Centre Profile: Zelenograd
We spent five months with Language Link, from February until July 2001 at the Zelenograd site not far from Moscow.
We were surprised how quickly and efficiently all the necessary documents were ready for us to leave to work in Russia. The next pleasant surprise was waiting for us at the airport, two administrators from the Zelenograd site with a car. And then, on the way to our one-room apartment (which was in a month replaced by two-room large and comfortable one) we went to one of two school buildings, where we were given our teaching schedules and textbooks. The next day, our DOS, John Bennett, explained all the necessary academic issues over dinner at his flat, so we felt home right from the beginning.
Besides the fact that most classes at Language Link were of mixed age levels (from 12 to 50), students in general were motivated. Having our own classrooms gave us time to relax during breaks, drink coffee or tea provided by the school or just prepare for the next class if one of the students wasn't too eager to learn.
During our free time the Russian school administrators organized excursions to famous Russian towns or just invited us to their homes for tea, to the forest for "shashlik" (BBQ) or just "guljatsja" (going for walks in Zelenograd's lovely forests was a common activity of our students). The frequent state holidays and a two-week paid school holiday provided enough time to travel and explore Russia on our own, too. (The Black Sea and St. Petersburg are both well worth the effort.)
We must admit being a little disappointed originally that we were not going to be living in Moscow. We had never heard of Zelenograd and realized that it lacked the obvious tourist charm of Moscow. But very quickly, we decided that we were better off where we were. The people are friendlier, the air is cleaner and life is a few paces slower there, which suited us fine. Moscow, an hour or so away, is fun to visit, but Zelenograd was more "homey".
Of course, life in Russia is not always easy. Cultural and linguistic barriers are real and felt every day. Living in Russia is certainly a challenge, one that requires a sense of adventure and patience. (Some knowledge of Russian is a big plus, too!) Moments would arrive when we wanted to be anywhere but Russia. But, for the most part, these moments were relatively few and our experience was overwhelmingly a positive one. In our experience, going as a couple made the experience more rewarding and brought us closer together. (We were married this summer.) We hope that we will be able to return to visit Moscow and our friends in Zelenograd before too long.
Thanks to Language Link for giving us this rich, unforgettable experience.
Andrea (nee Pastierova) and Perry Cammack