Alfa Fellowship Program

The Alfa Fellowship Program was a distinguished international initiative that from 2004 – 2022 offered accomplished Americans, Britons, and Germans the opportunity to complete a high-level professional development program in Russia. Over the course of the program, fellows completed work placements at leading institutions, attended professional seminars, and received intensive language training.

The fellowship provided a monthly stipend, accommodation, insurance, all program-related travel costs, language training in Russia, and private pre-departure tutoring.

The Alfa Fellowship Program was founded with the aim of fostering a community of emerging leaders who have first-hand experience in the business, public policy, and cultural environments of Russia and the region. Over 200 Americans, Britons, and Germans were able to experience the workplace, while living and traveling in Russia through this unique professional opportunity.

The goals of the Alfa Fellowship Program were to expand networks of American, British, and German professionals with experience in Russia, to develop greater intercultural understanding, and to advance knowledge of Russia in the West.

The program was funded by Alfa-Bank, and administered in the U.S., U.K., and Germany by Cultural Vistas and in Moscow by the Fund for International Fellowships and Cultural Dialogue.

OJSC Alfa-Bank is incorporated, focused and based in Russia, and is not affiliated with U.S.-based Alfa Insurance.

General program information is available below in German.

Participant Profile and Eligibility

Participants on the program were selected based on the following criteria

  • a demonstrated interest in Russian and European and Eurasian affairs, exceptional academic and professional credentials, proven personal initiative, and clear goals and expectations for their professional assignments while on the fellowship
  • early to mid-career professionals with experience in business, economics, journalism, law, public policy, arts/cultural management, human development, or other fields
  • leadership potential and active in community and/or public service
  • value being part of an international network of individuals with diverse backgrounds and a common interest in Russia and the region
  • most fellows had studied Russian for at least two years at the postsecondary level, though Russian language skills varied

Eligibility Requirements

  • Early to mid-career professional from the United States, United Kingdom, or Germany*
  • Bachelor’s degree and relevant professional experience related to desired field of work placement
  • Demonstrated interest in Russia and the region with clearly defined career trajectory
  • Committed to being an active contributor to an international network
  • Previous study of a second language, preferably Russian

*Russian citizens were ineligible to apply, including individuals who were also citizens of the United States, United Kingdom, or Germany

Desired Qualifications

  • Graduate degree related to desired field of work placement
  • Outstanding professional achievement and academic qualifications
  • Active involvement in community and/ or public service
  • Evidence of leadership potential
  • Russian language experience was preferred, however not required, at the time of application

Program Benefits

The Alfa Fellowship Program included the following benefits:

  • Round-trip transportation to New York City or London and accommodation (if needed) for selection interviews
  • Orientation seminar in Washington, D.C., including speakers, activities, travel, and accommodation
  • Program-related transportation between U.S./U.K./Germany and Russia
  • Pre-departure and Russia-based language training
  • Moscow Seminar Program, including briefings and excursions
  • Monthly stipend during the program in Russia
  • All program-related travel within Russia
  • Accommodation in Moscow
  • Limited international health, accident, and liability insurance during the program in Russia

Program Year

Selection Interviews:

Interviews for candidates typically took place in New York City and London between late January and mid-February.

Following is the timeline for a typical program year.

U.S./U.K./Germany-Based Language Training
March – June

  • Customized one-on-one Russian language lessons with a qualified tutor in the fellow’s geographical area. This training did not require fellows to relocate and was meant to be completed in conjunction with finishing an academic degree or working.

