Section 1: About the Volunteer Programme
[Am I eligible to apply for the Volunteer Programme?]
[Which cities can I volunteer in?]
[How many vacancies are available?]
[How many different volunteer options can I combine?]
[What training or qualifications will I receive?]
[How long is the programme?]
[What free time and holidays will I have?]
[Is there a contract for Volunteers?]
[How and when can I apply?]
[What stipends and bonuses are available?]
[What are the rewards of volunteering at Language Link?]
Section 2: About Life in Russia
[What's the cost of living like in Russia?]
[What help will I be given to adjust to Russian life and language?]
[What's the social life like at Language Link?]
[What are Language Link's schools and facilities like?]
[Can you tell me more about Moscow, St Petersburg, Volgograd and Samara?]
[Is it safe to live in Russia?]
[Just how cold does it actually get in Russia?]
[What will my accommodation be like?]
[What will it be like arriving in Russia?]
Section 1: About the Volunteer Programme
Q: Am I eligible to apply for the Volunteer Programme?
A: Language Link is happy to accept applications from all enthusiastic and energetic volunteers between the ages of 18 and 80. However, your participation depends on Language Link's ability to issue you with a visa invitation. We are able to offer visa support to citizens of the UK, the USA, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and most Western European countries. If your nationality doesn't figure in this short list, you may not be eligible, or be eligible only for the shorter programmes (6 - 12 weeks). If you're asking "Why is this so?" the answer is that companies with permission to invite and employ foreigners are usually limited to a given number of countries from which they may do so.
To volunteer as an EFL teaching assistant, you must be British, American, Irish, Canadian, Australian or a New Zealander. Native speakers of French, German or Italian from Western European countries can apply to be a teaching assistant for their own language.
Volunteers for the IT specialist and Translator/Proof-reader positions must give evidence that they have the skills necessary to work in those fields.
Q: Which cities can I volunteer in?
A: You may volunteer at Language Link's centres in Moscow, St Petersburg, Volgograd or Samara, or split your programme between 2 of those cities. However, the range of Volunteer opportunities in St Petersburg and Volgograd is more limited than in Moscow, and only Moscow-based programmes are possible during the summer months.
For further information on the above cities and the Language Link Centres operating there, please visit: http://www.russian.language.ru/location.htm and http://www.jobs.languagelink.ru/jobs/locations/.
Q: How many vacancies are available?
A: We have places for one or two volunteers per semester in each location.
Q: How many different volunteer options can I combine?
A: You may combine up to 3 of the volunteer options listed on the website. Certain options are only available in Moscow.
Q: What training or qualifications will I receive?
A: Volunteer teaching assistants attend a mini-training programme on arrival to develop the skills they need in the classroom. On the recommendation of their supervisor they may also undergo further training, and thereby become eligible for 'promotion' to Teacher-Intern. Successful completion of a teaching internship is rewarded with a Language Link TEFL certificate.
For all other programme options, Volunteers are given initial hands-on training by their supervisors, and continual support throughout their stay. All volunteers receive a certificate and references from their supervisors on completion of the programme.
Q: How long is the programme?
A: The standard Volunteer programme is 6, 12, 24 or 36 weeks. We are also able to offer alternative programme lengths, but the minimum is 6 weeks. Contact us for more information.
Q: What free time and holidays will I have?
A: There are no holidays 'built in' to the programme, but provided you give your supervisors sufficient notice, it is possible to take occasional breaks of up to 2 weeks at a time (no more than one break in any 2-month period).
Time missed due to breaks taken is not refunded. Language Link's schools also close for Russian public holidays and official school holiday periods, so Volunteers will not be asked to work on those dates (generally the first week of January, 23rd February, 8th March, the first week of May, 12th June, 4th November).
Q: Is there a contract for Volunteers?
