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Russia is a vast country that covers one-eighth of the world’s surface and extends across 11 time zones. Rich in natural beauty, the country varies between the steppe plains to mountains, deserts to tundra, grassy meadows to mighty rivers. Its cities offer world-class ballet, opera, theatre, and music.

Russians are warm and intelligent people, and the family is the principal stabilising factor in society. You can expect your host family to include grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. You could be placed anywhere in Russia, though it is very unlikely that you will be hosted downtown in a big city. Participants are mostly placed in small towns outside of larger cities in the western and central parts of Russia.

Russia is a land of contrast, with both extreme wealth and extreme poverty. Privacy is far less important and the government is far more controlling. The Russian way of life is very different from the Kiwi way of life; but, if you are up to the challenge and go in with an open mind, you will find the experience extremely rewarding and will really have broadened your horizons.

Eligibility Requirements

You must be 16, 17 or 18
Enrolled in a NZ school
Getting ‘achieved’ or more in your school work

What's included in your experience

  • Airfare
  • Airport Pick-up
  • Host Family Placement
  • Housing
  • Meals
  • School Placement
  • Medical Insurance
  • 24/7 Emergency Support
  • Field Trips
  • Cultural Tours
  • Assistance with Application Process
  • Visa Application Assistance
  • Pre-Departure Orientation
  • Orientations during your time abroad
  • Access to Alumni Network
  • Continuous Support
  • Worldwide Presence
  • 70 Years Experience

What you are responsible for

  • Vaccinations
  • Visa and Passport Fees
  • School Uniform
AFS Russia

Host family and culture

Most exchange students are placed in small towns in the western part of Russia up to the Ural mountains or in the south, close to the Black Sea. You could also live in the north in Surgut or in Vladivostok in the far east. Families in towns and cities tend to live in apartment; single family homes are more common in rural areas. A babushka anddedushka (grandma and grandpa) play a special role in the family.  Weekends and holidays may be spent at the family country cottage, called dacha.

Hot meals three times a day defines a typical Russian diet. Soup for lunch is a must. Most meals include pork, chicken, potatoes, dumplings or noodles. Pastries and sweets are often eaten for dessert. Tea and coffee are both common, but tea has a special place in Russian culture. Don’t forget to taste pizza and sushi, Russian style!

Moscow 23

Language and school

The official language is Russian, with another 27 official regional languages and over 100 minority languages. If you are lucky, you can learn one of these languages too on top of Russian. Your host family probably won’t speak foreign languages, which will help you improve your language skills very quickly. You don’t have to know Russian to apply for the program. AFS Russia will offer you an intensive course when you arrive and a language course throughout your stay. By the end of the program many AFS students pass the exam in Russian at the university and get a State certificate (B1 level). Also, Russians like using idioms (popular local phrases or sayings) and if you learn some of them, they will be very impressed!

Most Russian schools are public. The school year runs from September to May, with three short vacations in between. Many Russian schools specialize in math and science, and some schools offer extracurricular classes in dance, music, or sports. As an exchange student, you will get a personalized schedule from your school.

Let AFS guide your intercultural adventure

Kick-start your future with AFS and discover who you really are, make new lifetime friendships and immerse yourself in a fascinating intercultural experience.

This programme begins at your home country with a pre-departure orientation and continues with orientations, other supported learning activities and facilitated conversations which will help you maximize your experience, cope with the challenges of navigating a new culture and community as well as gain knowledge, skills, and a global understanding throughout your time abroad, and as you return to your home country. AFS volunteers will be there to support and guide you and your host family the whole way through.

Find out more