Frequently Asked Questions

When is the application deadline?

The application deadline for the 2017-2018 program year has passed. The deadline to apply for the 2018-2019 program year will be on December 1, 2017, and the online application will open in the summer of 2017. The online application and all supporting materials, including transcripts and letters of recommendation, must be received by the December 1 deadline. Late or incomplete applications will not be considered.

When and where do interviews take place?

Generally, interviews for candidates based in the U.S. take place in late January or early February in NYC, and interviews for candidates based in Europe take place in early or mid-February in London. However, please be sure to check back in the fall of 2017 for updated details regarding the timing and locations for the 2018 interviews.

Is it possible to reschedule the interview or complete it via phone or Skype?

No, the interview dates are set in advance and cannot be changed. If invited to interview, candidates are required to travel to New York (U.S. applicants) or London (European applicants) and interview in person.

What is the duration and timeline of the Alfa Fellowship Program?

March through mid-June

U.S.-, U.K.-, or Germany-based language training. (Fellows work with a local tutor. This training does not require fellows to relocate and is specifically designed to allow fellows to continue working and/or finish an academic degree.)

Late-April or early May

Orientation Seminar in Washington, D.C. for all Fellows (3 days)

Mid-June through September

Moscow-Based Language Training

July through September

Moscow Seminar Program and Lectures at the Higher School of Economics

October through April

Fellowship Professional Assignments

July, September, December, April

Regional Trips - opportunity to visit three other Russian cities (July, September, April), and another country in the region (December)

April

Final Evaluation/Exit Interview

What does the Alfa Fellowship Program provide?

Program provisions include: selection interviews, including round-trip transportation and accommodation as needed; language training in the U.S., U.K., or Germany prior to the program start in Russia; orientation seminar in Washington, D.C., including speakers, activities, and travel and accommodation as needed; Russia-based language training; Moscow Seminar Program, including meetings, assignment planning, and excursions; a monthly stipend during the program in Russia; free housing in Russia; limited international health, accident, and liability insurance during the program in Russia; and all program-related travel expenses.

Why is Alfa-Bank sponsoring the Alfa Fellowship Program?

The key goals of the Alfa Fellowship Program are expanding networks of American, British, and German professionals in Russia, developing greater intercultural understanding and advancing knowledge of Russia in the West. By sponsoring the Alfa Fellowship Program, Alfa-Bank is demonstrating its commitment to fostering a new generation of American, British, and German leaders with the expertise that is required for greater understanding and the sustainable improvement of important ties between the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and Russia.

Will the Alfa Fellowship Program sponsor academic research in Russia?

No, the Alfa Fellowship Program is designed to benefit participants by giving them hands-on work experience in enterprises and organizations in Russia. The Alfa Fellowship Program is also meant to benefit the host institutions by bringing in the knowledge, expertise, and best practices of its participants.

What are the citizenship requirements for the Alfa Fellowship Program?

Candidates must be U.S., U.K., or German citizens. Permanent residents and citizens of countries other than the United States, United Kingdom, or Germany are not eligible for the Alfa Fellowship Program. Russian citizens are ineligible to apply, including individuals who are also citizens of the United States, United Kingdom, or Germany.

Candidates who are citizens of U.S., U.K., or Germany but do not reside in one of these countries are eligible to apply.

What are the age requirements for the Alfa Fellowship Program?

Applicants should be between the ages of 25 and 35. Candidates one to two years under the minimum or over the maximum age limit will still be considered, but the Alfa Fellowship Program is focused on serving early- to mid-career professionals who will become leaders in their fields. The average age of those selected for the program is approximately 29 years old.

What are the language requirements for the Alfa Fellowship Program?

Russian language experience is preferred, however not required, at the time of application. If an applicant does not speak Russian, he/she will need to demonstrate in the personal statement a professional connection to Russia and how he/she could be successful on the program with limited language skills.

Additionally, the applicant must be proficient in another second language to qualify for the program.* Where the Russian writing sample is required in the application, applicants who do not speak Russian should upload a statement in English detailing other languages in which they are proficient and when and where those language skills were acquired. Statements in languages other than English or Russian will not be reviewed.

*German candidates must be proficient in English to be considered for the program, regardless of their Russian proficiency. Should a German candidate not be proficient in Russian, English suffices as the second language.

Please note: if an applicant has studied Russian for any length of time and at any level, he/she must submit a writing sample in Russian.

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

Candidates should ideally have a graduate degree in business, economics, journalism, law, public policy, or a related field. In addition, candidates should have at least two years of 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. Candidates without graduate degrees must demonstrate extensive and equivalent professional experience in their field, approximately six years, in order to qualify for the Alfa Fellowship Program.

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

What constitutes work experience under the two-year requirement?

Part-time, temporary, and internship positions all count towards the 2-year requirement, as well as regular full-time work, as long as they are directly related to the applicant’s professional field and their desired field for the Fellowship year.

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 will consider candidates’ full profiles. Unique experiences, specific goals and interests related to Russia, and enthusiasm for new and exciting opportunities are as important as good grades and extensive professional backgrounds. Candidates should, in their application, try to convince the Selection Committee why they should be on the Alfa Fellowship Program, how they expect it to benefit their career growth, and what they have to offer through their participation.

