The best place to learn Russian is undoubtedly in Narva!

This exclamation in the title comes from students of the Russian language programme at Narva College. Located at the border of Estonia and Russia, this institution, part of the University of Tartu – one of the oldest universities in Northern and Eastern Europe, has been a hub of Russian language instruction since the summer of 2014.

The Russian language programme in Narva was initiated in 2014, following the annexation of Crimea, when many foreign universities practising Russian in Russia began seeking a safer learning environment. The University of Pittsburgh in the United States was the first to discover Narva College, sending 37 students to learn Russian and immerse themselves in Estonian and Russian cultures.

Tailored learning experience

Narva College’s Russian language programme aims to offer participants an intensive language learning experience in a rich cultural environment. The courses, which start at the A1 level and last up to 1-2 years, are designed to provide a comprehensive understanding of the language, from grammar and vocabulary to conversation and comprehension. Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced learner, experienced and qualified instructors, led by Narva College’s associate professor of the Russian language Olga Burdakova, are committed to helping you achieve your language goals in a supportive learning environment.

Global classroom

Since its inception, the programme has expanded to offer year-round courses for students from the United States, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, the UK, and local Estonians. This year, the college is also piloting a semester-long hybrid programme comprising Russian language instruction and “area studies” in the fields of Russia and the Baltic states.

Transformative experience

Students have found the programme to be a transformative experience. As one student, Kennedy, put it, the best part of the summer school was getting to know Estonia. “In America, we know almost nothing about Estonia. The nature here is stunning, and it was fascinating to learn so much about Estonia.” From a modest beginning in 2014 with 37 students and three instructors, the programme has grown steadily. Today, the programme has four full-time instructors (three PhDs and one MA) and five current and former college students assisting as teachers under the guidance of our main instructors. This summer, the college welcomes six groups with a total of 30 students; in the autumn, they expect nearly 40 foreign students in 3-4 groups.

Embarking on a rewarding journey

No matter where you come from or what your language proficiency level may be, the Russian language programme at Narva College of the University of Tartu offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the language and culture. As Anastasia Nabatova, a student who rekindled her Russian language skills in Narva, expressed, “I live in a big city in America and don’t see the stars in the sky. Here, you can go outside and stare at them for hours. The air is also much cleaner.” In Narva, you are not just learning a language; you are engaging with the culture, interacting with the community, and shaping your global perspective.”


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