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Zelenograd, Russia English Teaching Q&A with Rebecca Lostetter
Written by: Rebecca Lostetter
Last Updated: July 19, 2021
What is your citizenship?
What city and state are you from?
How old are you?
What is your education level and background?
Have you traveled abroad in the past?
If you have studied abroad in the past, where did you study?
What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to travel the world, and teaching a language that I love seemed like a great way to accomplish that goal.
What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
I was worried that it would be difficult to find a job and a place to live.
What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
My father was (well, is) concerned, but he never tried to stop me, because he knew it was my dream to live abroad. My mother was very supportive, and my friends were surprised but happy for me.
TEFL CLASS INFORMATION
Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
I hadn't even really thought of teaching English abroad as a thing to do until I found ITA's website. I did a bit of research and discovered that most countries want a TEFL certificate or equivalent as a qualification. Since I had studied history in college, not English or education, I decided that I needed to learn how to teach in general and how to teach English in particular. I was impressed by ITA's site and thought it seemed like a good place to do that.
How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
It helped give me the confidence I needed to actually step into the classroom and teach. It's nerve-wracking, the first time you stand before a group of people you've never met and are expected to help them learn, but at least after my TEFL training, I wasn't going into it blind.
Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?
I chose to teach English in Russia in the city of Zelenograd. I didn't want to live in a country where I couldn't speak the language, and I had already been studying Russian for a few years. It's also a country I had never been to and was interested in exploring.
How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?
I've been here for 6 months, since August 2015. My contract is up at the end of May, but I plan to come back and teach for at least one more year.
What school, company, or program are you working for?
BKC International House Russia
During which months does your school typically hire?
I think they hire all year round. I was hired in May, and I've met fellow teachers who have been working for the same company for less time than I have, which means they were most likely hired in later months.
Did you secure this position in advance of arriving?
How did you interview for this position?
- Skype/phone interview
What kind of visa did you enter on?
Please explain the visa process that you went through.
It was, to be honest, a bit annoying and complicated. I had to wait for an invitation from the Russian government (which, thankfully, was applied for by my company) and then I had to fill out a rather strict application form online and submit it to the Russian visa office in Washington, DC. It was rejected two or three times because I'd done something or another improperly, but eventually I got it right. It was rather expensive, having to resubmit it so many times, but finally I got the visa, and things have been fine since then. My company renews it whenever necessary.
What are the qualifications that your school requires for teachers? Please check all that apply
- TEFL Certification
- Bachelor's Degree (not sure this is required, but it definitely helps)
What is the best way to apply?
Please include any application resources (website, email, etc.) or other information here:
Tell us about your English teaching job!
HOURS: My contract is for 30 hours a week, but I've worked more and less than that in a given week.
SALARY: I'm paid about 40,000 roubles a month, which works out to something like $550. It doesn't sound like a lot, but living is pretty cheap here, so I'm able to save maybe 10,000 roubles a month, which is more than $100.
SCHOOL: I work for a language school that has locations all over Moscow and teaches all ages.
STUDENTS: I don't personally work with young children, though I know people who do. I have teenage students who range in age from about 12-16, and then I teach a variety of adults.
VACATION TIME: It's difficult to take vacation time, since the school I work for is the only one in Zelenograd, and there aren't many people to teach cover classes, but the option exists. We did have a week off for the New Year, which I used to travel to Spain.
How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?
My company provides its teachers with accommodations. I had a roommate initially (also an American), but he moved out a couple of months ago after getting engaged, so now I live alone.
On a scale of 1 - 10 please rate your experience with this school. 8
COUNTRY INFORMATION - FUN!
Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc...
Zelenograd is a rather utilitarian place; more functional than beautiful. However, it is about an hour outside of Moscow by train, so I often go to the "big city" on weekends. It is absolutely beautiful, with lots of amazing architecture. There are great bars, restaurants, karaoke places, historical monuments, and so on. There's no shortage of things to do or see there. I don't know a lot of expats outside of my company; most of the friends I've made here are Russian. (It's a great opportunity to use my language skills, which is a bonus!)
The public transportation in both Moscow and Zelenograd is quite good. The Moscow metro is a work of art; every station is different and many of them are beautifully designed. You want to be careful with the dating scene. Russians, in my experience, tend to be very direct, which sometimes is a good thing, and sometimes not so much. As for travel opportunities, I haven't done much traveling inside Russia because I haven't had the time, but I plan to in the summer before the new school year starts. There are plenty of train stations and 3 airports in Moscow from which to travel if you are so inclined.
COUNTRY INFORMATION - MONEY
What are your monthly expenses?
I don't pay rent or utilities; my company does. This is another reason why I am able to save. Food is pretty cheap in grocery stores; you can buy a lot of food for prices that would make an American housewife swoon. A particularly expensive trip to the grocery store will cost around 1000 roubles, which isn't even $20. My phone costs somewhere around 600 roubles a month ($15 USD - you pay as you go), and transportation on the metro in Moscow is only 32 roubles a ride (50 cents U.S.). When I had to teach a class at a software company, my company provided me with a bus pass. Going out in Moscow can be more expensive, but I've always been a frugal person and I don't go out much.
How would you describe your standard of living?
Very good. There isn't really anything I need that I can't get.
In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
I would say 35,000-40,000 roubles a month ($590 - $670 USD) is good for someone who doesn't pay rent (like me). If you do pay rent, you'll need more like 60,000-70,000 a month ($1000 -$1200 USD), from what I've heard.
ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE ENGLISH TEACHERS
What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?
I would definitely say, wherever you go, learn a bit of the local language first. You don't have to become fluent, but it's not difficult to learn how to be polite, and it's quite valuable if you're going to live in the country.
I would recommend teaching English in Russia. It's a lovely country with a lot to offer, even though it unfortunately tends to get a bad rap stateside.
Originally from Pittsburgh, 22-year-old Rebecca Lostetter dreamed of living and traveling abroad since she was a little girl. After college, she learned about opportunities for teaching abroad, so she got TEFL certified with International TEFL Academy and headed to teach English in Zelenograd, just outside of the capital city of Moscow.
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