Jayhawks on the Steppe: Russian Language Institute in Kazakhstan


Image of Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan
Study intensive Russian language and post-Soviet culture in the heart of Eurasia.
Location: Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan
Language of Instruction: Russian
Term: Summer
Program Type: Summer Non-Faculty Led

  • Study Russian language at a modern university in the capital of Kazakhstan.
  • Earn KU credit for two semesters of Russian langauge study.
  • Take part in cultural activities and excursions including a weekend trip to Burabay National Park, traditional nomadic hunting with eagles, museum visits, and ballet and opera performances.

Nur-Sultan (formerly Astana) is the capital of Kazakhstan and a modern city of approximately one million in the northern part of the country. This vibrant city boasts one of the most highly developed infrastructures and economies in Central Asia. 

Nazarbayev University (NU) is a highly selective English-language university with approximately 4,000 students.  NU was established in 2010 and is well-known for its program in Eurasian studies. NU offers a safe and comfortable campus environment with access to many amenities such as fitness facilities, clinic, pharmacy, restaurants, beauty salon, grocery store, and more.

This program provides an excellent opportunity for Russian language students at any level (including students with no previous Russian language experience) to live and study in Central Asia. A safe and comfortable campus environment, tutoring program, lecture series, and organized cultural activities are just some of the program features that make this an ideal opportunity for any student to study Russian in a supportive environment. 

The program is offered in partnership with the Nazarbayev University Summer School in Russian and Eurasian Studies (SSRES). Whether you are looking to enhance your Russian language fluency or have a budding interest in the language, this program supports learners at all levels.

Courses Offered

Students will receive credit for two of the following KU courses based on their Russian language proficiency at the start of the program:   

  • RUSS 104: Elementary Russian I (5 credits)
  • RUSS 108: Elementary Russian II (5 credits)
  • RUSS 204: Intermediate Russian I (5 credits)
  • RUSS 208: Intermediate Russian II (5 credits)
  • RUSS 504: Advanced Russian I (3 credits)
  • RUSS 508: Advanced Russian II (3 credits)

Students also have the option of enrolling in one English language elective course (additional fee applies).  Contact the KU Program Coordinator for information about the KU credit for these electives. Students currently at an advanced level of Russian should consult the KU Program Coordinator about program credit.

The program includes a free crash course in practical Kazakh language as well as a Eurasian Studies Lecture Series consisting of a dynamic set of lectures (conducted in English) intended to deepen understanding of Eurasian history, culture, and contemporary affairs. For additional support and conversational practice, students have access to language instructor office hours and student tutors.

Students will live in student dormitories on the modern and well-maintained campus of Nazarbayev University (NU). A typical arrangement includes a double room plus bathroom. The NU campus offers many amenities and access to basic services such as laundry, health and pharmacy services, and more. All program participants will receive a gym pass and can access campus fitness facilities for free.

A meal plan with two meals per day Monday-Friday is included in the program fee. Students have access to a fully-equipped kitchen and grocery store in the student dormitory. The campus also offers several convenient and reasonably-priced restaurants and cafes.

2020 Dates

  • May 21: Depart for Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan
  • May 23: Arrive in Kazakhstan, proficiency testing, course placement
  • May 24: Orientation and start of cultural program
  • May 25: Classes start
  • July 2-6: Mid-Summer break
  • July 17: Last day of classes
  • July 19-21: Final exams
  • July 22: Program ends

Cultural Program

Weekly excursions in and around Nur-Sultan are included in the program fee.  Planned activities include:

  • Nur-Sultan city tour
  • Traditional Berkutchi nomadic hunting with eagles
  • Weekend trip to Karaganda and KARLAG tour
  • Nur-Sultan Day national holiday festivities
  • ALZHIR Memorial Museum
  • Korgalzhyn Nature Reserve
  • Horseback riding
  • Weekend trip to Burabay National Park
  • Performances at the Astana Ballet and Astana Opera

SAGE is dedicated to creating international engagement opportunities that meet the needs of all our students and providing resources to support you through the process of studying abroad. Study abroad is achievable for students of all identities including our BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ students, students with disabilities, and students with religious/non-religious viewpoints. Before selecting a program, consider how your identities may impact your experience abroad in unique ways and talk with your Program Coordinator about any program-specific concerns. Students with documented disabilities should discuss any accommodation needs with their Program Coordinator early in the planning process.

Additional Resources

Check our Identity Abroad page and resources listed below for information specific to you and other students who may be on your program.

Open to students of all majors from any accredited U.S. college or university with a minimum 2.5 GPA.  No prior language experience is necessary. 

Ani Kokobobo, Associate Professor, University of Kansas
Ani Kokobobo (PhD, 2011, Columbia University) is associate professor and chair of the department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at KU. Kokobobo specializes in nineteenth-century Russian literature and teaches multiple upper-level undergraduate literature and culture courses for KU's Slavic program. Kokobobo has taught at KU since 2011. Dr. Kokobobo oversees the program and will be on-site with students for the first two week of the program.

Additional program support is provided by Nazarbayev University faculty and language instructors.