Washington, D.C., Orientation Seminar
Late April or early May (3 days)

  • Program information and logistics
  • Intercultural training and preparation
  • Current events and contemporary political and economic topics

Russia-Based Language Training
Mid-June – September

  • Small-group classes at a Russian language school in Moscow

Moscow Seminar Program and Lectures
July – September

  • Politics and economics in Russia, including recent developments
  • Russian foreign policy
  • Law and public policy
  • Social and cultural affairs of Russia and Eurasia
  • U.S.-Russian, U.K.-Russian, and German-Russian relations
  • Cultural events and excursions in Moscow and surrounding regions

Regional Trips
July, September, December, April

  • Opportunity to visit three other cities in Russia (July, September, April) and another country in the region (December)
  • Meetings with local officials, businesses, and other organizations
  • Excursions to sites of historical and cultural significance

Professional Assignment
October – April

  • Professional experience at a leading organization in business, economics, journalism, law, public policy, arts/cultural management among other fields

Final Evaluation/Exit Interview
April

  • Final review, including an exit interview, individual research and findings, and evaluation of the Alfa Fellowship Program experience

Inside the Fellowship Experience

Placements

From 2004 – 2022, participants on the Alfa Fellowship Program gained professional experience in a wide variety of placements at over 120 leading companies and organizations in Russia. Together with the Fund for International Fellowships and Cultural Dialogue, fellows played an active role in identifying appropriate placements in organizations that fit their professional backgrounds and goals while on the program.

Testimonials

Alfa Alumnus Tom Callahan headshot

 

I overall truly valued the experience of participating on this programme and feel I have received a huge amount from it, both personally and professionally. Not only am I now a confident Russian speaker with a varied C.V. and valuable work experience, but I have also made some lifelong friends, as well as having had the experience to travel around Russia and its surrounding regions, resulting in some truly unforgettable memories.

Kamila Kocialkowska
U.K. Alfa Fellow 2019-2020
Host Company: The Moscow Times
Field: Arts & Culture

Alfa Fellowship Program Alumna Bianca

 

It was an unforgettable experience to be part of the Alfa Fellowship program. The program helped me to increase my Russian skills up to a professional level, facilitated networking and supported me in building up my professional focus. The flexibility of the program in choice of the work placement, contacts available through the Alfa Fellowship Program and the possibility to combine work placements accelerated my professional development.

Bianca Creutz
German Alfa Fellow 2018-2019
Host Company: KB Strelka
Field: Urban Planning

 

Alfa Fellowship Program

The Program has been a singular and unquestionably beneficial experience for me personally, especially with respect to my legal career. I have advanced professionally and deepened my social contacts in Russia while making what I hope to be long-term friends in the form of Fellowship classmates.

Thomas Callahan
U.S. Alfa Fellow 2016-2017
Host Company: Dentons Europe AO

 

Alfa Fellowship Program Alumna Karin Riechenberg

 

The overall experience of the Alfa Fellowship Program is incomparable. The year provided me with a rich insight into Russia on a professional, cultural and personal level. It broadened my perspective, taught me new skills, opened career opportunities and connected me with highly inspirational and accomplished people. Not least, it helped me forge some great friendships that I hope will last well past the program.

Karin Riechenberg
German Alfa Fellow 2015-2016
Host Company: Deloitte

 

Alfa Fellowship Alumni Association (AFAA)

The Alfa Fellowship Alumni Association (AFAA) is a non-profit and non-partisan organization that represents the community of Alfa Fellowship Program alumni. The AFAA was established in 2008 and now consists of over 200 members. It works to ensure program alumni remain connected with one another and with Russian affairs.

The AFAA is governed by a Board of Directors directly elected by Alfa Fellowship Program alumni.


Informationen auf Deutsch

Das Alfa Fellowship Programm ist eine hochrangige internationale Förderinitiative, die jährlich bis zu 18 deutschen, amerikanischen und britischen Teilnehmenden Expertenwissen und internationale Berufserfahrung in führenden Organisationen und Unternehmen in Russland vermittelt. Das Programm beinhaltet Russisch-Intensivkurse, einschließlich Privatunterricht in Wohnortnähe vor dem Aufenthalt in Moskau, hochkarätige Seminarreihen mit Schlüsselfiguren des öffentlichen und privaten Sektors zu aktuellen Russlandthemen sowie Hospitanzen bei renommierten Institutionen und Unternehmen. Zusätzlich zu einem monatlichen Stipendium übernimmt das Fellowship alle Reisekosten sowie die Kosten für die Sprachkurse in Russland, Privatunterricht in den Herkunftsländern und Unterkunft in Moskau. Die Ziele des Programms sind die Erweiterung von Netzwerken amerikanischer, britischer und deutscher Berufstätiger, der Erwerb von Expertenwissen, die Vertiefung interkultureller Kompetenzen und ein besseres Verständnis der Beziehungen zu Russland.

