My friend and mentor Rob Jensky a.k.a. the Director of Language Link has asked me to write a testimonial about my time in Russia as a teacher at Language Link. I worked for Language Link for almost 4 years and it was a pretty major period of my life, so excuse me if I go astray.
I was tending bar in Cheyenne, Wyoming on Thanksgiving 2000 and some guy asked if I wanted a job teaching English in China. I was 24 years old with a few years to kill before law school. The guy was serious and two weeks later I was walking down the corridor of Harbin Commercial College on my way to a class freaking out. Hungover, no training, no guidance not even a textbook. This sums up my teaching in China. After a year, I wasn't a teacher. I really wanted to go to Russia for probably the same reasons that you want to go to Russia. I applied for a year at a University in Russia to study Russian and as a back-up plan applied for a job at Language Link.
Both the University and Language Link said they would have a visa waiting for me at the Russian embassy in Beijing. When I arrived, only Language Link's visa was ready. This was always true: When Language Link said they would get something done or arranged--it was always done and arranged. In the TEFL world in general and Russia in particular--this is a rare and wonderful thing and the back office staff at Language Link should know that.
So I took the Language Link job. I did my first 6 months in a Moscow suburb Dolgoprudny which I really liked. The locals were wonderful and took care of me. They taught me to smile when happy, treat life as a serious thing and that just because you can do something, doesn't mean that you should. I worked there for 6 months and one day realized that I was an English teacher. After a year in China teaching I was not a teacher. I was a fraud who could stand in front of people and pose as a teacher, but I wasn't a teacher and my students knew it. Language Link turned me into a teacher.
One day the Director of Language Link asked me if I would like to teach interesting people in an interesting place. I got really excited because at that time Language Link did summer camp language schools in places like Malta and Turkey. I didn't get to go to Malta or Turkey. Instead, I went through an interview or two with functionaries who had me picked up in fancy cars, and then had an interview with a pleasant middle aged guy and his wife who said that I would do and they would see me at the villa next week at 11 am. It turned out that the pleasant guy was Boris Yeltsin's former Chief of Staff and one of the architects of post soviet Russia and the lady was his wife and Boris Yeltsin's daughter Tatiana, and that the villa was on the French Riviera. So I spent that summer and the next in a posh hotel on the French Riviera, which I highly recommend everyone to do at least once.
I then worked and lived in Moscow for several years. Lots of life was lived in those years. Plenty of adventures involving fast cars, beautiful women, yachts, private jets, and even a burst appendix. I once woke up in a Siberian Jail, with my 500 dollars travelling money given back to me with my passport by a big burly cop who gave me a lift back to my hostel. Perhaps best of all was the colleagues and staff at Language Link! Just an incredibly talented crew. Good times. In the end Rob reminded me that "I was in danger of having a great future behind me." and that it was time to move on. Rob was concerned about me, as he is about all his teachers. That, and the fact that the lady who was then my immediate boss and who is now my wife, (not much has changed) encouraged me to get on with my plan of going to law school. Rob wrote me a great letter of recommendation for law school, and I’m happy to write him a testimonial about a great school. So here it is.