A: If you are accepted onto the programme you will be asked to sign a volunteer agreement, which sets down the ground rules for volunteering at Language Link. This agreement does not set in stone the number of hours you must work. Instead, you discuss with the programme coordinators how many hours you want to contribute prior to your arrival (usually from 15 to 30 hours per week).
Upon arrival, your supervisor will work out a timetable for the hours that you have set aside for volunteering. This is likely to be a flexible arrangement - you may be asked to work more or less than originally planned.
Q: How and when can I apply?
A: To start the application process, you should submit an online application form at: http://www.jobs.languagelink.ru/jobs/application/. You can do this at any time, although it should be at least 3 months before you wish to arrive in Russia.
Once we receive your application, we will confirm whether or not you are eligible, and ask you to confirm that all the details on your application form are correct. We will then contact your nominated referees for recommendations, and meanwhile, if you are applying for the teaching assistant or translating options, we will ask you to complete a pre-interview task. Provided two favourable references are returned, and the pre-interview task(s) is completed satisfactorily (if applicable), we will invite you to a telephone interview, which will last ten to fifteen minutes, and will be paid for by Language Link. Following the interview you will be notified by email as to whether or not you have been accepted onto the programme.
The entire process as outlined above usually takes 4-8 weeks, depending upon volume of applications being processed at the time, and your promptness in fulfilling the various steps of the application procedure.
Q: What stipends and bonuses are available?
A: Volunteers participating in programmes of 24 weeks or longer are eligible to apply for housing assistance. This takes the form of a monthly stipend equivalent to free accommodation in a shared apartment.
To qualify, you must successfully complete 12 weeks of the programme, working a minimum of 30 hours per week and completing assignments set by your supervisors to a high standard. The housing assistance commences from the 13th week of the programme, on the condition that a space is available in one of Language Link's apartments.
Q: What are the rewards of volunteering at Language Link?
A: As a participant in the Language Link Volunteer programme, you will be given the opportunity to gain hands-on, practical experience in your chosen area(s). All volunteer work is undertaken under the guidance of experienced specialists, and on completion of your volunteer programme you will be awarded a certificate as evidence of the experience and skills you have acquired.
Employers usually view volunteering experience as a real asset, so this can be a great addition to your CV. You'll also be able to experience and immerse yourself in Russian culture. Living and working abroad can help you develop self-confidence, resourcefulness, resilience and communication skills, which are invaluable in any field.
Section 2: About Life in Russia
Q: What's the cost of living like in Russia?
A: We estimate that it costs $300-$400 per month to cover basic living costs in Russia, although this does depend on the lifestyle you chose to lead, how often you like to go out and whether you plan to make lots of trips and excursions. Day to day living costs in St Petersburg and Volgograd are lower than in Moscow, although provided you avoid ex-pat hang-outs in Moscow, the cost of living here is still a lot lower than in the West. The prices below should only be considered a rough guide (take the upper limits for Moscow and the lower limits for Volgograd, with St Petersburg somewhere in between):
- Eating, Drinking and Dining: Your weekly grocery bill should be around $50-75 per person (all prices are in USD). You can buy a fairly decent three-course meal out for about $20 per person. If you eat out at lunchtime during the week, you can get a three-course business lunch for around $7-10.
- Evening Entertainment: A ticket to an English-language cinema costs $10-15, or you can see films in Russian for slightly less. Theatre, opera and ballet tickets can cost as little as $6 but expect to pay $12-20 for decent seats. Entrance to museums and art galleries can cost anything from 50 cents to $10, depending on the place and what discounts you can get. Cover charges for nightclubs, if there is one, usually average at about $6-12.
- Transport: A monthly metro pass costs between $16 and $30. Bus, tram and trolleybus tickets cost 50 cents - $1 (for one journey, irrespective of length).
- Trips and Excursions: You can arrange day trips (e.g. to Golden Ring towns) for $10 - $20. Train travel in Russia is extremely good value (a ticket from Moscow-St Petersburg costs about $50). Outside Moscow and St Petersburg it is usually possible to arrange accommodation for $30-60 per night, although that may mean Soviet-style hotels where service and decor leave a lot to be desired.
