Arizona in Kazakhstan: Summer Intensive Russian and Eurasian Studies Program

Arizona in Kazakhstan: Summer Intensive Russian and Eurasian Studies Program
Downtown Astana
Traditional Kazakh Yurt
Traditional Kazakh Food
Ishim Bridge Astana
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Dates, Deadlines, and Costs
TermApp DeadlineStart DateEnd DateCost
SummerFebruary 25late Maylate JulyBudget
Program Information
  • GPA
  • 2.5
  • Language of Instruction
  • English, Russian
  • Foreign Language Requirement
  • No
  • Class Eligibility
  • Freshman, Graduate, Junior, Senior, Sophomore
  • Program Open To
  • UA and Non-UA Students
  • Credit Type
  • UA Direct Credit
  • Level of Study
  • Graduate, Undergraduate
  • Housing Options
  • Residence Hall
  • Program Type
  • UA Faculty-led
Program Overview

Arizona in Kazakhstan gives Russian language students a unique opportunity to learn language and experience the culture in one of the most vibrant, successful post-Soviet countries.  The key features of this program is intensive Russian OR Kazakh language and culture study in the beautiful and modern capital of Kazakhstan, Astana; an opportunity to engage with local communities and ethnic groups, and get acquainted with Kazakh cultural heritage.  During the eight-week stay in Kazakhstan, the students will have weekly excursions in Astana and around the country, including a weekend-long trip to Burabay--the Switzerland of Kazakhstan, a trip to Almaty, a visit to a GULAG camp for the wives of the “enemies of the people,” a trip to the Korgalzhyn nature reserve--the most-northern habitat of pink flamingoes, and other excursions to cultural and historical places of interest. The program offers a non-credited practical Kazakh culture course as a bonus course for University of Arizona students.


Option #1 - 8 weeks:

Tentative Summer 2018 dates: May 25 - July 28

8-week intensive Russian or Kazakh language course (up to 8 UA credits)

+ optional elective course in Eurasian Studies (taught in English; 3 UA credits)

Option #2 - 5 weeks:

Tentative Summer 2018 dates: May 25 - June 30

5-week intensive Russian or Kazakh language course (4 UA credits)

+ Kazakh language and culture course (1 UA credit)

Option #3 - 5 weeks:

Tentative Summer 2018 dates: June 22 - July 28

5-week intensive Russian or Kazakh language course (4 UA credits)

+ Kazakh language and culture course (1 UA credit)


The Department of Russian and Slavic Studies at the University of Arizona, in collaboration with SSRES (Summer School of Russian and Eurasian Studies), opens an intensive academic program at Nazarbayev University in Astana, Kazakhstan. The program offers students the chance to immerse themselves in the Russian language and to experience Kazakh language and post-Soviet culture in the heart of Eurasia.

The main component of this program will be an intensive eight-week course in Russian offering 120 contact hours of in-class instruction in all aspects of the Russian language (equivalent to two semesters of UA Russian language courses at the 101, 201, or 301 levels or two semesters of course work at the 400 level). Alternatively, students can choose to learn a new language and enroll in an intensive eight-week Kazakh language course.

The language curriculum at SSRES is taught using the communicative method of instruction through linguistic and cultural immersion. Students are placed into appropriate levels of language instruction, based on the results of placement testing and according to their level of proficiency (as defined in ACFFL Proficiency Guidelines). Russian and Kazakh language courses are taught by professionals trained in current methodologies and experienced in teaching international students.

SSRES will offer optional elective courses in Eurasian Studies taught in English to the summer session students at Nazarbayev University.All students participating in this program are required to take one of the Russian language courses.  In addition to the language course, students make take one elective course (options listed below).  The Kazakh elective course is free, but the other two options cost an additional $1000.

Language Courses:

Intensive Beginning Russian (RSSS 101 and 102 combined)
This course is for students with very little or no previous classroom instruction in Russian. Proficiency-based approach will stress the development of communicative abilities in- and outside the classroom. The students will learn to read and understand spoken Russian in basic and predictable everyday contexts (such as introducing themselves, talking about their families, friends, everyday activities and hobbies, ordering a meal in a restaurant, asking directions on the street) and develop basic skills in reading and writing. Students will learn elementary grammatical structures of Russian and acquire basic vocabulary. Upon completion of this course, the students will have novice high or intermediate low language skills.

