this is the most important step. Even though it may seem easy or straight forward get it checked to make sure you have to fill in the form not just correctly but in accordance to how the Russian administration like the form to be filled in. You have some options to find help and almost guarantee approval:

  • If you live in a city with a Russian Embassy, go to the Russian Embassy, and ask them to check your application.
  • You can also ask tourist agencies that have packages to Russia.
  • Of course, you can speak with other students who have been approved and even studied in Russia.
  • Lastly, you can ask at your school in the exchange programs office or whoever is in charge of the international scholarships or study abroad programs.

To go to study in Russia is to discover a new culture. Do not skimp and scrap on the possible opportunities and experiences that you can have there. Jump in and soak up Russian Language and culture. There is so much to learn, and that's a real plus for your future. Enjoy!

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A student by trade, Daniel spends most of his time working on that essay that's due in a couple of days' time. When he's not working, he can be found working on his salsa steps, or in bed.