Much of Belarus is a hilly lowland with forests, swamps, and numerous rivers and lakes. There are wide rivers emptying into the Baltic and Black seas. Belarus borders five countries: Latvia to the north, Lithuania to the northwest, Poland to the west, Russia to the north and the east, and Ukraine to the south. Most of the Belarusian economy remains state-controlled and has been described as "Soviet-style".
Belarus, formerly a part of the Soviet Union, is located in the heart of Eastern Europe, nestled between Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Latvia and Lithuania. Belarus, which is slightly smaller than the State of Kansas, has been an independent country since 1990 and is home to nearly 9.5 million people. The country, whose capital city is Minsk, is known for its many lakes (nearly 11,000 of them), its vast forests and its textile industry.
Belarus has cold winters and cool and humid summers. There is little variation in climate throughout the country. The average temperature in January is 25 degrees Fahrenheit; in July, the average temperature is 64 degrees.
Although the Belarus people are friendly and welcoming, many of the Soviet-era government restrictions on freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of the press still exist. The majority (above 60 percent) of Belarusians attend church regularly. The predominant religion is Eastern Orthodox, but there are a sizeable minority of Roman Catholics. Most Belarusians speak both Russian and Belarusian. Both are official languages. Belarus is a very literate country. Ninety-nine percent of the population are able to read.
Cost of Living
The economy is Belarus has suffered in recent years, in large part because of the country's lack of crude oil supplies. Although Belarus has a very low rate of unemployment, many workers are underemployed and more than a quarter of the population lives at or below the poverty line. The country also suffers from extremely high inflation, nearly 70 percent in 2011. Generally, most things cost less in Belarus than they would in the United States.
Foreign nationals arriving in Belarus, including students, are required to purchase medical insurance. (This applies even if you have insurance that will cover you in the country, although most foreign policies won't.) The cost is approximately $110 (85 euros) for one year.
Study in Belarus
Higher Education in Belarus
More than 6,000 foreign students study at universities in Belarus each year. The country, located east of Poland and west of Russia, sets a high value on a university education and offers affordable tuition for international students as well as a variety of courses of study.
A university education is prized in Belarus and the country enjoys a large student ratio compared to the general population. Most universities here are accredited by world associations, such as UNESCO, WHO and MCI, and many universities host guest professors frequently from the United States, from the UK and from other parts of Europe.
There are 48 universities within Belarus, the majority of which are located in the capital city of Minsk or in Brest, in southwest Belarus along the Polish border. Some of the larger universities in Belarus include:
- Belarus State University in Minsk
- Minsk Institute of Management
- Belarus State Technological University in Minsk
- Brest State University in Brest
- Belarusian State Economic University in Minsk
The academic calendar for universities in Belarus is divided into two sessions, called semesters. The first semester begins in early September and lasts until the third week of January. The second semester begins on February 1 and lasts until July 1. Summer holiday is for two months, July and August. Winter holiday is one week in late January.
Tuition is not free in Belarus, but it is much more affordable than in other parts of the world. The typical annual tuition is between $2,000 and $2,500 (1600 - 1800 Euros) per student. Textbooks are included in the tuition cost and are distributed by the university libraries.
The majority of classes at universities in Belarus are given in Belarusian or Russian. However, some universities have a few courses that are given in English. Students who are not fluent in Belarusian or Russian are required to take a nine-month language immersion course before beginning their studies.
Degree opportunities in Belarus include a wide range of four-year undergraduate programs and two-year post graduate programs. For instance, Belarus State University offers 56 degrees and 250 specialties. Emphasis in Belarus tends to be on science and technology fields more than on liberal arts fields of study.
All foreign citizens, including students, traveling to Belarus must obtain a visa. For a student visa, applicants must submit their passport with at least six months validity past the intended travel date, the completed visa application form, two 2" by 2" color photographs with a plain white background, a statement of medical fitness, the $60 visa fee and a letter of invitation on official letterhead from the school they will be attending. Visas are issued by embassies and consulates around the world. Most universities will assist students in obtaining the necessary visa.
The visa is issued for 90 days. Open arrival in Belarus, the individual universities will assist students in obtaining a temporary residency permit. This permit is valid for one year. An HIV/AIDS test, performed by a Belarusian clinic, is required for a residency permit.
Most students in Belarus live in student hostels, which cost around $15 to $30 per month. The university housing department can help students find lodging. Locally-grown food is very cheap in Belarus and the diet there consists of vegetables, fish and meat.
Public transportation is efficient and affordable within the major cities. Minsk has an excellent subway system.
The U.S. State Department advises Americans traveling and/or studying in Belarus to register with the American Embassy in Minsk.
Study in Belarus is not for everyone. However, if you're looking to learn about a new culture and people while completing your degree at an affordable university, Belarus just might be the right choice for you.