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.

Health Insurance
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.