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Can you help a Newbie with her worries?
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nessapuss



Joined: 13 Jul 2004
Posts: 4

PostPosted: Tue Jul 13, 2004 3:24 pm    Post subject: Can you help a Newbie with her worries? Reply with quote

Hi
I visited this site for the first time today. I am now just a little worried. I have got my CELTA and I am starting (and was looking forward to) a job in Moscow in September with one of the schools there has been so much chat about. So, basic of $550 etc..
I chose the school as the only prior experience I've had teaching English is in China, in a state school, with no resources at all. The school in Moscow seemed professional, there appears to be a large staff, and I would really like to learn and gain confidence as quickly as possible. The fact that it was in Russia was also a plus.
Now I read that I'm going to be paid equivalent to slave wages and spend my time travelling from dingy place to dingy place on overcrowded trams on split-shifts (which are what exactly??).
Can anyone help? I didn't expect to save money but I did hope that I could get out and about now and then - see the sites, met people, trawl the bars occasionally. I'm used to roughing it a bit, but still! Am I going to have a horrid time instead? Confused
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Nexus



Joined: 08 Mar 2004
Posts: 187
Location: Moscow

PostPosted: Tue Jul 13, 2004 5:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not at all, I'm sure you'll have a great time.

Am I right in thinking that the school is BKC? If so, it's easy to imagine the worst based on some of the board's postings (and I conjured up some horrible scenarios) but if something's not what you want it's possible to change it. Schedule and flat are the two main issues. If you don't like your flat, push the school for a transfer or find one or two friends and rent something privately. Teachers come and go all the time and so rooms / flats become vacant. You might not find what you want overnight but keep asking around amongst other teachers and students and you will find something you like.

Your schedule isn't so easy to change but I think the school try harder now to make them as manageable as possible. If it really is bad, speak to the senior staff and make sure you do what you can to improve it.

Moscow isn't cheap but, like most places, it's what you make it. There's plenty of opportunity to have the time of your life and see / do all the things you want.

PS A split shift involves classes in the morning and in the evening, with your block of free time during the middle of the day. Because you often end up using this time to plan lessons, it makes the working day pretty long.
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zaneth



Joined: 31 Mar 2004
Posts: 545
Location: Between Russia and Germany

PostPosted: Tue Jul 13, 2004 6:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not in Moscow itself, I'm out here in the sticks breathing clean air and making a lot less than what you'll be getting. But I imagine if you survived resourceless state schools in China you'll be able to handle Russia OK.

There are some nice posts about Moscow and Russia on this site as well. It isn't all gloom and doom. Moscow really is a beautiful city and Russians are good people, with sharp minds and a strong interest in education. There are lots of good people here. It's not impossible to get out of the city on weekends, and you'll have enough to eat well and buy english books. A book makes the time on the Metro fly by. It's what you'll see a lot of the Russians doing. Learn how to eat local food and don't eat out too much. You won't be going on any Asian style consumer electronic shopping sprees.

Anyhow, it isn't forever, you can move on to something else later, after you know what's up. Working for the school will be a good introduction for you.

One piece of purely subjective, personal advice: don't spend all of your time on the Metro, cool as it is. Try walking from point A to point B sometimes. It's easy to spend all your time underground, and it wears on you after a while. But it is possible to move around above ground, by foot and bus, and it gives you a better sense of where things are, doesn't mess with your head as much. Sometimes, in the center, it isn't much slower than taking the Metro, by the time you get to the station, get underground (journey to the center of the earth, you'll see) navigate the transfers, and get back above ground. And you'll see more.

I recently, for the first time, walked from the center out to my mother in law's place. It was so liberating to finally know where it was in relation to everything else. I've made the trip countless times by Metro but you can't see any of the landmarks when you're out there, so hard to place it in context.

So that's my two cents. Welcome to Russia, welcome to the forum. Looking forward to hearing more from you.
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nessapuss



Joined: 13 Jul 2004
Posts: 4

PostPosted: Tue Jul 13, 2004 9:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks to both of you! Very Happy

The main thing that was worrying me was being taken advantage of (work wise!). I had an image of a sweatshop existence. I realise that it's up to me and I can move/leave if I want to and all that, but I want it to be good!! I just worried I'd made a massive mistake, with time but no real inclination, to change it.

Yes Nexus, you got the school. Maybe I over reacted but there is some pretty strong stuff in the forum so I was worried. The split-shift thing is probably a good thing for me to start with as I've alot to learn and being at the school doing lesson plans etc. will probalby help me (we'll see how long that lasts!).

Zaneth, thanks in particular about the metro thing. It reminded me of the things I should be concentrating on; being in a new job, in a new city, new sights, smells! I found the same thing in Beijing - it really was the only way I figured out where anything was in relation to other things.

