Russian Language Institute

RLI Logo

June 8 - August 3, 2016

General Information

Founded in 1977, the Russian Language Institute (RLI) at Bryn Mawr seeks to support the study and teaching of Russian in the United States by providing an intensive-immersion setting for both teachers and learners of the language. RLI offers both four- and eight-week programs for male and female high school*, undergraduate, and graduate students. All courses focus on language training at the college level.

The eight-week Russian Language Institute offers a highly-focused curriculum and a study environment conducive to the rapid development of the four language skills (oral, aural, writing, reading) as well as cultural awareness. The program draws participants from a broad spectrum of academic fields, occupations, ages, and interests. Course offerings are designed to accommodate a full range of language learners, from the beginner to the advanced learner (three levels total). The highly intensive nature of the course work and the culturally-rich immersion environment have proven very successful in providing the equivalent of an academic year of college Russian to participants who complete the full eight weeks.

Through RLI, Bryn Mawr was one of the first American institutions in the United States to establish an ongoing cooperative exchange agreement with the Pushkin Institute of the Russian Language in Moscow. The agreement covered exchanges of students, faculty, and teaching materials, some of which are still used in the summer programs. While Bryn Mawr today cooperates with several other institutions in Russia, through the College's cooperative agreement with the American Council of Teachers of Russian (ACTR), it maintains its links to the Pushkin Institute.

Most recently, the Department of Russian and the Russian Language Institute at Bryn Mawr College have been designated as Domestic Russian Language Flagship ProgramThe Language Flagship was created under the auspices of the National Security Education Program (NSEP)/National Flagship Language Program (NFLP) to address the critical need for U.S. professionals to use Russian at the highest levels of functional proficiency. The program is an intensive language training program tailored to students' professional interests and academic specialization.  Students at Bryn Mawr, Haverford, or Swarthmore Colleges who have already completed one year of Russian and signed a Russian Language Flagship statement of agreement can apply to RLI as a Flagship student. For more infomation on the Russian Language Flagship at Bryn Mawr, please see the web site.     

*High school students must be 16 years of age or older.

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Academic Program

The eight-week summer program is divided into two four-week semesters, or sessions, each of which comprises one course. Course offerings include three levels of intensive language training from elementary through third-year Russian. Each course is credited at four (4) semester hours; thus, the full eight-week program carries eight (8) semester-hours of credit. Using the Bryn Mawr system, this translates into two (2) units (one unit equals four (4) semester-hours).

All courses strongly emphasize the development of speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills in Modern Standard Russian within the context of a systematic and structured approach to the mastery of Russian grammar and vocabulary. Courses are team-taught and consist of three types of activities: 1) Master classes (presentation and clarification of new structures, materials, models); 2) Drill sessions (language activization, readings, drills); 3) Situational training (role playing, simulations, and the development of maximum numbers of contexts/ situations for authentic language use). In addition, each course includes individual work with the Language Learning Center's audio, video, and computer facilities.

All students who have taken the equivalent of at least one year of Russian will participate in pre- and post-program proficiency testing of oral, and, of reading competencies. Placement into appropriate course levels is dependent on each student's prior course work and personal goals in pursuing summer study.

Sample Daily Schedule
7:30 - 8:45 Russian Table (breakfast)
9:00 - 10:20 Class
10:25 - 11:45 Class
11:50 - 12:50 Russian Table with faculty (lunch)
1:00 - 2:20 Class
3:00 - 5:00 Film screenings, guest lectures, study time
5:30 - 6:30 Russian Table (dinner)
6:30 - 9:00 Extracurricular activities or study time

Most students reside on campus in a Russian-only wing in the dorms for the duration of the program. Students who reside locally should expect to be on campus from at least 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. However, chronic absence extracurricular activities scheduled outside this time frame may result in a reduction of the overall effectiveness of the immersion experience for the learner.

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Academic Policy

Students must complete all assigned work and exams by the deadlines stated by their instructors, and no student will be allowed to complete any work after the close of the program. The summer program does not allow for grades of "incomplete" or "credit/no credit".

At the end of the program, all students will be asked to complete course evaluations forms, giving their honest assessments of the quality of the instruction and the content of their classes, and expressing their opinions of the immersion program as a whole.

Auditing:  Any student wishing to audit a course can do so only by stating this intention in writing before the first day of classes. No change in status (from audit to graded or graded to audit) can be permitted after classes have begun. Students should also be forewarned that an auditor will have no official transcript of the program, i.e., there will be nothing official to indicate that the auditing student ever took a course. Auditors must still pay 1/2 of the tuition fees, full room and board, and full book costs. Finally, auditors are expected to be fully participating members of their classes and of most extra-curricular activities, completing all the work and exams required of every other student.