Über das Programm

Das Alfa Fellowship Programm wurde 2004 mit dem Ziel ins Leben gerufen, ein Expertennetzwerk engagierter künftiger Führungskräfte mit ausgeprägtem Interesse an Russland sowie Berufserfahrung in den Bereichen Business, Politikgestaltung und Kultur zu fördern. Seit der Gründung des Programmes haben mehr als 200 amerikanische, britische und deutsche Teilnehmende die Möglichkeit wahrgenommen, durch das Alfa Fellowship Programm in Russland zu leben, zu reisen und dabei Praxiskenntnisse und interkulturelle Kompetenzen zu erweitern.

Das Programm wird von der Alfa-Bank finanziert. Es wird in Deutschland, Großbritannien und den USA durch Cultural Vistas verwaltet und in Moskau durch den Fund for International Fellowships and Cultural Dialogue.

Teilnehmerprofil

  • Alfa Fellows haben ausgeprägtes Interesse an russischen und europäischen/eurasischen Angelegenheiten
  • Sie verfügen über ausgezeichnete akademische und professionelle Referenzen, haben persönliches Engagement gezeigt und verfolgen klare Ziele und Erwartungen, was Ihren beruflichen Werdegang angeht
  • Alfa Fellows haben bereits einen akademischen Abschluss erworben und stehen am Anfang oder in der Mitte einer beruflichen Laufbahn in Bereichen wie Wirtschaft, Jura, Medien, Politik, Kunst- und Kulturmanagement, oder weitere Feldern
  • Fellows zeigen Führungsqualitäten und können aktives Engagement, beispielsweise in Ehrenämtern, nachweisen
  • Sie wissen um den Wert eines internationalen Netzwerks unterschiedlicher Zusammensetzung mit einem gemeinsamen Interesse an Russland und der Region
  • Fellows hatten in den meisten Fällen bereits mindestens zwei Jahre Russischuntericht, das Sprachlevel kann jedoch variieren.
  • Unbedingt erforderlich sind sehr gute Englischkenntnisse

Teilnahmevoraussetzungen

  • Berufstätige am Anfang oder in der Mitte ihrer beruflichen Laufbahn aus den USA, Großbritannien oder Deutschland*
  • Bachelor-Abschluss und fundierte Berufserfahrung im Zusammenhang mit dem gewünschten Aufgabenbereich
  • Dezidiertes Interesse an Russland und der Region sowie klare Karriereziele
  • Die Bereitschaft an einer aktiven Mitwirkung in einem internationalen Netzwerk
  • Kenntnisse einer zweiten Fremdsprache, idealerweise Russisch
  • Fließende Sprachkenntnisse in Englisch, der gemeinsamen Sprache des Programms

*Russische Staatsangehörige können, auch bei doppelter Staatsbürgerschaft, leider nicht berücksichtigt werden.

Erwünschte weitere Qualifikationen

  • Höherer akademischer Abschluss mit Bezug zum angestrebten Betätigungsfeld
  • Hervorragende berufliche und akademische Leistungen
  • Aktives Engagement, beispielsweise durch Ehrenämter oder gemeinnützige Tätigkeiten
  • Führungspotenzial
  • Russischkenntnisse sind von Vorteil, werden zum Zeitpunkt der Bewerbung jedoch nicht zwingend vorausgesetzt.

Das Alfa Fellowship Program ist ein karriereorientiertes Programm, in dessen Mittelpunkt der berufliche und interkulturelle Auftrag in Russland steht. Wissenschaftliche oder individuelle Forschung kann nicht gefördert werden.


 

Frequently Asked Questions

What does the Alfa Fellowship Program provide?