Intensive Intermediate Russian (RSSS 201 and 202 combined)
In this class, which is roughly equivalent to a college-level second-year Russian course, students will further develop their language skills in all four modalities (listening, speaking, writing and reading) through communicative activities in and outside the classroom. Students will review basic grammatical and syntactical structures of the Russian language and improve their mastery of this foundation of the language while acquiring new grammatical skills and working on enlarging their active vocabulary. Students will raise their listening, speaking, and communicative skills to the intermediate mid or high level. At the end of the course, students will be able to interact in some aspects of day-to-day life in a Russian-speaking community and will be prepared to enter their home college’s upper-level Russian courses.

Intensive Advanced Russian (RSSS 301 and 302 combined)
Entering with intermediate mid or intermediate high level of Russian proficiency, students will work on increasing their level to intermediate high and advanced low or mid. The students will expand and solidify their command of Russian vocabulary, grammar and spelling, and develop advanced listening, reading, speaking, and writing skills. Students will get practice with advanced grammatical topics such as particles, verbal adverbs and numerals, and work on verbal aspect and verbal governance. Students will engage in a wide variety of activities, combining textbook materials with authentic reading texts and videos in a variety of genres. Students will discuss various topics related to both everyday situations and political and social life. At the end of the course, students will prepare and deliver short presentations.

Advanced Russian Communication / Advanced Russian Reading (RSSS 415:001 / 515:002)
This course is intended for students who have already achieved high proficiency in Russian. Typically, a student at this level will have completed three-four years of the college study of Russian and/or will have lived in a Russian-speaking country for a semester or more. Students taking this course should be comfortable speaking Russian in a wide range of situations, should be easily understood by Russian speakers, should be able to follow and participate in conversations on familiar topics, and should have a firm mastery of grammar and vocabulary. This course is intended to expand the range of registers and styles in which students are comfortable; to familiarize them with the norms of discourse in a range of styles, from academic and journalistic to literary and informal, both in writing and in oral speech. By the end of the course, students will be able to interact in Russian effectively and with ease and they should expect to reach a proficiency level of advanced high or superior.

Intensive Beginning Kazakh (8 credits)

This course is for students with very little or no previous classroom instruction in Kazakh. Proficiency-based approach will stress the development of communicative abilities in- and outside the classroom. Using authentic materials, the students will learn to read and understand spoken Kazakh in basic and predictable everyday contexts (such as introducing themselves, talking about their families, friends, everyday activities and hobbies, ordering a meal in a restaurant, asking directions on the street) and develop basic skills in reading and writing. Students will learn elementary grammatical structures of Kazakh and acquire basic vocabulary. Upon completion of this course, the students will reach novice high or intermediate low language skills.

NOTE: Students enrolling in Kazakh language courses will receive transfer credit from Nazarbayev University.

Elective courses:

The elective courses are a part of the regular Summer School of Nazarbayev University. You will enroll in these courses alongside the local students, which gives an opportunity for interaction with students from Nazarbayev University. Elective course will be taught in English. Students will earn 3 upper division RSSS elective units, and may only choose 1 elective course along with Russian language program.

History of Kazakhstan
This course focuses on the history of the present Kazakhstani territory in the early modern and modern periods (XVI c. to the present). This course will start with a sketch of the history of the Qazaq khanate and with a study of the interaction between the three juzes and their (sedentary and nomadic) neighbours in the XVIII and XIX cc., including the Qing empire and the Central Asian polities on the south. Then we will study the history of the Qazaqs under Russian rule and in the early Soviet period, using the full collectivisation drive and the ensuing famine as a final periodization landmark. Following some recent scholarship, we will look at this period as a trajectory of integration of the Qazaqs into the Tsarist and Soviet State. The last part of the course will be consecrated to the study of the mature Soviet period. We will look in particular at some aspects of State-driven socio-economic transformation, the role of local leadership, and the way Soviet policies affected the emergence and consolidation of present-day independent Kazakhstan.
Course taught by Dr. Beatrice Penati

