OK we are still technically in Bromley but by “here” I mean how did I come to be an English teacher taking work in Russia?
I’m quite old to be going off to foreign countries teaching English, but it is never something I even thought was possible when I was younger. I did get an English degree, but I never did the TEFL module (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) as the head of department told me he did not think I was cut out for teaching. Perhaps in those days I wasn’t. Perhaps I’m still not?
Anyway I spent a few years working in offices then trained as a lawyer, to try and make some real money. I have spent a decade or so mainly handling car accident claims, trying to get compensation for my clients as quickly and efficiently as possible. That work is getting more competitive and less lucrative as lawyers fees have been slashed and law firms try to handle more cases with fewer people.
I left my last full time job in May 2015, did some temping with an insurance company for 6 months, went to a few more interviews but realised that my heart really wasn’t in it. I needed to get out of legal work and do something different. I also wanted to travel more, the treadmill of earning money for 50 weeks of the year so you can spend it on the 2 weeks that matter to you was not working for me. If only there was a job that an English graduate could do which would give me the opportunity to travel overseas!
Of course it did not take me long to figure it out, and realise the qualification I would need was affordable and attainable within a month. I did the Trinity College CertTESOL course in March, and got some teaching experience while doing it. It didn’t seem so difficult. Once I got the qualification, I was able to apply for teaching jobs anywhere in the world.
Why Volgograd? It is a good question. Many people have a good career teaching English as a second language in England, there are plenty of people here who want lessons. But English-speakers in England are ten a penny, with so much competition the language schools can afford to be choosy and look for people with more qualifications or many years of experience. For now, I cannot compete with that. The same is true to a lesser extent in Western Europe and most larger cities. Schools in the Middle East, ones financed by oil-rich governments pay very well but again there is a lot of competition and they will not consider candidates with less than a year’s experience.
The biggest demand for English teachers is in China – and I was offered an interview for one of those jobs, but I had already agreed to the Volgograd offer. The reason I was interested in Russia is because I have been trying to teach myself Russian for about 3 years with very limited success. During my efforts I have made Russian friends and joined a Russian social network site, and at least learned the alphabet, and a few words and phrases. I understand the best way to learn a language properly is to live somewhere where you hear it every day and have to speak it. So the chance to live in Russia for a year fits in well with my aspiration to learn Russian. And Volgograd has the advantage of being outside Moscow and St Petersburg, big cities which attract lots of experienced teachers.
The process from application to interview to contract to visa confirmation has been protracted and I have not really been earning any money during this time, but in some ways a nice sabbatical from work and time to get my head around what I’m doing has been very welcome. And now here we are, just a day away from starting my journey. Bring it on!