This is for the curious, the hesitant, the worried, and the excited. You will understandably have questions about your choice of Language Link, Moscow having chosen it from the confusing plethora of countries and companies. I arrived in this pulsing, bewildering city with no friends, no idea of the Russian language and only a few remnants of the TEFL course lurking in my brain only to experience a fantastic nine months and I'll give you an honest account of why this was so.
You work hard. But, as the old adage goes, what you put in, you get out. Energy, preparation, creativity and enthusiasm are rewarded ten-fold by a wonderful sense of satisfaction. For example, I've taken two classes of students from "Hello, my name is…" and miming Charlie Chaplin would have been proud of to fascinating discussions on Russian life and politics. I've had feasts at student's homes and been showered with gifts like books and caviar. This is by no means exceptional.
Classes are comprised of seven to twelve students, who are carefully divided into precise levels by Language Link. The majority of us teach general English to adults, however the variety of teaching children, one to one students and business people is available. I've found all forms to be equally rewarding in their own way, from successfully 'pulling off' a business role play, to cozy one to one chats to manic animal impressions with eight year olds.
I imagined that I'd be teaching from one battered 1970's coursebook shared with ten other teachers, but we are equipped with modern textbooks like the Headway series, English Files, or FCE Gold. The resource center is enormous, organized and thorough, a sturdy crutch when you're feeling hung-over and positively uninspirational on dreadful Monday mornings. After nine months I still don't feel like I've read or used half of what is there. We also have our own computer with e-mail, a photocopier and a kitchen, etc. These facilities really do make working in the office a pleasure. There's also a great sense of camaraderie; if you're tangled somewhere in the web of the past perfect continuous then it's guaranteed that either the DOS or other teachers will be only too willing to help you. Many of us teach the same levels so there's a healthy cross-fertilization of ideas and each level is represented by a resource file which is extremely helpful.
Russian students are keen, lively and have an excellent sense of humor. As this was my first teaching job it's difficult to compare them with other nationalities, however I've found them challenging and fun to teach. They plunge into role plays with gusto, but be warned, they're terrible cheats during tests and don't have a predilection for doing homework! As I mentioned earlier they're endearingly generous and hospitable and can be emotional. They're warm people and you'll have many laughs in class.
Moscow is an expensive city and you can only expect to possess the lifestyle of an ex-pat director if you are one! The Language Link salary has never hindered me from having a good time at any point and is particularly generous if you consider that Language Link covers accommodation, bills, travel, four weeks paid holiday and your visa costs. To give you an example, with my salary, (and I'm not a saver by nature), I've visited St. Petersburg twice, traveled and stayed on the Black Sea, enjoyed a River Cruise and been to the Bolshoi Theatre several times.
You can choose to live alone or with another teacher and of course there are advantages either way. Our flat is twenty minutes by metro to work and is actually better equipped than my previous one in Brighton. We have a microwave, phone, TV and all other mod cons. But, washing machines seem to be a rarity in Moscow (except for the super-rich) and you'll soon become used to stamping on your jeans in a bath of soapy suds.
Life in Moscow is never stagnant; there are layers and layers to be discovered. Muscovites say that it is a city without limits and you have to make your own. This is true, there's an electric atmosphere of continual change and the stark contrast between rich and poor can be upsetting. It can be a brutal place with militia prowling sternly and all forms of strays struggling to live. Yet, under the chaotic flow of surface life lies a magical, magnetic city of secrets. I sound evasive but Moscow is evasive and ambiguous, you will find what you love and what suits you.
The harsh climate seems to create two different cultures. Come winter the furs emerge almost exotically and snow falls in unbelievably large clusters. I enjoyed Ballet, ice-skating in Gorky Park and Vodka parties. Summer is hotter than Britain's attempt, with shashlik parties in the forest and a noticeably emptier city as Muscovites head off in droves to their dachas. The streets are still and dusty and the pace of life slackens. It's the time for discovering parks, side streets and domed churches.
Moscow offers all a city should, and more and Language Link enables you to appreciate it fully. If you come here with an open mind, enthusiasm and an interest in people then I guarantee that you'll have one of the best years of your life. I did.
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