Central Asian History II
This course is a survey of the history of southern, predominantly settled Central Asia from the late Timurids to the present. We will look at the history of the territory that corresponded to the Turkestan general-governorship under Tsarist rule, which encompassed the main oases of Transoxiana, but also mountain areas and plateaus to the east, deserts to the west and south-west, and the fringes of the steppe to the north. We will also make some incursions in the history of neighbouring territories, in particular those of Safavid and Qajar Persia, Eastern (Chinese) Turkestan, and present-day Afghanistan. This class focuses on issues of political structure and legitimisation, competition over natural resources and settled-nomadic relations, colonialism in its Russian variant, and the social and economic transformations that occurred in the Soviet era. The students will be exposed to a variety of primary sources of very different genres (from chronicles to waqfnamas, from OGPU reports to fiction movies) and will also be introduced to some older and new historiographical debates.
Course taught by Dr. Beatrice Penati

Survey of Post-Soviet Russian and Russophone Literature
This course is dedicated to the study of contemporary Russian and Russophone literature written after 1991 (after the dissolution of the Soviet Union). We will explore works written in various genres of prose and poetry (traditional novel, dystopias, conceptualist poetry, postmodernist fiction, popular and detective literature, women’s prose, creative nonfiction) and other modes of cultural production (music, political and performance art) and debate the place and role of literature in the modern world. We will read a wide range of Russian and Russophone writers and poets who, while coming from diverse ethnic backgrounds of the former Soviet space, chose to write in Russian and to inscribe their work into Russian literary tradition. Our authors will include Victor Pelevin, Vladimir Sorokin, Tatyana Tolstaya, Ludmila Ulitskaya, Svetlana Alexievich, Zakhar Prilepin, Eugene Vodolazkin, Alexei Ivanov, Olga Slavnikova, Dmitry Prigov, Olga Sedakova, Boris Akunin, Guzel Yakhina, and others. While discussing their texts, we will address the issues of politics, re-assessment of history, memory, gender, national identity, violence and terrorism. Assessments will include regular reading response papers and reviews, and a number of scaffolded assignments that will lead students to produce an analytical paper on the subject of their choosing. The format of this course will consist of lectures, discussions, and film showings.
Course taught by Dr. Victoria Thorstensson

Practical Course in Kazakh Language and Culture
SSRES will also offer a free credit-bearing (pass/fail) Kazakh language and culture course. The course is designed for learners who are interested in Kazakh language, culture, and cuisine, and who have little or no previous experience with Kazakhstan. The course will introduce students to elements of Kazakh culture related to language and rituals, especially rituals related to interactions of man with nature, and rituals related to stages of the socialization of men (besyk toi, tusau kesu, bet ashar, shashu, til, ashar, etc.). The course is taught in English. Each session provides relevant vocabulary in Kazakh with translations and explanations in English. This course also introduces students to basic grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation of Kazakh, and develops basic speaking skills.

Eurasian Studies Lecture Series
SSRES will invite its participants to the Second Eurasian Studies Lecture Series. Lectures on topics related to culture, history, politics and literature of Kazakhstan are given by the Nazarbayev University professors who introduce the students to most current research in their fields while designing their lectures to be broad in focus and accessible to general audiences. The Lecture Series is open to the SSRES participants, as well as to NU students, faculty and community.

Housing and Meal Plan

Students will live on campus in dormitories. Students will have the option of sharing a room with a local Russian speaking student or with a student from their Arizona group. Dormitories come fully equipped with everything a student needs, including a small grocery store, pharmacy, laundry, cafeteria, salon, study rooms, and more. Students will also have access to a fully-equipped kitchen in dormitories. Student resident assistants will be on call 24 hours a day. There is security at the entrance to the dormitories and resident assistance is available 24/7.  All persons entering the area must display a student pass issued by NU.

