1997 1999 2001 2004
WHAT DO WE DO IN RUSSIA?The fact-finding mission includes lectures, discussions, field trips and cultural activities. Travel to at least one provincial Russian area is planned. Most people also have many spontaneous contacts with individuals and organizations. Our host in Moscow can often help make contacts you seek there.
WHO USUALLY PARTICIPATES?People with a wide range of age (18-78), country of origin and study and/or work experience. The advantage of this diversity is that we teach each other. If a group includes a farmer, a factory worker and an economics professor (as happens), then each is able to share comparisons, contrasts and analyses appropriate to our lectures or visits.
CAN MY SPOUSE/PARTNER "COME ALONG"?Moscow is not an easy city to visit individually and you will be very occupied, so only partners fully participating in the program should come. Even then, couples who have waited until both could travel were almost never able to come. Many married people have come in over 20 years, but only 8 couples.
HOW CAN I FIND TIME & MONEY?Many people have combined vacation, personal and educational leave and leave of absence. Let me know early if an explanatory letter to employer/union/college is needed. The price is low for a trip abroad, especially to Moscow, but of course everything is relative. When you calculate your budget, remember to deduct what you would spend anyway at home (food, travel, etc.) to arrive at your net cost.
Room & meals, academic & cultural
program, staff & overhead support, visa. The estimate shows a
range because of certain fixed expenses: speakers' fees, charter bus
for some field trips, kitchen staff, etc. The lowest figure will apply
for a group of at least 20.
WHAT ABOUT FLIGHTS?Flights can be arranged from many US & Canadian cities. We expect to fly on Delta via New York.
Very little money is available for study abroad
and budget cuts are shrinking even what is. Some people are used to
having an employer pay for travel, but you cannot count on this. Of
hundreds of people who have come on these courses, only a handful -
mainly a few professors and union people - received subsidies. The
point is that if you must rely on your own funds, you should consider
yourself not the exception but the rule. Your employer may give direct
assistance or paid leave for this trip as an educational project, or
you may have a contractual right to educational benefits. Some people
(in the USA), especially teachers, may be able to deduct expenses for
income tax purposes.
CAN STUDENTS GET CREDIT?Eastern Michigan University will participate in 2008 and can offer transferable credit. It will charge in-state tuition regardless of where you live. In the past, people have often arranged credit with their own institutions (eg, directed study).
After many years conducting study trips, I've
found that few people who postpone ever end up going. There is always
a problem: money, a wedding, illness, a new house, job, a conference,
classes, etc. In other words, the time is only "ripe" if
you make it so.
WHAT IS EXPECTED, WHAT PREPARATION IS NECESSARY?To be away from home and learn about a complex country during a relatively short stay time aren't easy. The more preparation you do, the more rewarding the trip, and you can be among the majority who found this to be the experience of a lifetime. That said, if you are ready for the challenge there will be plenty of help.
Participants, a document with practical details, is on this
site. I can also provide a list of former participants with whom you
can consult. Tools, also on this site,
contains suggestions and exercises for how to observe another country
Almost no participants in 24 years could speak
Russian, though learning a few words and the alphabet helps. Many
Russians know English.
WHERE DO WE LIVE?The Academy of Labor in Moscow is across from a park in the southwest of the city. The residence hall is linked to the classroom building, so time isn't lost commuting. Each suite includes a single and a twin bed room, so a maximum of three people share a suite's toilet and bathroom (which are separate rooms). Rooms, while basic, have recently been renovated and newly furnished, and we avoid the anonymity of hotels. Meals are prepared by a (motherly) kitchen staff.
If you would like to study Russian in your free
time, our host can arrange one-on-one teaching at your level and pace.
Cost in 2001 was US$8 per 45 min hour.
WHAT SUPPORT IS THERE?Staff at the Academy in Moscow handle program and logistical organization. Any talks in Russian are translated, and an interpreter goes with the group on field trips. Starting in 2004, Russian students worked with our group on a daily basis. I accompany all groups and am responsible for education (helping to interpret the content and context of the course) and for liaison on organizational matters.
Despite media publicity, statistics show the
serious crime rate in Moscow is 7 times lower than in American
metropolitan areas. Moreover, we live in a residential area well away
from the center. There are guards at the building entrance and
visitors to the residence are screened at a reception desk. A person is
usually hired to monitor our floor to provide extra security.
CAN I BOOK MY OWN FLIGHT OR USE MILEAGE REWARDS?Yes, but there are complications. 1) We need a minimum of 10 passengers to get group fares and benefits. If we fall below this because some fly on their own, everybody suffers and the trip could fail. 2) Our host provides a bus from/to the airport. If you arrive alone at a different time, you may have to arrange your own transportation because of the cost of renting a car, driver and interpreter to pick you up.
2) Discount fares usually have seat limits, so early booking is necessary. They also often require purchase of a non-refundable ticket at the time of reservation. In case of a problem with the trip, you would be stuck with an unusable ticket.
3) Not all reward mileage to Europe is valid all the way to Moscow. Transatlantic seats may be very limited for travel May-July & weekend travel may be excluded. You need to be sure you can redeposit miles if a trip doesn't happen because of insufficient numbers.
WHAT ARE THE DEADLINES?Specific dates for payments & visa applications are in the detailed brochure (Details & application) , and these steps must be completed about 2 months before travel (Russia has recently lengthened the visa process). However, it is important to know much sooner if there are enough people for a group. Our host needs to block living space and plan the program. Flights are also in higher demand in May & June and seats will not be held without names. Often people ask repeatedly if a trip "is going" before deciding themselves. A group is made of its members; if each person waits for the others to constitute the group, nothing at all happens!
DO WE GO TO ST. PETERSBURG?St. Petersburg trips have become quite expensive. We estimate sleeper train, two days in St. Petersburg, hotel, meals, program & entrances, in-city transport will cost about US$300; three days $400. The alternatives are to visit two other places, Vladimir-Suzdal and Pereslavl-Zalesski, where we could spend more time for the same cost and learn more about Russia's past and its present reality. We can consult with the group, once formed, to reach a decision. St. Petersburg might also be an option for those who wish it.
I have organized these courses since 1980, first
as a professor, then as an independent educator since 1984. It is wise
to be cautious about programs announced on the Internet, and I can
provide contact with previous participants for assurances about
legitimacy. In any case, all applicants will receive a list of
previous participants with whom they can discuss the experience and get