- Clothes: It is worth buying winter items here (hat, scarf, big coat, fur-lined boots), as they are better value than in the West and are more suited to the Russian climate. However, other clothes tend to be poorer quality for higher prices, so we recommend you do your clothes shopping before you arrive.
Whichever accommodation option you choose (hostel, shared apartment or family home-stay), you will have no bills to worry about apart for telephone calls abroad (for these you should buy phone cards: a $20 card lasts 112 minutes when calling Europe and America from Russia). Any calls you make within the city you are living in will be free of charge.
Q: What help will I be given to adjust to Russian life and language?
The programme coordinators will help you settle in, providing you with advice and answering your questions. There are also likely to be other new teachers or students who have recently arrived, so you won't be facing the experience on your own. As a volunteer you qualify for up to 6 academic hours of free Russian tuition throughout your stay provided there is a place available in a group of your level.
Q: What's the social life like at Language Link?
A: Language Link's teaching staffs (qualified teachers, Interns, Work-Study participants and Volunteers) form a close-knit community, and social life is very much alive. Most nights after work there is the opportunity to meet up with colleagues in one of Moscow's, St Petersburg's or Volgograd's many bars to catch up on the latest events.
Teachers often arrange trips to other cities and towns in the former Soviet Union, especially over the public holiday 3-day weekends (of which Russia has many). Language Link also arranges occasional trips and celebrations for its students and teachers, including picnics in the forest cooking 'shashlyki' (kebabs) over an open fire, day trips to nearby places of interest, Christmas and Thanksgiving parties, etc.
Q: What are Language Link's schools and facilities like?
- A: Moscow: Language Link’s Central School is situated fairly near the city centre, within five minutes’ walk of the metro stations Novoslobodskaya (Íîâîñëîáîäñêàÿ) and Mendeleevskaya (Ìåíäåëååâñêàÿ). The classrooms are located on the 2nd floor of a newly refurbished office building. You will be provided with a map upon arrival. The Central School is also the place where you will find the English & Russian Department’s main headquarters, classrooms and one of our teacher prep rooms. If you are a teaching assistant, you can plan your lessons in the teachers’ centre near the school, which is home to a photocopier, a teaching resource library and English-language video library, plus a computer centre where you can access your e-mail. There are also many branch schools around Moscow where you may be asked to teach (most of these are classrooms in ordinary Russian schools which Language Link rents for evening English classes). Central Administration and the Translation Department are located in a new ground floor office on the premises of the Russian State University of the Humanities (RGGU), a 5-minute walk from the metro and Central School.
- A: St. Petersburg: As in Moscow, Language Link in St. Petersburg is in the heart of the city. The school is situated just off Nevsky Prospect, behind Kazansky Cathedral. The metro station Nevsky Prospect is a few minutes’ walk away. Language Link has renovated two floors of a former factory building, and the classrooms are modern and well equipped (although the courtyard still leaves a bit to be desired).
- A: Volgograd: Language Link's school and office moved in January 2008 to a beautiful new office building in the city centre. The school is situated between the railway station and the Volga river, on Komsomolskaya Street just past Prospect Lenina (Volgograd's leafy main street). The office is open every day from 9 am to 7.30 pm, and offers free Internet access and a library of Russian literature. There is also a photocopier and EFL resource library.
Q: Can you tell me more about Moscow, St Petersburg, Volgograd and Samara?
A: Detailed information about life in Moscow can be found at http://www.jobs.languagelink.ru/jobs/locations/moscow.php,
about St Petersburg at http://www.jobs.languagelink.ru/jobs/locations/spb.php, and about Volgograd at http://www.jobs.languagelink.ru/jobs/locations/volgograd.php.
Q: Is it safe to live in Russia?