A meal plan included in the program fees includes 2 meals a day (lunch and dinner) at the university cafeteria from Monday to Friday. For breakfast, students can prepare food in their kitchens, or purchase breakfast at the cafeteria or at one of the coffee shops on campus. Weekend meals will be either included in the excursions, or will be purchased separately.

Students will get a free gym pass for the duration of the program.


Cultural Program (also available at

During the eight-week stay in Kazakhstan, students will be able to participate in weekly excursions in and around the city of Astana, including visiting the national park Burabay (Borovoye), the KARLAG (Karaganda Corrective Labor Camp) – one of the largest labor camps in the GULAG system, and a trip to the Korgalzhyn nature reserve – the northernmost habitat of pink flamingoes. 

Astana City Tour

Three-hour tour of Astana. The students will visit the Square of Independence, Khazret Sultan Mosque, water-green boulevard complex, Astana – Bayterek monument, the Round square, and the shopping and entertainment center Khan Shatyr.

The Old City Tour and the Market

A tour of Tselinograd/Akmola, the old Soviet city that became a site for Astana. Students to walk along the Central Park and the Ishym riverbank, and get a boat tour of the city. The old city tour will include visits to churches, mosques and synagogues. A visit to the big central market and lunch in the old city will finish the tour.

Hunting with Eagles

Students will learn the history of Berkutchi, ways of hunting with eagles, and some basic techniques. This demonstration of hunting takes place outside Astana.

Weekend Trip to Burabay (Borovoe)

The students will have a guided tour of Burabay National park (Borovoe), which occupies 85,000 hectares of the northeastern part of Kokshetau elevation. There are 14 lakes in the park, each having surface area of more than 1 sq. km, and a large number of small lakes. The trip includes meals and a one night hotel stay.

KARLAG Tour and the Balbals, Ancient Stone Guards of the Kazakh Steppe                               

A guided tour to “Dolinka” village that houses a memorial museum for the victims of political repressions. The exhibition contains everyday objects from prisorners’ life in the camp, diaries of the convicted that describes the events of 1930-1960s, photos and documents, the barracks where the prisoners lived.

The tour include a stop at the Balbals site. Overnight stop at an eco village.

“Kulager” Country Club and Stables

Students will visit a riding club and stables near Astana and try horse riding, the national sport of Kazakhstan.

Astana Day Festivities

On July 6, Astana will celebrate its anniversary as Kazakhstan’s capital. July 6, or Astana Day, is a national holiday in Kazakhstan. Every year this bright and exciting event is a fun and beautiful celebration for the city’s visitors and residents. Weeklong festivities with

vibrant performances and cultural events entertain people while celebrating Kazakh culture and Kazakhstan’s multi-ethnic social fabric. The festival recognizes Astana’s transformation from a provincial city into a 21st century regional hub.


Explore Kazakhstan Optional Trips

For a long weekend in the middle of the program, students will have an opportunity to take an optional trip to one of the following destinations:


Almaty is the former capital of Kazakhstan and the biggest city in the country. Students will take a train to Almaty and be housed and entertained by Nazarbayev University students. The trip will include a tour of Almaty and visits to such sites as the Central State Museum of Kazakhstan,  Republic Square and the Monument to Independence, the Abay Opera and Ballet Theatre, Astana Square, Almaty Railway Station, the Central Mosque, the Green Bazaar, Panfilov Park, Abay Square and the Palace of the Republic.

Turkestan and Shymkent

Turkestan is 1,500-year-old historic city located in southern Kazakhstan. The nearby city of Shymkent was the political and spiritual center for Turkic-speaking people and a former capital of the Kazakh Khanate. One of the main sights of the city is the mausoleum of Khodzha Akhmed Yassaui. This trip will also include a visit to Shymkent’s attractions: the Tauyelsizdik Sayabagy square, the Regional Museum, and the Samal Bazar.

Bishkek and Issyk-Kul Lake (Kyrgyzstan)

Students will have an opportunity to visit Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. Bishkek is a vibrant city surrounded by large trees and situated within the Tien Shan mountain range in the Chui Valley. The city tour will be followed by a night trip to the second largest lake in the world called “Issyk-Kul”(translated as “warm lake” by the local Kyrgyzs)

Links of interest

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