The Program provides:

  • private language training prior to the program start in Russian
  • orientation seminar in Washington, D.C. including, speakers, networking opportunities, and excursions
  • Russia-based group language training; Moscow Seminar Program including, meetings and excursions; a monthly stipend during the program in Russia
  • accommodation in Moscow
  • limited international travel medical and liability insurance during the program in Russia
  • all program-related travel expenses during the program

Why is Alfa-Bank sponsoring the Alfa Fellowship Program?

By sponsoring the Alfa Fellowship Program, Alfa-Bank is demonstrating its commitment to improving ties between Russia and American, British, and German professionals. The goals of the Alfa Fellowship Program are to expand networks of American, British, and German professionals with experience in Russia, to develop greater intercultural understanding and to advance knowledge of Russia in the West.

Will the Alfa Fellowship Program sponsor academic research in Russia?

No, the Alfa Fellowship Program is not an academic program. It is designed to benefit participants by providing an opportunity for fellows and host institutions to exchange knowledge, expertise, and best practices.

What are the citizenship requirements for the Alfa Fellowship Program?

Candidates for the fellowship must be from the United States, United Kingdom, or Germany.

What are the language requirements for the Alfa Fellowship Program?

Because fellows come into the program with varying levels of Russian, the common language of the program is English. As such, English at a high level of proficiency is required for all fellows.

The program’s language training program is robust. But Russian is a challenging language. Having experience studying another foreign language will help fellows who have not studied the language.

What kind of candidates is the Alfa Fellowship Program looking for?

Candidates should have a degree in business, economics, journalism, law, public policy, arts/cultural management, or another field. Additionally, candidates should have relevant professional experience in their respective fields.

Candidates must show outstanding academic and professional credentials, demonstrate genuine professional interest in Russia and the region, and actively participate in their communities. A graduate degree in business, economics, journalism, law, public policy, arts/cultural management, or another field is preferred, though not required.

Candidates are expected to demonstrate how participating in the Alfa Fellowship Program and spending a year in Russia is relevant to their career goals and what skills they would be able to contribute to their host institution.

How competitive is the Alfa Fellowship Program?

The Alfa Fellowship Program is very competitive, similar to being accepted at a top university.

The Selection Committee considers candidates’ full profiles including their unique experiences, specific goals and interests related to Russia, and enthusiasm for new and exciting opportunities through the Program.

In their applications, candidates should convince the Selection Committee why they should be in the Alfa Fellowship Program, how they expect it to benefit their career growth, and what they would hope to contribute to relations with Russia and the fellowship network through their participation.

 

What do I need to submit in order to apply for the Alfa Fellowship Program?

Please visit this section for information on required documents for the application.

What should the personal statement include?

Very specific information on the applicant’s background, experience, career aspirations, and interest in/connection to Russia and the region. The personal statement should include anticipated benefits of participation in the Program for both the applicant and host institution(s). It must also include specific, realistic proposals for institutions that the applicant believes to be appropriate for their professional assignment.

For a list of past fellows’ professional assignments, please see the Inside the Fellowship Experience section. Please note that although the personal statement must contain proposals for specific organizations, it is not required to include institutions from this list.

What should be the length and format of the personal statement?

Personal statements must be in English and no more than two typed pages in length. There are no requirements for font size, margins, or spacing as long as the personal statement includes all the necessary information, as outlined above. We recommend saving the personal statement as a PDF file in order to avoid formatting issues.

Who should write the letters of recommendation?

The letters of recommendation should be from individuals who can attest to the applicant’s professional qualifications, such as a current or former supervisor, and who have worked closely with the candidate in the recent past.

If an applicant is currently a student or a recent graduate, one letter may be from either a professor or a professional contact.

All other applicants must submit two professional letters of recommendation. Please note, the letters of recommendation should not be character references, from friends, or peer reviews. Letters of recommendation must be in English.

Can my Russian language instructor submit a letter of recommendation for my application?

Because the Alfa Fellowship Program is a professional development opportunity, it is not recommended to request letters of recommendation from teachers of Russian. Ideally, two professional letters of recommendation are submitted for a candidate’s application. However, for applicants currently in graduate school or recently graduated, the second letter of recommendation may be from a professor, ideally from the applicant’s field of expertise.