So, one more question. Is there anything I should bring out with me? I presume warm clothes can be found there. Is there anything else that would be a good idea to bring from the UK?
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zaneth



Joined: 31 Mar 2004
Posts: 545
Location: Between Russia and Germany

PostPosted: Wed Jul 14, 2004 9:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In a sense all workers are taken advantage of. Don't let it worry you too much. They get things out of you, but they also handle things that would be a major hassle for you.

I was glad we brought our good iron here from Germany. Consumer electric type stuff can be pricey, but maybe the shared apartments have an iron included? My new uni apartment has one.

Bring your nice clothes, they aren't so cheap here, and Russians dress up. (I'm assuming you're a woman from your name).

Certain things are a pain to buy (I've been wanting to find some light colored canvas for a major tent-making project and no one seems to know where I can get it. And I can't seem to find a good bike trailer) but all the basic essentials are readily available, often in little street kiosks. They seem to follow a certain pattern as to what is sold in what kiosks, so once you learn the pattern you can tell at a glance what you can find in a kiosk. There are some very nice shampoos and stuff on the market. You can get almost anything you need from kiosks in Moscow, on the street or in the pedestrian tunnels.

Just don't be surprised if they gripe about having to make change for a 500 ruble note. Actually, Russian shopkeepers have a different system for making change, but that's a longer story.

Someday I want to try showing up in a new country with only the clothes on my back and maybe a few documents. Next time I go to India (if I ever make it back) I think I'll just show up with shorts, t-shirt, and some slippers, and my passport.
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nessapuss



Joined: 13 Jul 2004
Posts: 4

PostPosted: Wed Jul 14, 2004 11:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks. I'll pack a few shirts and suits.
Yes I'm female. Name is a family nickname - Vanessa, born in Siam = nessapuss. Not very grown-up but easier to remember than Vanessa plus some weird number, as Vanessa has already been taken.
Thanks again.
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Communist Smurf



Joined: 24 Jun 2003
Posts: 330
Location: San Francisco

PostPosted: Thu Jul 15, 2004 12:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

zaneth wrote:
In a sense all workers are taken advantage of. Don't let it worry you too much. They get things out of you, but they also handle things that would be a major hassle for you.


I kinda want to address this subject and was wondering if anyone else has this same frustration/problem.

Ok, you do the math: In the States, if you visit the mall and buy lunch, you're looking at paying between $5-7...? Here in Moscow, it's almost the same. Probably something like $4-6. So what is this shop doing with this money? Moscow reality is very expensive, averaging a little more than it is in large Western cities. The food they buy to serve customers must be a good deal cheaper than it is for the shops at the mall back home. Essentially what I'm getting at is, it costs about the same, give or take, as it costs back in the States. The huge difference, they pay the employees, well, next to nothing. Minimum wage in the US is what? $6.50? People at McDonalds here are paid something like $1.50 per hour. Why? Because the employer can get away with it.

How does this relate to TEFL? How much are students paying for their lessons at, say for example, BKC? I'm going to take a guess and say they pay $12 per hour. If you have 6 students that means your work pulls in $72 per hour. How much of that money do you get? I'm guessing $3-5 (factoring in everything). Why? Because the employer can get away with it.

A better question. Why do you let them get away with it?

CS
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maruss



Joined: 18 Mar 2003
Posts: 951
Location: Cyprus

PostPosted: Fri Jul 16, 2004 4:00 pm    Post subject: More on teaching in Moscow etc! Reply with quote

The previous postings are right!It is often very expensive, dirty, grimy,polluted and stressful to live in Moscow, but it is also very vibrant, interesting and definitely unique-you will either love it or loathe it!
What I do loathe is seeing people conned into working there for peanuts by some of the larger schools which frequently advertise vacancies-anyone who checks should be suspicious anyway why they are always recruiting!!Either business is growing phenomenally fast and they are desperate for staff-or-as is most often the case unfortunately here, the staff turnover is very high and almost continuous!Unless you are incredibly lucky to land a nice private flat in a DECENT suburb which at least has a washing machine and can find a work schedule which is continuous and not too far away from where you live, your measly $500 or so per month salary will be earned by you working split shifts, probably in locations far apart, meaning not only can you not go home for a break during the day when you are not teaching, but you will also have to travel for hours on overcrowded buses and metro trains, fighting your way on and off, and then going home totally exhausted after a 12 hour day to find that there are virtually no launderettes either to wash your clothes!So you will then either go to work feeling dirty next day-and believe you me,Moscow grime sticks like glue!- or find a neighbour who has a machine-if you can-who will do your stuff for some extra roubles while you are out toiling!Oh I nearly forgot to mention that the heating and hot water systems are usually centrally controlled at home over there, so when the municipality decides to turn them off for "maintenance "etc.usually every May, come rain or shine, snow or sun, you will have no heating or hot water to wash either your clothes in or yourself!The same often happens in October when it comes to switching them back on again!