A: Is it safe to live in New York or London? Moscow and St Petersburg are neither safer nor more dangerous than any other large cities, although there is admittedly a higher than average risk of icicles falling off high buildings and hitting you on the head during the spring thaw. The mafia will take no notice of you whatsoever. Recent events have obviously made terrorism a concern, but sadly, no city in the world is immune from that threat these days. Volgograd may be considered slightly quieter, and thus safer, but the following advice applies for all three cities.
It’s all just a question of common sense: you should be careful when going out late at night, and try not to draw attention to yourself, i.e. don’t talk loudly in English or flash money/valuables around. If you go out for the evening, stay in a group, and plan it so that you accompany each other home right up to the front door, even if it means you have to sleep on someone else’s floor. Women are strongly recommended not to walk home alone after 11pm, and they should be prepared to put up with occasional verbal harassment late at night, as the attitude of some Russian males towards to opposite sex unfortunately leaves a lot to be desired. Guys should also be careful when out late at night in large English-speaking groups, as nationalism is on the rise in Russia. The police regularly stop young males (especially those with dark skin or Asian features) – normally they just check your ID and let you go. Smaller streets can be badly lit, so try and keep to the main streets if possible when it’s dark.
Avoid carrying with you more cash than you need – pick-pocketing is a problem in the metro, particularly in St Petersburg. Remember that safety, both here in Russia and at home, is generally a question of using common sense and making smart decisions. Always be aware of yourself, your belongings and your surroundings, and you shouldn’t come across any major problems.
Q: Just how cold does it actually get in Russia?
A: Russia can almost certainly guarantee you a ‘real’ winter, with plenty of snow and temperatures that remain below freezing for at least 3 months of the year. However, the programme is not based in Siberia, and the climate in Moscow, St Petersburg and Volgograd is not as extreme as certain stereotypes would have you believe. First snow generally falls in late November, and the average temperature in December, January and February is between -5 and -10 degrees Celsius. If you’re reading this in California or Sydney that probably sounds cold, but with a big warm coat, hat and scarf, it’s really not so bad. The most extreme cold you could be expected to face would be about -30, but such temperatures usually only occur for a few days each winter, if at all. St Petersburg is probably the coldest of the Work-Study centres, as its proximity to the sea make the climate windier and damper than Moscow’s. Volgograd climate is the mildest, with average temperatures about 10 degrees higher than in Moscow.
What many people tend to forget is that Russia has a summer too. From May until the end of September, the weather can be lovely, and certainly sunnier and drier than the UK. July and August are the hottest months, when temperatures regularly rise above 30 degrees Celsius.
Q: What will my accommodation be like?
A: Your accommodation will be located within walking distance (20 minutes max) of a metro station, but it may be in any area of the city. Homestay families are all carefully selected by Language Link. Many hosts have years of experience working with foreigners, and will help you practise and improve your language skills.
In a family homestay you have a bedroom to yourself plus access to the bathroom/ toilet and the kitchen. You may opt for breakfast only (bed and breakfast), or breakfast and dinner (half board). If you select bed and breakfast we will try to place you with a host family that doesn’t mind you using the kitchen facilities to prepare supper.
Q: What will it be like arriving in Russia?
A: Most people arrive at one of Moscow’s two international airports, Sheremetevo 2 or Domodedovo. After getting off the plane (generally directly into the airport building) you should follow the signs to passport control. Before you go through, make sure you have filled in both sections of a migration card (often handed out on the plane, otherwise available on desks in the passport control area). Hand in this card together with your passport and visa, have the migration card stamped (and one copy returned to you), and go through to baggage collection and customs.
Just after you pick up your luggage, you should fill in a custom’s declaration form if you have something to declare, and go through the red channel. If you have nothing to declare (you do not need to declare laptops), go through the green channel.
You will walk through to the exit, where people are waiting to meet the arrivals. It is here, on one side or the other, that you will see someone with a ‘Language Link’ sign, who will welcome you to Russia and take you to your accommodation).