The RUSLAN Course

Tues/Thurs 2:30-4:00, 122TY

The RUSLAN program offers a service-learning course during the Fall and Winter semesters of every year—RUSLAN course Russian 316/616/RCLang 333: Russian people, language and culture in the US. The course can be elected for 3 experiential credits for CR/NCR and can be repeated twice. All Russian proficiency levels are welcome (including no Russian).


Course Goals and Objectives

  • Improve, develop and apply students’ language skills and knowledge of Russian culture, literature and history in the real world through personal community service involvement and academic reflection
  • Learn how to become an independent and active learner who extracts meaning from experience and integrates classroom knowledge and theory with service experiences
  • Learn about the Russian émigré community in the US in general and in AA in particular (history, current community features and social trends)
  • Learn about local schools and Russia in the school curriculum
  • Learn about Russian community social issues (social integration, language learning problems, health and family issues, cultural shift issues, etc.) and agencies providing socio-cultural shift services to the local community
  • Acquire knowledge and skills necessary to perform specific service activities for specific community populations (tutoring, companionship, language exchange, translating/interpreting, working with the elderly, Anglophone and adopted children, in local schools, etc.)
  • Develop reflection, critical thinking, problem solution and collaborative skills through meaningful community service opportunities.


Student’s academic background and service priority determine their placement in one of several different job categories. The jobs include ESL tutoring, language exchange partners, computer tutoring, citizenship exam preparation, friendly visitors, and school outreach. Before beginning their service, students receive job-skills training and attend an orientation session. Throughout the semester, students are expected to complete 2-3 hrs/wk of service (or 6 presentations in schools). Transportation is provided when necessary.


Students spend 3 hrs/wk in class, learning about immigration social issues of the Russian community and local schools. Students also receive job skills training and develop peer-evaluation and reflection skills.

Course Requirements

The class requires regular attendance and participation. The coursework includes assigned readings, weekly session reports and reflection journals, 2-3 homework assignments, peer/client evaluations, and a final essay.

Job Categories

ESL Tutor

As an English as a Second Language tutor, students help their client gain important and necessary English-language skills that they need to assimilate to life in the United States. Through weekly sessions and highly-developed lesson plans, tutors build a richer vocabulary and a deeper grasp of grammar. Tutors also provide general information about culture and life in the US to assist their client's assimilation.

ESL Tutors must prepare thorough lesson plans—typically focused on one import grammatical feature or a single vocabulary set. Tutors should encourage improvement in both production (speaking and writing) and comprehension (listening and reading) with their clients.

Language Exchange Partner

Students of any language proficiency level may choose to be a language exchange partner. This job focuses on a mutually beneficial experience for both the student and the client. Students have weekly conversation sessions with their clients designed to help the clients improve their English language skills and the students to improve their Russian skills. These sessions also provide clients with cultural information to ease assimilation and companionship.

Students in this job category develop lesson plans for each session with their partner. Students are encouraged to come up with fun and creative ideas to exercise their own and their client's language skills. Exchanging recipes, reading a news article, and playing a board game are all fun ways to improve each other's vocabulary and grammar.

Computer Tutor

Senior citizens need computers to read the news, to browse pictures, to shop from home, and to reconnect with friends and family, and this is especially true of immigrants, who might be thousands of miles away from their nearest relative. The computer tutor job category focuses on training seniors in important basic computer skills in a steady, patient manner. Tutors should evaluate what their client already knows and what they want to know, and then work toward developing a lesson plan of an appropriate level of difficulty. Each week, they guide their client through tutorials, practice, and homework on their computer to reach their goals. Typical subjects taught by computer tutors throughout a semester include how to use speakers, email, Skype, finding news online, using an online radio, watching videos on youtube, and playing games.

Each week, students in this job category develop flexible lesson plans focussed on a single topic (for instance, Skype). Students should socialize with their client, work patiently through the lesson plan, and then leave their client with homework for the next week.

Citizenship Exam Preparation

Students of any proficiency level can assist in citizenship exam preparation. In this job category, students tutor clients in preparation for their citizenship exam. They provide assistance in all aspects: reading comprehension and vocabulary, American history and government, etc. Students have a chance to expand their Russian language skills while learning about the citizenship process.

Students must develop thorough lesson plans of an appropriate level of difficulty for their clients.

Friendly Visitor

Students with intermediate to advance language skills can serve as a friendly visitor. In this job, students provide companionship to homebound or socially-isolated elderly Russian-speaking immigrants. Every week, students visit their client and have conversations about various subjects, improving client’s knowledge of English (and student’s knowledge of Russian). They play games, and read/watch and discuss books, movies, or television programs. Students also assist in making phone calls or translating letters.

This job category focuses less on preparing lesson plans (although it is still important to have conversation topics prepared). The main thing is to provide companionship and light assistance regularly. Students must be friendly, enthusiastic, and patient.

School Outreach

Students of any language proficiency may participate in School Outreach. Students in this job present in Ann Arbor area schools on various topics in Russian culture teaching toward the State's social studies curriculum requirements. Students choose which topics they present based on their own interests and specialties, providing schools with their expertise and enthusiasm on a culture the teachers may not know much about. Presentation topics can include Russian language, alphabet, holidays, history, geography, literature, art, religion, and politics.

Students in this job category make 6 1-hour presentations in K-12 schools throughout the semester. They are responsible for building engaging powerpoint presentations and developing fun activities appropriate to the age level of each class they present for.