I don't regret it, but not sure I'd recommend to anyone February 10, 2024

By (Geography, Middlebury College) - abroad from 08/25/2023 to 12/07/2023 with

Middlebury Schools Abroad: Russian Program in Kazakhstan

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned about how ignorant I've been of Russian-speaking countries outside of Russia. Absolutely every single student learning Russian needs to learn about Central Asia and not just focus on Russia. I would recommend this program to someone who is focused on improving their Russian language skills and is OKAY with sacrificing most other positive aspects of studying abroad. I wasn't deeply invested in perfecting my Russian, I just wanted to integrate into a Russian speaking culture and have fun doing it. I got to do that, but not without lots of depressing days.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 6 months+

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Ilya is amazing but directors overall had a bad attitude about being in Kazakhstan. There desperately needs to be more involvement of Kazakh people in the development of the program to make it feel less like a crappy temporary replacement for Russia.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

My roommate was nice but things were constantly broken in our room.

* Food:

Dining hall food was inedible so I cooked for myself in the kitchens which were pretty nice.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I joined choir which was a nice community but it was hard to integrate since we arrived on campus after the semester had began and the club fair had taken place.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Didn’t need healthcare but school nurse seemed good, but mental health services were very limited

* Safety:

No issues

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? No

NU is a fairly depressing environment, students are workaholics with hardly any sense of night and day. I managed to make a very close friend in the program and enjoyed going out on weekends and travelling on long weekends, but I struggled a lot with the day to day lifestyle on campus. The classes were definitely a much worse quality than a normal semester at Middlebury and they were quite test-oriented.


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

I don't remember specifics but this is one of the most affordable study abroad programs you could do. The campus grocery store is super cheap. My friend and I split cooking supplies, which in total cost a little over $200 (several pots and pans, silverware, plates and bowls, etc)

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? My biggest expense was from clubbing on weekends
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Make sure people kaspi you for taxi rides because although they are cheap, the costs do add up.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

Middlebury had a fairly strict language pledge, which honestly felt very problematic at times since Russia is the colonizer language in Kazakhstan and locals should not feel forced to speak it in order to communicate with us.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Advanced
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Advanced
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Get close with your roommate

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • NU choir
  • My best friend on the program
  • Travelling around Central Asia (do NOT take classes on fridays)
* What could be improved?
  • Teaching methods (more engaging, less test-based)
  • A better Kazakh language course (the NU class is so bad I had to drop it because I wasn't learning anything)
  • HIRE A KAZAKH PERSON it cannot just be Russians who can't wait for this program to go back to Russia
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I have lots of ethical issues with the language pledge and I think Middlebury did a terrible job of addressing the fact that it was weird for us to be learning Russian in Kazakhstan. They do speak Russian there, but many Kazakhs are actively trying to stop speaking Russian as much. I also think that having meaningful interactions with people in a common language like English is way more important than only speaking Russian. I would never want someone to think that I care more about improving my language skills than hearing what they have to say and becoming friends.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Outright Urbanite
A social butterfly, you're happiest in bustling cities with hip people, and took advantage of all it had to offer. You enjoyed the nightlife, and had fun going out dancing, and socializing with friends. Fun-loving and dressed to the nines, you enjoyed discovering new restaurants, shops, cafes, and bars in your host country.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Social Issues in Eurasia

Course Department: n/a
Instructor: Olga Isupova
Instruction Language: Russian
Comments: This was my favorite class, the topics were interesting but not super well organized and she talked really fast during her lectures. However, she put a lot of effort into making students articulate their thoughts in Russian and making sure that she understood them.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Kazakh History

Course Department: n/a
Instructor: Meiramgul Kussainova
Instruction Language: Russian
Comments: This class was really fun and she is so nice, everyone should definitely take it. In the first weeks she presented about Kazakh history and we had a small test about it, and the rest of the semester she just had students present about topics like Kazakh fashion, games, food, etc. Not wildly academic but it's a fun time.
Credit Transfer Issues: I got credit from Middlebury for this to count towards my North Asia regional credit.
Course Name/Rating:

Russian Grammar

Course Department: n/a
Instructor: Olesya Melnikova
Instruction Language: Russian
Comments: She's nice but really bland and the topics were painfully boring. The movies were usually old and weird. My favorite part was sharing Russian news articles that we'd found in the first part of class.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

The 'East' in Russian Literature

Course Department: n/a
Instructor: Yuliya Kozitskaya
Instruction Language: Russian
Comments: She actually is really nice if you sit down with her and have a real conversation, but as a teacher she has a really condescending Soviet style of teaching. All the local students who knew her said that people tended to drop her classes because this also bothered them. The class was incredibly test-oriented, which made me scared to show up to most classes.
Credit Transfer Issues: