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Volunteering In Russia

Experience a European semester abroad with ILP

All About Russia!

Get all the details about what an Eastern European semester abroad looks like with ILP. 

If you're going to choose a country to live in for a whole semester, Russia is my number one pick. 

It's not a country most people think of visiting, which is exactly what pulled me to not only visit but live in Russia for a semester. The minute I sent in my ILP application I was ready — ready to dive right into a country crammed full of history, tour the prettiest buildings and palaces (Moscow's home to a whole gingerbread village!!) and soak up a culture that can't be truly experienced in just a week or two. 

Table of Contents

A Typical Day For A Volunteer


Spend your days teaching, seeing history (instead of just reading about it) and falling in love with a rich culture. 

Being an ILP volunteer in every country has its similarities, but each location boasts unique aspects and adventures — Meals in China are obviously going to be different than what you'll be eating in Russia! Certain things like housing, your meals, what time you're teaching, your ILP group size etc. are all different depending on what country and city you're volunteering in (these details can even change semester to semester). Your experience abroad may not be the same as another volunteer's ... even when you're in the same group.

We'll set you up with the tools to have a successful semester, but you are responsible to make the most of it! Here's an example of what a typical day in Russia looks like to give you an idea of how to do just that: 

A glimpse at a day in the life of a Russia volunteer:

Morning

Hit snooze on your alarm before Facetiming your family to say "hello!". Russia is nine hours ahead of Utah (MST) so you'll be chatting with your family before they get ready for bed. After catching your family up on your latest adventures, you'll join your host family for breakfast. You're getting a bit better at the Russian language and can say "thanks for the cereal" to your host mom (charades also helped get the message across).

You'll be living with a host family which gives you a front row seat to the local food, language and a unique glimpse into what life is like for the locals in your Russian city. Your host family will be cooking for you, which means lots of authentic Russian food like borscht, other soups, potatoes, dumplings filled with chicken and herbs, barley, hearty breads and other classic Eastern European staples. 

Typically, English classes are like an after school program, which means you have a bit of free time before you have to get to your lessons. Take an hour to work on some assignments for your online class (if you're not taking a break from school), write in your journal about that funny thing your kids did in class yesterday, or research the best hostels for your trip next weekend to Finland.

Mid-day

Everyone in your group will be living with their own host family, so you'll send out a group message and see who wants to join you downtown — there's a new pop-up market selling the cutest nesting matryoshka dolls and other favorite souvenirs, so you'll all hop on the marshrutka bus (or metro) to meet up and head to the heart of your city. You happen to stop by a cafe selling blini (yummy crepes filled with sweet or savory things) so you grabbed that for lunch and spent some time hunting for photogenic cathedrals and visiting that cool museum before it's time to head back home to get ready for teaching. 

Afternoon

You're ready to go to the school you teach at, but are stopped by your cute Russian babushka grandmother ... she's insisting you put on another scarf and hat to keep yourself warm (cute, right?) Now that you're bundled up, you hop on another bus or take the metro to your school — you'll be teaching with some of your ILP group members, so some of you meet up on your commute and some of you meet at the school. You brought your notebook and pen so that you could make the most of your commute and start planning class lessons for the next few days. ILP volunteers help children in Russia learn English typically in the late afternoons for about four hours each week day. 

You're teaching "Arts & Crafts" this week so you made valentines (it is February, after all). You have a feeling that all of your kids, from ages 4 on up to 14 (and even you!), are going to have some fun with this lesson. ILP classes are activity-based so students are having fun and are engaging with you all while they learn English naturally (so it's totally fine if you've never taught English before).

Your class is also small so that you know each of "your kids" by name, know their personality, and see how they learn best.

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Evening

After classes are done, you head to the office of another school some other ILP teachers volunteer at. Your Local Coordinator stops by because your group is trying to learn some basic Russian phrases to help you do things like buy snacks at the grocery store. You guys also have tickets to the ballet tomorrow night, so you get together to coordinate what time everyone is done teaching and when to meet at the local opera house. 

Afterwards you head home — since you were out later with your ILP group, your host family stashed your dinner in the fridge, then you check your schedule for the next day to see what you have planned before heading to bed.

Make the experience your own

Like we mentioned, the experience is different for everyone. We give you the tools to live abroad, the free time, and the meaningful purpose of service but then ultimately you're responsible for what you get out of the semester.

Be adventurous! Some volunteers choose to attend an LDS church on Sundays. Some dive further into the culture by reading these books about Russia Or maybe you create the ultimate bucket list for your semester so that you make the most of every day!

Travel and Vacations


Check out different parts of Russia + all over Europe

ILP volunteers have scheduled vacation time throughout their semester as well as every weekend off. This gives you plenty of time to go travel to all those European countries you're dying to see, along with all the spots you want to hit in Russia. You'll have your travel plans approved by an ILP director to help ensure you're traveling to safe areas, but otherwise it's really up to you and your group where you'd like to go.

Start dreaming up your ideal bucket list for your semester in Russia!

Our favorite vacation ideas in Russia 

Our top spots in Europe 

Places you might want to check out on a weekend trip:

A few travel tips

Most countries in Europe don't require a visa to visit, which means you can jump from country to country without applying for extra paperwork or paying fees (score). The biggest exception is Belarus (which borders Russia to the west). You'll need a visa even if you're just traveling through on your way to another country like (Lithuania), so volunteers in Russia just skip out on Belarus and avoid the tricky (and expensive) visa process.  You also need a visa to visit Russia, which means other ILP European volunteers tend to not visit this country .... but since you call Russia home, ILP takes care of that visa for you. One of the biggest perks to volunteering in Russia is that you don't even have to worry about trying to get that visa to go there (which can be really tricky to get, trust us!)