Refunds:  Students will be refunded 100% of their previously paid tuition, room and board, and college fee if the Russian Language Institute receives written notice that the student has withdrawn from the program before the first day of classes.

For a student withdrawing from the Russian Language Institute or embarking on a medical or psychological leave of absence on or after the first day of classes through day 13 of either session I or II, refunds of tuition and fees, and room and board are 50%.  After day 13, tuition and fees, and room and board are non-refundable.

The date the student began the withdrawal process by contacting the Russian Language Institute administrative office orally or in writing is considered the date of withdrawal for program refunds. When a student continues to attend classes or other academically-related activity after beginning the withdrawal process, the Russian Language Institute may choose to use the student’s last date of documented attendance at an academically-related activity as the date of withdrawal. For a student who leaves the Russian Language Institute without notifying the program of his/her intent to withdraw, the Russian Language Institute normally uses the student’s last date of documented attendance at an academically-related activity as the date of withdrawal. If that date cannot be ascertained, the Russian Language Institute will consider the midpoint of the enrollment period to be the date the student withdrew.


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Course Descriptions

Russian 001, 002: Intensive Elementary Russian
(Novice to Intermediate Low)

A beginning-level course of Russian with strong emphasis on the development of oral and written communicative skills, development of basic vocabulary, and mastery of the writing system and grammatical structure. This course covers a full academic year of coursework. During the academic year this course meets eight hours per week. Textbooks used are Russian Stage One: Live from Russia! Vols. 1 and 2.

Russian 101, 102: Intensive Intermediate Russian
(Intermediate Low to Intermediate Mid)

A complete second-year Russian course emphasizing intermediate-level oral and written skills. Vocabulary study of up to 2,500 words, systematic grammar review, readings of expository and artistic prose of medium difficulty. Most aspects of the course are in Russian. This course covers a full academic year of coursework.  During the academic year this course meets seven hours per week. Textbooks used are Russian Stage Two: Welcome Back!

Russian 201, 202: Intensive Advanced Russian
(Intermediate Mid to Intermediate High)

Intensive practice in oral and written expression based on literary and non-literary texts of Modern Standard Russian. Emphasis is particularly on oral development. Almost all aspects of the course are in Russian. This course covers a full academic year of coursework. During the academic year this course meets five hours per week. Textbooks used are determined by instructor.

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Cultural and Language Immersion Activities

Outside of the classroom, the Russian Language Institute offers a variety of extracurricular activities designed to enhance the language skills being learned in the classroom. Activities may include guest lecturers speaking on a variety of topics related to Russian studies and culture, screenings of Russian and Soviet films, Russian and Slavic choirs, and international folk dancing, field trips.

    Guest Lecture Series: The guest lecture series covers a broad range of interests and enhances participants' cultural awareness. Past lectures have included topics on: Russian politics, Russian literature, Russian music, Russian Orthodoxy, and Russian history.

    Field Trips: In the past, participants have had the opportunity to take field trips to Russian concerts, Russian Orthodox churches, the Russian section in Northeast Philadelphia, and to Brighton Beach, NY (a Russian immigrant community). Depending on costs, an additional fee may be charged for field trips.

    Film Series: Films are shown at least once a week, and if possible, twice a week.  Films are used  as part of class assignments to strengthen listening skills, increase vocabulary, and promote cultural awareness. 

    Russian Folk Singing: This activity is for anyone interested in Russian folk, gypsy, bard and popular songs. Linguistically, Russian songs can expand vocabulary, improve pronunciation, increase speed in reading, help develop a feeling for the rhythm of the language, and increase recognition of and activize grammar learned in class. Russian songs also provide insight into many aspects of Russian culture and history.

    Russian Food Sampling: Students learn about Russian food from sampling different menu items. In the past, the sample menu has included blini, borshch, pelmeni, and pirozhki.

    Russian Table: Students and faculty gather daily during lunch for students to informally speak Russian outside the classroom.

    Russian Play: Students have produced Russian plays such as Pushkin's The Stone Guest for the RLI Closing Ceremony.


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Language Study Facilities

Canaday Library: This is the main library on the Bryn Mawr campus. It subscribes to Russian periodicals (both newspapers and magazines) that students may use for research or informal reading. Canaday has a major collection of Russian and Soviet titles in its book stacks. Other materials that students may desire can be obtained via inter-library loan from the libraries of several nearby colleges and universities. Students may also use the library for recreational viewing of a broad selection of Russian-related videos in one of its public computer labs.  Additional periodical literature, some of which is not available in the library, can be found in the Russian Center, headquarters of the Russian Language Institute and the Bryn Mawr College Department of Russian.

