A meaningful experience March 07, 2024

By (Russian Language, Literature, Middlebury College) - abroad from 08/21/2023 to 12/09/2023 with

Middlebury Schools Abroad: Russian Program in Kazakhstan

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I got more comfortable speaking Russian in everyday scenarios, and I also learned a lot about Central Asia.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The classes were easy, which was nice, because it meant we got to explore the city and travel more, but I did feel pretty bored academically. I did like most of the classes that I took individually, as well as the professors, but in general, I was frustrated with the lack of rigor.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Everyone was super nice and helpful, but nobody from Middlebury has any familiarity with Kazakhstan, so there were certain things that fell through the cracks.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

My living arrangements were great, and I liked that we had local roommates, but I do know of people who had things break in their room and had trouble fixing it.

* Food:

Food is affordable, and there are tons of coffee shops on campus open pretty much all the time.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I felt like I was able to get to know locals and see a lot of the country outside of class, but within the Middlebury program we were very much in a bubble. It was also hard to meet people at NU.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I didn't have any health issues but it seemed like everyone who needed to use health services had a pretty decent experience.

* Safety:

Astana feels super safe.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes

There are definitely issues to iron out with this program, but I loved Kazakhstan and am very grateful that I got to spend time there. I would love to return someday.


* 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)

Kazakhstan is definitely very affordable, but it was a bit of a headache getting finances sorted out. You need Kaspi to do pretty much anything, and you can only refill Kaspi with cash (it won't accept foreign cards). It took a long time before we were even able to open our accounts, and then it was a whole other process to figure out how to get enough cash to refill the account.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? I would say I spent about $70 on food a week. A meal was about $3 on average. I did eat at dining halls instead of buying groceries, so it would probably be pretty easy to live more cheaply.


* 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 has a language pledge.

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
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? I had been studying Russian for 3 years.

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

  • Local Students
  • 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?
  • Making friends
  • Traveling
  • Georgian restaurants
* What could be improved?
  • I would have appreciated more administrative involvement from locals and people who knew the city and Kazakh culture well
  • There should be more support for opening Kaspi accounts as quickly as possible
  • More support for mainstream courses
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I had known that it would be fun! The way Kazakhstan and Astana specifically were presented to me made me think that it would be scary and boring and that everybody would be mean, but that was really not the case.

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 Academic or Linguist
You went abroad with specific academic goals in mind; the program credentials and rigor of your coursework abroad were very important to you. You had a great time abroad, but never lost sight of your studies and (if applicable) were diligent with your foreign language study. Good for you!

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Russian Reading and Writing

Course Department: Russian
Instructor: Elvira
Instruction Language: Russian
Comments: This was our Russian language class. It was good! I had no complaints, and I liked the professor. It was the most work out of any of the classes.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

International Relations of Eurasia

Course Department:
Instructor: Sabina Insebayeva
Instruction Language:
Comments: This was the class where I learned the most. Our professor was very knowledgeable and very patient with our Russian level. I would have liked more feedback, but overall I really enjoyed this course.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Kazakh History and Culture

Course Department:
Instruction Language:
Comments: I was disappointed in this class, to be honest. I wanted to learn more about Kazakh history, and felt that the material was "dumbed down" too much to be very interesting. I understand that it's difficult to teach to students of differing language proficiency, but I would have liked to learn more. I did like the field trips, though!
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Ancient and Middle Ages History of Kazakhstan

Course Department:
Instruction Language:
Comments: I took this course at Eurasian National University, as my only mainstream course. I don't feel like I learned as much as I could have, but my overall experience was very good. Professors and students were very welcoming and patient with me, and I loved getting to know the other students, as well as to see more of the city when I went to class.
Credit Transfer Issues: