Teaching English in Odessa, Ukraine: Alumni Q&A with Eamon Driscoll

What is your citizenship?
United States

What city and state are you from?
Flossmoor, IL

How old are you?

What is your education level and background?
Bachelor's Degree

Have you traveled abroad in the past?
Some international travel with friends, family, business, etc.

If you have traveled abroad in the past, where have you been? 
Germany, France, Ireland, Netherlands, Greece

Teach English in Ukraine TEFLWhat sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
I wanted to live in a part of the world which few others get to experience for a lengthly period of time, and develop the self-confidence to survive in a foreign country without any assistance from home.

Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
I wanted to try something different and get away from the States, and teaching English provided the best avenue to pursue that goal. I chose International TEFL Academy because of Lindsay my admission advisor, who was very friendly and encouraging throughout the months I took to make my decision.

Which TEFL certification course did you take?
The Chicago TEFL Class

How did you like the course?
The TEFL course is definitely worth the time and energy. It is exhausting at times, but that in itself is good preparation for teaching. The practicum was great experience, but nothing is quite like the actual work. Instructors were great, tasks helped me prepare for situations, and everything fit together splendidly.

How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?

I'd be lost without it! One thing which I remember most readily is the practice of the verb tenses which are a constant pain for the students. Preparing all twelve tenses in the training was surprisingly worthwhile.

Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?
I am teaching English in Odessa, Ukraine.

How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?
I've been here 5 months already; as long as I want to stay.

How did you secure your English teaching job?
I applied via e-mail, interviewed via Skype and landed a job pretty easily.

What school, company, or program are you working for?
American English Center.

How did you get your work visa? If you didn't get a work visa, please elaborate on working under the table without a work visa.           
No work visa; working under-the-table is rather straightforward, and as long as you don't do anything to get in trouble with the police, it's fine. And in Ukraine, any problems can be simply smoothed over with a friendly gift.

TEFL Ukraine

Tell us about your English teaching job!
I work approximately 26 hours per week, at 80UAH per hour. Over a month it's about 8000UAH, or 1000USD. Of that, I save about half by living frugally (and the cost of living here is substantially lower). Students' ages vary, but generally between 18-30; most of them are in university or have ambitions in business. There is one week of vacation every eight weeks.

How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?
The school provides the apartment; mine is in the city center and rather splendid. It's certainly not a Soviet-style apartment. I do have one flatmate, who also teaches with the school.

Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc. about your country:
I can't speak for the rest of Ukraine, but Odessa is a fantastic place to live, even in winter. With the world's best opera theater, fantastic beaches, friendly denizens, and a cosmopolitan atmosphere (or at least, as cosmopolitan as one can get in Eastern Europe), Odessa definitely worth a visit. The ex-pat community is fairly small, but this gives plenty of opportunities to practice Russian. And I don't date, but it's true what the Beatles say: the Ukraine girls really do leave the West behind.

What are your monthly expenses?

  • Rent+utilities: is about 2000UAH per month
  • Food: varies based on where you shop and what you like to eat (vegetables highly recommended, cheap and fantastic).
  • Communication: is also cheap; if you have a smartphone you can find plans for internet which run as low as 1UAH per day (~0.15$).

The cost of living here is far lower than the West, so transport and social activities will feel like a bargain, although like anywhere else it's far cheaper to buy your own bottle of vodka than go to one of the fantastic bars or nightclubs.

How would you describe your standard of living?        
Fairly well, all things considered.

In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
I live comfortably on 8000UAH/month (approximately $980), but I could achieve the same thing on 6000UAH/month (approximately $740).

What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?
My advice would be to take time and think hard about your decision. For most, it's not a decision to be taken lightly, but it is certainly rewarding.

Within Ukraine itself, you could probably find a better school; they don't treat their teachers that well by comparison to the West but it's normal here. If you're getting started, this is a fine opportunity but there will be better options.


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