Traveling in Europe can add up (it's actually our most expensive location to travel in) but even if you'll be traveling on a budget, there is a lot you can do to keep costs down and still see the classic cities you've been dreaming about. 

Our advice is flying on budget airlines; Moscow is a big international hub which means you can get decent airfare to a lot of other countries throughout Europe if you look for deals. Both in and out of Russia, European cities are well-connected by trains and buses which can cut down costs if flights are too expensive. You can also vacation in countries that are just cheaper in general to help you stick to a budget. 

We know places like Paris and Rome are already on your bucket list, but check out these lesser known areas that are just as beautiful without the crazy crowds.

ILP Europe  

Experiences You Can't Miss


Pack your camera because you'll want pictures of all the cathedrals, churches, and palaces around Russia. 

The best part about calling Russia home for a whole semester (rather than a quick visit or service trip) is that you really get to experience the culture, get to know the city (you'll have the bus and metro routes memorized, know the yummiest restaurants, and the best treats at your local grocery story), plus you'll get the chance to meet some awesome local friends. Rather than a place that you've traveled to, it starts to feel more like home!

You'll want to make sure your semester is full of all things Russian — start your Russian bucket list to make sure you experience everything this country has to offer: 

Your Russian Bucket List:

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Know The Basics


Quick facts about an ILP semester in Russia:

Qualifications - who can volunteer?

ILP volunteers are young adults/college-aged - typically age 18-24 (yes, you must be at least 18), from the US and Canada, and speak English as their first language. There is no experience necessary! It's totally fine (and normal) if you only speak English and/or have never taught before.

We are accepting male volunteers, female volunteers and married couples for this location (due to some housing limitations, spots are limited for married couples so apply soon if you're interested). 

There are usually 6-9 volunteers per group. 

Cities

We currently have two groups in Russia. Volunteers live in Moscow (the capital) and in Voronezh (another large city about 7 hours south of Moscow).

Semester Dates 

There are two semesters that you can participate in: Spring and Fall

The exact dates vary from year to year, but in general ...

  • Spring is mid-January-end of May, or early June
  • Fall is end of August-middle of December

Costs

The program fee to participate as a volunteer in the Exchange program in Russia is $2,520. This includes your roundtrip international airfare to Russia, housing, meals, visa, as well as training and support for the entire semester.

We also recommend budgeting around $1,500-$2,000 for any traveling and purchases you make while you live abroad, as well as things you may need that the program fee doesn't cover (like a passport, health insurance, airline baggage fees, etc).

Psst! Is budget one your concerns? We have a guide with ways to make a semester abroad affordable -  check it out! It's especially helpful for college students.

Housing

Volunteers will be living with host families; you might even be living the family of one of the students you teach. There's typically one volunteer per family.

Weather

The weather here is beautiful! Seriously, it's not frozen all of the time. It does get cold in Russia but you'll experience the 4 seasons similar to how you would in Utah with the warmest months in the summer and the coldest in the winter. There's plenty to see and do no matter which semester you choose (even in the winter).

Wondering whether to buy your warm clothes here or in Russia? We've got you covered. 

How to apply

You can start your application online right here. It's easy to get started and there's no commitment at this point! We start accepting applications about 1.5 years prior to the start of the semester and there are no deadlines (we fill spots on a first-come-first-serve basis).

We recommend applying as soon as you know you're interested in volunteering because the spots in Russia are limited and do start to fill up and also because as soon as you apply you'll be assigned an ILP representative who can answer all of your questions, give you tips, and just be your go-to person when you need help.

Don't forget to check out ILP's other locations to see which European country is right for you.

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Advice From Past Volunteers


It's really helpful to use past volunteers as a resource!

So how can you get in touch?

Check out the ILP blog

Sometimes we interview volunteers about how their semester went! Read about Paul's experience in Russia here or what Kerry thought about living in Russia with ILP. 

Looking for a married perspective? Meet Andrea and Chaz. 

Follow us on Instagram

@ilpadventure is frequently posting about all of our locations, giving updates, and more so make sure to follow us there.

Follow #ilprussia to discover volunteer's personal accounts and follow them.

We even have an Instagram account called @ilptakeovers where we ask volunteers who are in-country right now to take over and post some stories about what they're doing and put a post on the feed. Volunteers are usually featuring what a typical day looks like, what the meals are like, info about vacations they are taking, things to pack (and not to pack), what their host family's place looks like — you know, all the things you want to know from their perspective. 

You can see what they're doing from day to day and also DM them with questions! Most volunteers are so happy to help you out because they also had tons of questions before they signed up.

Talk to an ILP Representative 

The representatives who work in the ILP office have volunteered on our program before and love to talk about their experience and answer your questions. Check out the form below where you can leave your contact information and we'll have a rep reach out and text you.

Pst: ILP first got its start in Russia, so it's fair to say this country has a special place in our hearts. One of the ILP directors, Steve, actually still keeps in touch with this host brother from 20+ years ago (read about it here). 

Do a little research yourself

Russia is an enormously huge country with an equally enormous history; your semester abroad will be so much richer if you know a bit about the figures you'll be seeing in statues around your city and the people who once called those lavish palaces "home". Read up on some famous Russians and brush up on your history by studying the Romanovs or the old cities once known as Leningrad and Stalingrad

Psst! Here are 10 things I bet you didn't know about Russia.

ILP Russia

Have questions about volunteering?

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If you'd like to receive more information about volunteering in Russia (or any of our other locations all over the world), drop your information below.
 
One of our representatives who has volunteered before will reach out and text you to chat about your questions.
 

We'll text you!