Event Spotlight: American Councils Study Abroad Information Session

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Max Shelton, Recruitment and Outreach Coordinator for American Councils, held a hybrid Study Abroad information session at UCLA on February 6, focusing on opportunities to study Russian in Kazakhstan, Georgia, and Armenia, and six languages in the Balkan region.

American Councils is an educational nonprofit that offers foreign language programs in areas off the beaten path. With more than 90 countries and 44 field offices worldwide, student travelers can pursue rigorous academic coursework paired with immersive cultural engagement, while gaining college credit through Bryn Mawr College.

A language enthusiast, Max received a BA in Russian Language and Literature from George Washington University in 2012 and an MA in the Russian Language from Middlebury College in 2015. Previously he has served as Resident Director for the Russian Language and Area Studies Programs in Saint Petersburg, Russia and Yerevan, Armenia. He has also worked as a Program Specialist with American Councils on the FLEX, YES, and NSLI-Y programs, offered to high school students. Max speaks fluent Russian and knows German, Armenian, and BCS (Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian).

Max opened the information session by saying he believes that those drawn to travel study have “a certain type of personality” and stand out for their passion for language learning and cultural exchange. “The field of Russian study abroad and Russian studies, in particular, has been undergoing a rather turbulent period,” Shelton acknowledged, but American Councils has been able to pivot quickly to other former Soviet Union republics that are now independent countries. "We're providing opportunities for students to go abroad and learn Russian in Almaty, Kazakhstan; Yerevan, Armenia; and Tbilisi, Georgia." These immersive experiences offer an opportunity for students to study Russian while learning about the culture of regions previously unfamiliar to many, gaining insights into the regions’ distinctive histories, identities, and customs. 


Max Shelton visits the UCLA International Institute on February 6, 2023.

Many UCLA students have studied on these summer programs in connection with the UCLA Russian Flagship program, a federally funded initiative designed to enable undergraduates to reach professional-level fluency in Russian. Each year UCLA also sends students for a yearlong Russian language “capstone” program in Almaty, Kazakhstan, with the four capstone participants this year receiving Boren scholarships that fully covered their overseas tuition. The UCLA Russian Flagship program encourages students who are interested in the region to contact us at RussianFlagship@international.ucla.edu to develop an individualized pathway, adding the unusual component of Russian language skills to your academic profile.

In addition, through American Councils’ Balkan Language Initiative, students can explore six countries, including Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, North Macedonia and Serbia. Following the information session, Max also visited the Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian language class at UCLA, encouraging students to take their studies to the next level through in-country immersion.

As a third opportunity, for those interested in experiencing a different culture in a program less focused on language skills, American Councils' Overseas Professional Intercultural Training Program offers an 8-week summer internship opportunity in Southeast Europe, Eurasia, the Baltics, and East Asia. This program, which can be supplemented by optional language training, focuses on intercultural communication in a professional setting.

American Councils offers a wealth of resources to help support overseas study, including up to $9,000 in financial aid from the Department of Education, as well as internal scholarships such as the Dan E. Davidson Fellowship and Diversity and Academic merit scholarships. Transcripts, a personal statement, and letters of recommendation are required to apply for these programs, which have a deadline of March 15 for summer options.

With a variety of programs tailored to fit different areas of interest and language proficiency, American Councils offers opportunities for students looking to engage in meaningful cultural exchanges It invites adventurous souls who seek multilingual insights into East/Central Europe and Eurasia – from democracy-building to gender and environmental issues – to get their applications ready now!