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Future of TEFL Prospects in Russia/Ukraine??

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Joined: 30 Nov 2013
Posts: 7
Location: Colorado Springs, CO

PostPosted: Mon Dec 02, 2013 10:20 pm    Post subject: Future of TEFL Prospects in Russia/Ukraine?? Reply with quote


I'm new to the world of TEFL, but my girlfriend and I are from Colorado, and currently training for certifications as mountain guides. Since this is a seasonal job, usually running from May to August in the northern latitudes, we're left with the task of determining what kind of work we'd like to land ourselves in for the off-season. After some consideration, we settled on TEFL.

The background for this was simple; my girlfriend and I originally come from an area of Illinois with an absolutely enormous Mexican population. In fact, most of the important street signs in particularly Mexican parts of town are posted twice, once in English and another in Spanish. In 2006, in my freshman year of college, I landed a job as an after-school student leader at one of the local schools, and was placed with a 5-6 year old classroom, where, at most, half of the students had a functional command of English. Long story short, the challenge of trying to help these kids develop their English, while at the same time communicate the information necessary for them to work on other studies (math, science, etc.) was soulfully satisfying enough for me to stick in that low-paying position for the remaining four years of my university education. Ever since, I've hungered for a similar experience.

So, after deciding on becoming certified in TEFL, we had, in turn, to decide where we would like to teach. Quite frankly, we're both COMPLETELY uninterested in anywhere in the Middle or East Asia (except, perhaps, Central Asia); Middle Eastern and East Asian cultures, though I am not in any way downplaying all they have to offer, have never really been of particular interest to me. That said, we are specifically seeking out somewhere where the culture is markedly different than that of the United States, which largely rules out Western Europe; after visiting a couple times, I have seen enough to know that THAT part of the world just isn't different "enough" to give me the experience I hope to have. I figure that leaves most of the old Eastern Bloc, and much of South America and Africa. Africa, in turn, seems limited on EFL job offerings, and the South American market seems relatively saturated. So, after careful consideration, we believe we've settled on somewhere in Northern/Eastern Europe in the old Soviet Bloc.

This is also partly because my Grandparents were pure-blood Ukrainians, and I'd like to get to know a culture that is, at least, similar to what they were raised in/around. So I figure Russia and/or the Ukraine are probably the markets we'll target, although I think we'd both be open to something like Lithuania/Latvia/Estonia/Finland or even Georgia/Armenia/Azerbaijan/Kyrgyzstan/Kazakhstan/Tajikistan. So, with that background out of the way, allow me to get to my questions:

1. How volatile is the EFL market across the globe? Does it happen where, in one year a demand in a particular country (say, in Russia) is high and improving, and, perhaps a year or two down the road, declines or disappears altogether? I ask, because, based on time/money constraints, our current realistic goal for acquisition of some type of EFL certification is probably mid-2015, putting us in the job market in fall of that year, AND, whatever country we decide on, I'd like to practice the language of that country for some time prior to departure, so that we can both maintain our own independence in that country. So I'd hate to spend a year learning Ukrainian or something, and then find out that the market went away in that time.

2. How practical is it to make a livable salary offering private lessons, after a period of building clientele? I keep seeing the "private lessons" option referenced by many active teachers of EFL as a supplemental income. Is it something that, perhaps after establishing residency in a particular nation, could become entirely a source of income for a given individual?

3. I am under the impression that CELTA is, essentially, the gold standard qualification for the industry; is this true?

4. Are there breaks in school in these countries (Christmas Break, Spring Break, etc.) similar to the way there are in the United States? My girlfriend and I, as evidenced by our career choice of mountain guiding, are avid outdoor enthusiasts, and would love the opportunity to get out and explore the myriad outdoor opportunities these countries have to offer (Caucasus/Altai, Carpathians, Crimea, Baltic Islands, Black Sea, etc.).

5. Of the countries mentioned above, are there any particular places that would be more or less difficult to live on an average teacher's salary?

6. If I were to find a place that I loved and, perhaps, even wanted to move permanently to, are visas extendable permanently in most of these places so long as I am gainfully employed and self-sufficient?

Thank you for your help!!
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Joined: 21 Jun 2003
Posts: 1831

PostPosted: Tue Dec 03, 2013 6:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Some thoughts about your situation. Firstly, to get your foot in the door, you usually have to get a job. Re the 'Gold standard': a degree followed by a TEFL qualification with a fair amount of observations of experienced teachers and of being observed yourself. The CELTA and Trinity TESOL are the courses which are usually specified by employers who do express a preference. Now academic years tend to finish in June (one or two may do May) so there may be a conflict between your regular job and teaching English. People doing 'privates' generally build them up as they get known in an area.

Demand in Russia is consistently high. However, privates are not strictly legal. Also, to get the visa, you would need the job that gets you the visa.

There are some recruiters who will offer jobs which may fit in with your American work. My own particular thoughts would be Aston Recruiting, which offers short-term contracts in China. (That is different from Colorado, I would have thought.)

Another idea strikes me, given your time restrictions and love of the great outdoors, you could do winter schools. I think there are one or two of these in Finland and in Russia. Here, if you have your TEFL, then you should be able to teach and enjoy yourselves. However, given the short time you would be there, I doubt if making money by privates would be all that realistic. Although I suppose if you meet some people, you might cement your relationship with Skype work.
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Joined: 30 Nov 2013
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Location: Colorado Springs, CO

PostPosted: Tue Dec 03, 2013 12:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not overly concerned about conflicting schedules between this and guiding; in most cases, guiding is SO seasonal, and guides SO in demand, that it's usually possible to dictate your own term of employment (i.e. june through september, or whatever it may be), especially if you do some "freelance" (or otherwise independent) guiding. Likewise, it seems, if I can build a solid TEFL clientele. I've known a couple guides that have succeeded in following both of these routes. I also like your idea about winter schools; I've never heard of this before, and so will do some more research. Really, I'm just in the information-gathering stage and trying to figure out as much as I can.

Ideally, if possible, I'd be able to do my guiding in Russia or Georgia or one of the Stans, dependent upon where I wind up; though I've got to figure out what types of legal requirements guides must fulfill in these places. But, in either case, I'm really hoping to make TEFL my year-round job, and guiding my seasonal work. We'll see how it unfolds. Thanks for your input!

Anybody got anything else to offer?!
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Joined: 21 Jun 2003
Posts: 1831

PostPosted: Tue Dec 03, 2013 1:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Guiding in the other countries!! People out there do their own guiding, so I don't think you'd be too popular doing that. However, you could gang up with the local guides as an interpreter, if you know the local language.

Details of short-term work follow, but these are just things I've found, not recommendations:

Seasonal camp:

Some short-term work:

Aston (re China):

PS Most places are difficult to live on on a teacher's salary, at least in year one, except places you don't want to go!
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