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

Completed online application form, resume, official transcripts, a personal statement (two pages maximum), two letters of recommendation (at least one from relevant professional experience), and a language statement. For applicants with Russian language knowledge, the language statement should be a Russian writing sample (one page maximum) on a topic of their choice, regardless of their level of Russian. For applicants without prior Russian training, the language statement should be in English and should detail other languages in which they are proficient, as well as when and where those languages were acquired.

Official graduate transcripts are required for all applicants with a graduate degree completed or in progress. Applicants without a graduate degree completed or in progress must submit official undergraduate transcripts. Please see the Application Process page for additional instructions regarding transcripts and other required documents.

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 Alfa Fellowship Program for both the applicant and host institutions. It must also include specific, realistic proposals for institutions that the applicant believes to be appropriate for his/her professional assignment.

For a complete list of past Fellows’ professional assignments, please visit this page. 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 be 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 do recommend saving the personal statement as a PDF file in order to avoid formatting issues.

Who should write the letters of recommendation?

Anyone who has worked closely with the candidate in the recent past. At least one letter of recommendation should be from someone who can attest to the applicant's professional qualifications, such as a current or former supervisor. The second letter may be from either a professor or someone else in the applicant’s professional background. Letters of reference should not be character references, from friends, or peer reviews. Please note that letters of recommendation must be in English.

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

Since the Alfa Fellowship Program is a professional development opportunity, it is not recommended to request letters of reference 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 those who recently graduated, the second letter of recommendation may be from a professor, ideally in 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 hand-signed by the recommender and be on letterhead. We recommend that the letter be addressed to the Alfa Fellowship Program Selection Committee.

Will I need to wait for my letters of recommendation to be uploaded before submitting my application?

No, you are able to submit your application at any time before the deadline. If your recommenders have not yet submitted their letters at that time, they will have until December 1 to upload the documents. Following the deadline, you will receive a notification with the status of your application (complete/incomplete/what is missing).

Can letters of recommendation or transcripts be sent by fax or email?

No, recommendations must be submitted either via the online system by the recommender or sent in hard copy, sealed with an original signature. No photocopies or faxes will be accepted.

Graduate transcripts (undergraduate transcripts for applicants without graduate degrees completed or in progress) must also be submitted in hard copy and sealed with the university’s stamp. Official electronic transcripts sent directly from universities to alfa@culturalvistas.org will also be accepted.

Please note: if your degree is from a European university that does not issue official transcripts to third parties, a high-quality color scan of an official version will suffice. If possible, please request for this scan to be emailed to alfa@culturalvistas.org by your university registrar. If that is not possible, you can email it to us directly yourself.

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

Yes, any transcripts and/or letters of recommendation not already submitted via the online system should be sent directly to Cultural Vistas to the following address:

Cultural Vistas
Attn: Alfa Fellowship Program
440 Park Avenue South, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10016
U.S.A.

Any original documents mailed to Cultural Vistas can either be sent directly from the recommenders and/or university, or collected by the applicant in sealed, stamped, or signed envelopes and mailed together as one packet.

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.

Will you mail back any original materials I submit as part of my application?

No, we are unfortunately unable to return application documents.

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” 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. Please check back in early fall 2017 for updated information regarding the timing and location of the 2018 interviews. Fellows will be notified of their awards as soon as possible following the selection interviews.

Who are the Selection Committee members?

Generally, Americans, Britons, Germans, and Russians in the fields targeted by the Alfa Fellowship Program will be on the Selection Committee. In addition, a language assessment by a Russian language instructor will be conducted during the time of candidate selection interviews.

What are the pre-selection and selection criteria, and how are selections made?

The Selection Committee nominates interviewees and Fellows on a competitive basis. Nomination to the selection interviews and fellowship program are made at the discretion of the Selection Committee. All decisions regarding selections are final.

How is the professional assignment arranged?

The professional assignment will be arranged in Russia with assistance from the Fund for International Fellowships and Cultural Dialogue, which is partnered with Cultural Vistas to administer the Alfa Fellowship Program. Candidates are required to propose organizations in their application statement where they feel it would be beneficial to work. These proposals are carefully considered during the placement process; however, the Alfa Fellowship Program cannot guarantee assignments at the candidates’ organizations of choice.

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.

May I work at another job during the Alfa Fellowship Program?

Fellows will work full-time at their professional assignments and will not be permitted to take another job in Russia. If Fellows are taking a leave of absence from their current job in order to participate on the Alfa Fellowship Program, a limited exception may be made requiring the approval of the Alfa Fellowship Program administration on a case-by-case basis.

May I bring my spouse and/or child? Can my spouse work in Russia while I am on the Alfa Fellowship Program?

Spouses and children may accompany Fellows to Russia. Spouses may also accept an offer of employment in Russia. The Alfa Fellowship Program will not sponsor a spouse’s legal work status in Russia, and Fellows must inform the Program administration of any paid work their spouses are undertaking during the Program in Russia.

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

The Alfa Fellowship Program will provide limited international health, accident, 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.

Is my Fellowship stipend considered taxable income?

Fellows will not be liable for taxes in Russia. U.S. Fellows may, however, be liable for U.S. income and other state and local taxes on their stipends depending on their place of permanent residence. It is the responsibility of Fellows to be familiar with all applicable U.S. federal and state income tax laws that apply to foreign earned income.

U.K. and German Fellows should also take responsibility for both familiarizing themselves and complying with British and German tax law. Fellows should contact the U.K. or German Tax Office for assistance.