Is there a recommendation form or specific format for letters of recommendation?

There is no recommendation form or specific format. However, the letter must be digitally or hand-signed by the recommender and on letterhead. We recommend that the letter be addressed to the Alfa Fellowship Program Selection Committee.

How should letters of recommendation and transcripts be submitted?

Letters of recommendation must be sent directly by your recommenders with your name in the subject line to: alfa@culturalvistas.org

Transcripts should be submitted through the online application system. In instances where transcripts are sent directly from a university registrar, they may be emailed to: alfa@culturalvistas.org.

Following the deadline, applicants will receive notification of the status of their application (complete/incomplete and information on what is missing).

Can transcripts and/or letters of recommendation be sent by post directly to Cultural Vistas?

No, at this time, we are not accepting hard copies of documents.

Can more than two letters of recommendation be included in an application?

No more than two letters of recommendation will be used for consideration of a candidate’s application.

Does the application form need to be completed even if some of the information is in my resume?

Yes, in order to be considered for the Alfa Fellowship Program, all application materials must be completed. Including “please see resume” or something similar on the application form does not suffice.

When are the decisions made on finalists for the Alfa Fellowship Program?

A pre-selection is conducted following the December 1 application deadline. Notifications will be sent to all applicants several weeks later, and finalists will be invited to interview with the Selection Committee at that time.

Who are the Selection Committee members?

The Selection Committee is comprised of the Alfa Fellowship Program management, alumni, and other individuals with regional expertise.

In addition, a Russian language instructor conducts a language assessment for finalists as part of the selection interview process.

How is the professional assignment arranged?

The professional assignment is arranged with assistance from the Fund for International Fellowships and Cultural Dialogue, which administers the Alfa Fellowship Program in Russia.

Candidates are required to propose companies/organizations in their application statement where they feel a work placement would be mutually beneficial to them and their host. These proposals are carefully considered during the placement process. While the Program cannot guarantee assignments at the candidates’ organization(s) of choice, the proposals assist the fellow and the Fund for International Fellowships and Cultural Dialogue in determining potential work placements.

The best possible assignments will be arranged by each fellow on an individual basis considering the fellow’s background, experience, and the overall goals of the Alfa Fellowship Program. Fellows play an active role in identifying appropriate institutions together with the Fund for International Fellowships and Cultural Dialogue.

Should I contact potential host companies or reach out to my own contacts in Russia during the application process?

We strongly recommend that applicants not contact companies until after they have been formally accepted to the program. Placements are normally arranged in the summer, after the fellows arrive in Russia.

Does the Alfa Fellowship Program cover health insurance or other types of insurance?

The Program provides limited travel medical and liability insurance for fellows during the program in Russia.

Fellows’ spouses or children may be covered by the same insurance provider at the expense of the fellow. Any supplemental insurance is the responsibility of the fellow.

Is my fellowship stipend considered taxable income in my home country?

Fellows may be liable for national, state, and/or local taxes on their stipends depending on their place of permanent residence. It is the responsibility of fellows to familiarize themselves with applicable tax regulations pertaining to the receipt of a stipend while living abroad.

 

Why can’t the Alfa Fellowship Program consider candidates from countries other than the United States, United Kingdom, or Germany?

The Alfa Fellowship Program is a private initiative to build relationships between Russia and these countries. It has representatives in the U.S., U.K., and Germany. It can only provide visa support in these three countries.

In addition, the Program maintains relationships with the U.S., U.K., and German embassies in Russia. Russian citizens who are also citizens of any of these three countries are ineligible to apply for the fellowship because they would not receive assistance from these embassies in Russia.

Are Russian language skills required to be eligible for the Program?

While Russian language experience is preferred, it is not required at the time of application.

Applicants who do not speak Russian or have not previously studied the language will need to demonstrate a professional connection to Russia and how they could be successful in the program with limited language skills.

Please note: If an applicant has studied Russian, they must submit a writing sample in Russian.