Don't do it my dear, not for $550 per month as it just isn't worth it, especially when you may run into other foreigners there(probably not teachers though!!)who earn more than you in a WEEK!!
If you are still desperate to try it for the" Russian experience etc",then work on an hourly basis for about $15-$20, don't sign a contract with the school and get your own accomodation, although that can be expensive nowadays unless you "know someone etc!"And be careful about your visas and permits etc-it's not Europe!

Take care and all the best of luck!

M.
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nessapuss



Joined: 13 Jul 2004
Posts: 4

PostPosted: Fri Jul 16, 2004 5:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

OK. I suppose I knew the answer I would get from the people who had already posted their reasons for thinking it's a bad thing. I was hoping people would buck me up a bit and maybe tell me about pitfalls etc. that I should look out for. However, saying that, I think you are probably right. Nevertheless, Communist Smurf, the reason I think I'm going to let them get away with it, and Maruus, the reason I am going to go anyway, is because they can give me something that I can't get elsewhere yet. Namely experience teaching English in a school with an affiliation that is known and admired Internationally; International House. As I said before I want the experience, because I have a plan for my future. I've been an exploiter myself, working in the advertising industry here in London for 12 years. I've lived a number of years on a large salary (as a Board Director) in an expensive city, but eventually it bored the hell out of me. I realised that although I enjoyed the job at the beginnning, the more senior I got the worse people, the clients, the work and the stress became. So I quit. I am now a PADI Scuba Instructor. My plan is to teach English in the summer in the UK and then go out to Thailand and teach scuba in the winter. I have all I need to do the scuba bit (infact that's what I've been doing for the past year), now I need to get something else on my CV for the English teaching. I want to learn, as I have found that learning new things and meeting new people makes up for having to forego the expensive Chablis and go for the cheap plonk. I took the job in Moscow because they seem to have a number of teachers there with experience whom I hope I can gain from. If not then at least I tried, I'll just try again elsewhere. Very Happy

Again thanks for the warnings, I'll let you know how I cope!! Wink
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waxwing



Joined: 29 Jun 2003
Posts: 719
Location: China

PostPosted: Fri Jul 16, 2004 5:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Capuccino in a randomly chosen cafe in central Moscow a month back - 105R
Shocked
That's $3.50 or something.

Here in Stavropol the best cafe in town charges 50R, I thought that was expensive for Russia.

It'll be an amazing cultural experience. It's just the money. They just take advantage of the fact that us newbies don't know what we're doing.

CS: Here 1 real hour of bog-standard adult classes costs the students a little over $6 (in classes of up to 10 or so). In Moscow it's probably only a little more, I'd guess - $7 or $8 (any other opinions?). Of course there might be different rates for different types of course. The rate for 1 on 1 in my school was fairly astronomical though.
Of course a quick sum will suggest that they are ripping you off royally. It's at least partially true.

I managed to save a (very) little money this year. Reading your post nessapuss suggests to me that you might well end up drawing on savings. Oh well, whatever happens, enjoy it. It'll certainly be an experience.
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canucktechie



Joined: 07 Feb 2003
Posts: 343
Location: Moscow

PostPosted: Sat Jul 17, 2004 1:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well another BKC newbie! Welcome to the madhouse ! Twisted Evil

In all seriousness, I have just finished a year (9 months actually) at BKC and have signed up for another. Let me give you some pluses and minuses :

BKC+

Excellent people (both senior and junior).
Emphasis on professional development (seminars, mentors).
Good social activities (parties, trips, pubbing).
Reimbursement of visa and travel costs.

BKC-

Split shifts Sad I was very lucky to have 5 contiguous shifts afternoon/evenings, but a lot of people do start at 9:00 and finish at 21:00 with "holes" in between classes. Also much travelling with split shifts.
"Russian" organisation.
"Russian" standard housing and health care.
Inadequate orientation (I had visited Moscow before so I was OK).

Moscow+

Loads of cultural activities.
Cosmopolitan (for Russia anyway).
Easy to shop for food (even fruit, veggies in winter). Easy to shop for anything really, but not always cheap.

Moscow-

Ugly, polluted.
Unaffordable restaurants.
Incredibly crowded Metro.
Corrupt police.

Now I'm sure you want to know how far that $550 month is going to go. Well I ate very well for $150 a month, and spent about $100/month on entertainment (concerts, movies, hockey games). So that leaves about $300 for descretionary spending. Some teachers were actually paying off debts back home, I alternated between saving money and blowing it (a tirip to Germany, a trip to St. P. to see Paul McC). It's really up to you.

I'm looking forward to meeting you at the welcome party! Very Happy
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Communist Smurf



Joined: 24 Jun 2003
Posts: 330
Location: San Francisco

PostPosted: Sat Jul 17, 2004 5:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Maruss,

After that post, you're starting to make me want to leave and I'm not having these financial problems.