Other Campus Facilities:  RLI students will have full access to all campus facilities during their normal hours of operation. Facilities include the Bern Schwartz Gymnasium (with fitness room, indoor pool, basketball court, and dance/gymnastics floor and outdoor tennis), and the Centennial Campus Center, opened in 1985 to commemorate the College's 100th year. The Campus Center has a bookshop, café, post office, lounges, and meeting rooms. A large-screen television and pool table in the main lounge is also available for students.


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Bryn Mawr Honor Code

The Honor Code is a system of self-governance upon which the Bryn Mawr academic community is founded. It places trust in each member's regard for the ideals of scholastic integrity and social responsibility. The Code is two-fold. Academically, students are responsible for the integrity of their own work, and are not to reveal form, content, or degree of difficulty of any examination or quiz. Socially, students are bound to treat each other with respect, and to be considerate of the diverse interests and ideas of others. Because the success of the Honor Code depends on the support of all those attending classes at Bryn Mawr, summer students are expected to familiarize themselves with the code and abide by its resolutions. A complete description of the Code will be distributed during orientation.


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The Russian-Only Rule

The use of Russian at all times during the summer session is a traditional policy of the Russian Language Institute. The "Russian Only" rule will be upheld stringently, for the benefit of all serious learners. Students will find that making an absolute priority of speaking Russian increases the value of their immersion experience and their preparation for the next stage of their language training. Overall, English is used only in areas outside the Russian Center or Russian dorm where communication in English is essential, e.g., when speaking to College non-Russian speaking staff for administrative purposes or emergencies. Beginning Russian students will use English primarily for the first two weeks of the program and switch to following the "Russian Only" rule after this time. Program staff monitor the cooperation and effort of all participants in regard to the "Russian Only" rule; however, it is the sole responsibility of each participant to respect and uphold the "Russian Only" rule when in the presense of RLI staff and students. 


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RLI Administration

Dan E. Davidson, Ph.D., Director of the Russian Language Institute
Professor of Russian and Second Language Acquisition, Bryn Mawr College
President of the American Council of Teachers of Russian (ACTR)

Billie Jo Ember, M.A., Assistant Director of the Russian Language Institute
Coordinator of the Russian Language Flagship, Bryn Mawr College
Department of Russian Coordinator, Bryn Mawr College

Irina Walsh, Ph.D., Academic Coordinator of the Russian Language Institute
Lecturer in Russian, Bryn Mawr College
Co-Director of the Russian Language Flagship, Bryn Mawr College


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2015 RLI Staff (2016 Staff TBA)

Mark Baugher
Ph.D., Bryn Mawr College

Molly Peeney
Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison

Olga Riabova
Ph.D., St. Petersburg State University

Jane Shaw
ABD, Bryn Mawr College

Irina Walsh
Ph.D., Bryn Mawr College

Upper and lower level courses are taught by a combination of native Russian instructors and American instructors, all with considerable expertise in Russian language teaching methodology and teaching experience.

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Housing and Meals

Students of the Russian Language Institute are strongly encouraged to reside in campus dorms during the summer. Some faculty members may also reside on campus, as will a resident dorm adviser. All participants will receive their own room.  Rooms in the dorms include a bed, desk, chair, dresser, and window shade. Each student should bring their own linens, blankets, pillows, and towels. Students who choose to reside off campus are responsible for arranging their own housing.

The Russian Table takes place in one of the campuses dining halls, where the College's own award-winning dining service provides participants with breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Monday through Friday. On Saturday and Sunday, the dining service provides brunch and dinner. On weekdays, all students and faculty are present at lunch, and the seating arrangement and meal time is structured to promote the fullest possible interaction in Russian. While students are freer at breakfast and dinner to eat when they choose, during service hours, everyone will continue to speak only Russian in the dining hall. Those faculty and staff members living in the Russian residence hall will be present at most meals. Students choosing to live off-campus are expected to eat lunch in the dining hall with their fellow participants and the faculty Monday through Friday. A special lunches-only meal plan will be available for these commuting students.


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Health Insurance

It is advisable for students to have their own health insurance. The College will not accept responsibility for students' medical expenses.


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Admissions and Financial Aid

To apply, all applicants must provide the following:

  • complete on-line application form. (Note: It is best to complete the on-line application in one sitting, as there is currently no save option.. Please plan accordingly.);
  • Two (2) letters of recommendation:

    For those who have not previously studied Russian, your recommendation letters should be from:
    a.  Instructors with whom you have recently studied other languages or disciplines (preferred);
    b.  Work supervisors from professional or volunteer work;
    c.  Colleagues.

    For those who have previously studied Russian, your recommendation letters should be from:
    1.  Your most recent Russian language instructor (this should be your first letter);
    2.  The following recommenders are appropriate for your second letter of recommendation:
    a. Instructors with whom you have recently studied Russian language or Russian-related course (preferred);
    b. Instructors with whom you recently have studied other languages or disciplines;
    c. Work supervisors from professional or volunteer work;
    d. Colleagues.

