The Balkan Language Initiative offers intensive, highly- individualized instruction in Albanian, Bosnian, Macedonian, and Serbian in five different countries. Through homestays, conversation partners, in-class instruction, and a wide range of extracurricular activities, participants enjoy an unprecedented opportunity to immerse themselves in daily local life in a region largely unserved by study abroad programs.
Participants receive 15 to 18 hours per week of classroom instruction - either individually or in small groups - designed to strengthen speaking, listening, reading, and writing proficency in the target language. Course work typically includes classes in phonetics, grammar, and conversation as well as composition, oral comprehension, and reading. Language courses also cover topics in literature, history, politics, culture, and area studies. All classes are conducted in the target language by host-country faculty with extensive experience teaching foreign students.
U.S. Academic Credit
Participants receive academic credit through Bryn Mawr College, an institutional member of American Councils. Upon successful completion of the program, Bryn Mawr College issues
- 8 undergraduate/10 graduate credit hours for the summer program
- 16 undergraduate/15 graduate credit hours for the fall or spring semesters
- and 32 undergraduate/30 graduate credit hours for the academic year program.
To aid cultural integration and support academic learning, participants have the opportunity to meet with conversation partners their own age two hours per week. Conversation partners introduce participants to local young people, accompany participants on sightseeing tours, organize cultural activities (cinema, museum, etc.), and provide students with academic support. The conversation partners are expected to speak only the local language.
Excursions & Activities
As part of the program, participants engage in a number of excursions and cultural activities. Activities outside the classroom are designed to give participants a deeper understanding of life, culture, and history in the Balkans. While excursions and activities vary from year to year and by location, past participants have enjoyed excursions to the following sites:
- National Museum of History (Tirana, Albania)
- Stari Most (Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina)
- Kale Fortress (Skopje, Macedonia)
- Ada Cigalija (Belgrade, Serbia)
Housing & Meals
Host families expose students to authentic, contemporary daily life in informal social settings and provide supportive environments for students to test their growing language skills. All families are carefully screened, selected, and monitored by local American Councils staff. They provide two meals per day; participants are guaranteed private rooms and telephone access. Even though host families are modestly compensated by American Councils for their services, they enjoy having American guests in their home very much.
It is important to enter into a host family arrangement with realistic expectations. Often, American students establish a very warm relationship with their host family, feeling like they had almost been "adopted" into it. At times, however, the student and family do not form such a close relationship. The object of the program is not to provide surrogate families abroad, but to help students gain a closer understanding of the local culture and language.
Many of the families have host American Councils participants before and already have some experience with "strange" American eating habits or other "odd" habits such as jogging at dawn. Good humor, patience, and open minds on both sides will help in adjusting to these and other cultural differences.
American Councils provides an informative pre-departure orientation along with in-country orientation upon the group's arrival. Participants have access to American Councils in-country staff that provide around-the clock emergency support. Additionally, participants receive comprehensive, overseas medical insurance coverage for the duration of the program.