People that haven't been to Russia yet,

This recommendation is coming a bit late, but I recommend you come here and work a summer camp just to see how little you really are going to get by on. If you do end up hating Moscow, it's better to hate it for a summer rather than a year.

Nessapuss,

I honestly don't want to discourage you from coming here. I like it a lot here myself. But $550 per month should be considered a criminal offense. People like to say the average Russian living in Moscow make that much. But here's another way to think of it. The average Russian living in Moscow w/an education which applies to their job (my guess) makes well over $1500 per month.

Everyone,

Stop working for these companies!!! If enough people decide to stop working for slave-wages maybe the companies in Moscow will start to realize they need to pay more. I mean, how hard is it to put a washing machine in every apartment? Most Russians I know have one.

Myself,

I need to use the bathroom.

CS
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maruss



Joined: 18 Mar 2003
Posts: 951
Location: Cyprus

PostPosted: Sat Jul 17, 2004 11:30 am    Post subject: Well said everyone! Reply with quote

There's nothing like a good debate, and that's exactly why these pages are here!So I agree with basically all I have just read in the last 3 postings in reply to my posting yesterday:
If you want the experience of living and working in Russia for a while and money is not the main issue, then these jobs do offer that opportunity admittedly!Perhaps because I know a lot about the place from personal experience,I see things with a fairly critical eye and speak what I feel is the truth!Like one of you wrote, the root of the problem is the whole system of society and Russia itself, which unfortunately is still rotten to the core!Just because central Moscow has luxury shops and restaurants,new buildings etc. etc. a first timer can easily be conned into thinking they've arrived in an extension of Europe-but the reality is very far from that.To try and understand Russia is very difficult-even as Winston Churchill famously said about riddles and enigmas etc!
To get an idea of where it all comes from and why it is going the way it is, there are some very good books published in recent years which I would definitely recommend to our friend as pre-arrival reading if she has the time!Anne Applebaums Gulag, now available in paperback, is an excellent history of just what people there had to live through not so long ago and what the grandparents of many of the people you meet today must have suffered-frightening, but true!Perhaps most scary of all, is that none of the perpetrators were ever punished, unlike many of the nazis etc, and most people today simply prefer to try and just pretend it never happened!More modern books such as "Casino Moscow", the story of the Oligarchs and what was the biggest rip-off of the 20 th century against the largest nation in the world is also definitely on my "must-read" list, as is "Godfather of the Kremlin" by Paul Klebnikov who as we all know, was assasinated last Saturday!"Inside Putins Russia" and " Black Earth-Russia after the fall" by Andrew Meier are great reads too!For a novel which sent shivers up my spine because so many of the events and places described are founded on present day reality, try "Archangel" by Robert Harris.
If you have got through that lot, then see if you still ask why about so many things after you arrive there!!Having said all that, you can read some beautiful Russian classics in excellent translations, hear super concerts and see ballets and operas for a fraction of what it costs over here in England, make some incredible friends who will invite you home, bare their souls and share some food and probably many bottles with you while you laugh with them and then cry, see the snowy fields and forests in winter with their lovely wooden village houses, beautiful children and some even more beautiful women who break western mens hearts so often, etc etc etc!!But one thing I almost gurantee is that you will NEVER forget Russia once you have been there!It "bit me" years ago and I cannot get over it-despite everything,I pine for the place if I don't get back regularlly, but my best friend is afraid that one day I will land myself in big trouble there, because I ask questions about things-and that can get you into BIG problems-as we saw with so many others who tried and were silenced, one way or another!
So all in all,I would say to you-try it, but do be careful and read some of those books before you go!
Take care and all the best for now!
M.
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Communist Smurf



Joined: 24 Jun 2003
Posts: 330
Location: San Francisco

PostPosted: Sat Jul 17, 2004 11:42 am    Post subject: Re: Well said everyone! Reply with quote

maruss wrote:
one day I will land myself in big trouble there, because I ask questions about things-and that can get you into BIG problems-as we saw with so many others who tried and were silenced, one way or another!


I can tell you from first-hand experience, this does happen. Shocked
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zaneth



Joined: 31 Mar 2004
Posts: 545
Location: Between Russia and Germany

PostPosted: Wed Jul 21, 2004 2:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the book list. I'm going to try and read up when I'm back home next month. I often feel that I should know some more of the modern history of this place.

You really do get the feeling here of incredible history just behind the surface. I know a man whose father died in exile. He himself only came back from Siberia after Stalin's death. Sometimes you look at the old people hobbling along the street and wonder what all they've seen, these old women selling mushrooms by the side of the road, old men carrying scythes on their bicycles, cutting weeds by the side of the road to feed their goats.
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