    (Note: On-line recommendation forms can be found here.  Hard copies of recommendations should be submitted in sealed envelopes with a signature or stamp across the flap and sent to the Russian Language Institute, Bryn Mawr College, 101 N. Merion Ave., Bryn Mawr, PA  19010);
  • Official transcripts of all academic work you have completed beyond the high school level or a high school transcript if you have not attended college (Note:  Transcripts should be submitted in sealed envelopes with official seal or stamp across the flap);
  • Financial aid application (Required only for students wanting to request aid and/or Flagship-designated students).

Financial aid will be available for participation in the 2016 RLI.* Assistance awards are based on both academic merit and demonstrated need; priority for assistance is given to advanced-level students. All students wishing to apply for aid must complete, in full, the Financial Aid Statement and return it with the other application materials. If you are not applying for financial aid there is no need to return the financial aid application.

Determination of acceptance into the summer Russian language program is made on a Rolling Admissions basis*, except for those applying for financial aid. The deadline for turning in applications with financial aid requests is March 18, 2016. All decisions on financial aid are made by mid-April. You will receive notification of acceptance or non-acceptance by the end of April as long as we are in receipt of all application materials.

In order to retain a place in the program, each person accepted must remit a refundable deposit of $500.00 to Bryn Mawr College within two weeks of notification of acceptance. The policy of requiring early response and deposits allows RLI to inform later applicants in a timely and equitable manner when a course is full.+ The deposit is applied to tuition costs.


**Due to application processing and housing availability, applicants not requesting finanical aid must have all materials submited by May 1, 2016 for full consideration.
+Bryn Mawr College reserves the right to cancel a course which does not meet minimum enrollment.


Estimated Costs for 2016 Russian Language Institute:

  Semester I Semester II Total
Tuition and Activities Fee* $1,950 $1,950 $3,900
Room and Board, for those on campus*+ $1,700 $1,700 $3,400
Total $3,650 $3,650 $7,300


*Tuition rates are set in November.  Room & board increases are determined in March.

+Students who live off campus are expected to eat lunch Monday through Friday with the staff and on-campus students. The cost per 4-week session of RLI for lunches is approximately $235*. The cost of books is included in the costs above.


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On-line form for applicants:


On-line form for recommenders:


If you are unable to complete the on-line application, please contact or call 610-526-5187. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1.  Do you separate students based on academic level, i.e., high school, undergraduate, graduate, or working professional?
Answer:  No, courses are based on the language level and are taught at the college level. 

2.  Who attends the Russian Language Institute? How many students are in each class?
Answer:  We have students of all ages, but generally most are between the ages of 18-22 and are current undergraduate students. The class sizes remain small to promote an intensive, immersion setting and average 5 to 10 students per class.

3.  Can I attend one 4 week session? 
Answer:  Yes, however, the second 4 week session is a continuation of the first session so it is best to attend session 1. For those who wish to attend session 2, you will need to have previously completed the material from session 1. We may also require you to have a phone interview in Russian with our academic coordinator to assess your current level prior to acceptance to the program.

4. Is it possible to take a few days off to attend a special event, i.e, wedding, family or job obligation, or academic conference?
Answer:  Yes, but only with special permission from your instructors and our academic coordinator. In general, if you plan to miss any class, you should get approval from your instructors and the academic coordinator.

5.  May I have a car on campus?
Answer:  Yes. Parking permits are free of charge and allow students to park in multiple lots on campus.

6.  Do I have to live on campus? 
Answer: It is strongly encouraged, but not required for students to live on campus.  If you choose to live off campus then it is your responsibility to arrange this housing.

7.  How do I transfer my credits after the program ends?
Answer: You will need to complete a transcript request form. Follow the instructions on the Bryn Mawr College Registrar's site for ordering a transcript by mail:

Contact Information


Facebook site:

RLI on Facebook

Call or write:

The Russian Language Institute
Bryn Mawr College
101 N. Merion Ave.
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010-2899
(610) 526-5187

Bryn Mawr College is firmly committed to a policy of equal opportunity for all members of its faculty, staff and student body. Bryn Mawr College does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation, age or disability in the administration of its educational policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other College-administered programs, or in its employment practices.

In conformity with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, it is also the policy of Bryn Mawr College not to discriminate on the basis of sex in its employment practices, educational programs or activities. The admission of only women in the Undergraduate College is in conformity with a provision of the Civil Rights Act. The provisions of Title IX protect students and employees from all forms of illegal sex discrimination, which includes sexual harassment and sexual violence, in College programs and activities.

Inquiries regarding compliance with this legislation and other policies regarding nondiscrimination may be directed to the Equal Opportunity Officer ( or 610-526-0300) and Title IX Coordinator ( or 610-526-0301 ), who administer the College’s procedures.


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