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Stuck... need advice!

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Joined: 05 Dec 2004
Posts: 7

PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2004 5:44 am    Post subject: Stuck... need advice! Reply with quote

I've been lurking here for quite a while, but just recently decided I've got to register and actually get active in the forums.

I've already read tons of your posts going months back, but I'm still no closer to determining what I should do! I really, really need some advice.

Basically, my situation is this:

I've spent a couple years in Russia studying the language (recently in Arkhangelsk), so I can speak the language quite well and know that I can easily adapt to Russian life. In fact, my wife is Russian - she has to wait in Russia for a year or more while she waits to get her Canadian permanent resident's visa, so I've decided to go stay with her. I'll also get the chance to do something I've always wanted to do - teach English!

Now, I really don't like being in the middle of big cities like Moscow or St. Petersburg (that should explain why I was living in Arkhangelsk), so I'm interested in working somewhere like Zelenograd or Solnechnogorsk.

I'll be living with my wife, so appropriate accommodations are high on my list. We can live very modestly, too, not going to restaurants and so on (so the $500 or so per month might be do-able). Having accommodations paid for is a very attractive perk...

I am not certified with CELTA/TESOL/etc. I do have a postgraduate education in business (international business management), did private unpaid lessons for friends while in Arkhangelsk, am teaching my wife (who didn't speak a word of English before we met) and have experience as a teacher's aide in highschool... it's a stretch, but could any of this (especially educational background in business) make up for a lack of language diploma? It's not true teaching experience, but who knows? I have been a student of Russian for years, so I am aware from personal experience of more and less effective methods of teaching.

I'm hoping to get over there and start working quite soon (I can probably be over there sometime in January). Here begin my questions... and I know that they're subjects of never-ending debates on this forum, but I'm hoping that my situation is a bit unique and can lend itself to one way better than the other.

Should I take CELTA? I'm looking at teaching English as a way to spend a year or two in Russia, not start a career... the CAN$2000 for CELTA seems like a huge investment that I don't know how I'll be able to work off. I know I've read all of your posts about going with or without it, but I just don't know what I should do... I never would have thought of this as an acceptable way to go, but I read the posts from a forum member (with Kostya Tsyu's picture, I believe) that made me think it might be possible. I'm serious about wanting to go teach English, and I know that CELTA shows that I'd be serious about it, but money is a huge problem right now... I'm outgoing and love speaking with people, and am sure that I'd be able to be a successful teacher if thrown into it.

Should I sign up for an online course and save $1000? I know, I know, it's virtually worthless in terms of actually learning anything, but I also know that in Russia just having that piece of paper can work wonders. I'm wondering if any of the big two or three (BKC, LL, etc) over there recognize online courses. Saving money is very important for me... but I also would like to work in a smaller town.

Any ideas on which school would be most happy to have a native English speaker who's also a graduated business student?

Should I go and freelance? I think the answer is probably no, since the majority of schools in small towns/suburbs like Solnechnogorsk are probably the big schools that won't just pick up some stranger from the street to go and teach. Also, as I'll be with my wife, I don't want to be caught wandering the streets of Moscow without work. I would be more comfortable knowing that no school can threaten to make my visa invalid if I decided I needed a change.

On one hand, I'm thinking that it might be good to have stability... sign up with one of the two big schools (BKC, LL), take the CELTA and know that I'll get my visa and accommodations taken care of, even though I won't get paid well. As a recent grad who just had two weddings (one on both sides of the Atlantic), I'll have a hard time paying off the cost of CELTA. Once I finish the nine months, though, getting the plane ticket cost reimbursed would be a huge help.

On the other hand, if I could get over there and manage to find work without going into debt just to get the certification (that I'll most likely never use after a year or two), I'll be able to earn enough money to survive and be near my wife until she gets her visa. If I go freelance, I imagine visa difficulties (just obtaining one) will be a huge obstacle... Can I just go over as a tourist (1 month visa I believe) and get it extended by a school that I'd find? How do freelancers do it?

Sorry for writing this novel, but I'm just having a terribly hard time deciding which way to go. If my mind was clear, it'd probably be 100x easier, but as it is, I've got visions of visa applications floating through my head all the time! Smile

Thanks for any tips!

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Joined: 02 Oct 2003
Posts: 1117
Location: New York

PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2004 7:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

During my time in the CIS, I met many excellent teachers with no CELTA or TOESL certification; also, these people had no issues finding a teaching job. I cannot speak for the cities you mentioned specifically, but I have a hard time believing it would be difficult for you to find a position. The private lessons you have been giving are a definite plus, as is having been a teacher's aide and of course your educational background. If I were you, however, I'd bone up on my grammar since schools often have grammar-heavy curriculum.
In short, I don't believe you'd absolutely NEED a CELTA or any other certificate, though if you are in the position to get one it couldn't hurt.
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Joined: 31 Mar 2004
Posts: 545
Location: Between Russia and Germany

PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2004 12:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Save your money. Buy yourself some books. Your education, your Russian, your business experience will do well for you. Especially wanting to work in a smaller town.

Airfare reimbursement?!? What, 600 dollars? Compared to the cost of a CELTA?

Visa's always a bit of a drag. That seems to be my main headache/expense. Feeding yourself and your wife if you are willing to live Russian style won't be a problem I don't think. Worry about your visa and your airfare. But the money saved from not doing the CELTA should take care of that, or put a big dent in it. Eating you can manage with a university gig and a few privates.

Hell, in a small town where living is cheap you could just about get by going into debt to cover your living expenses, airfare, and visa costs for the year, and just work as much as you can. You could travel around and give lectures at different universities or do volunteer work or something. There's absolutely no shortage of people needing english classes. And plenty of places where you can live cheap.

Living here is no breeze, and there are plenty of institutions around who could use a teacher, because not that many English speakers are willing to live here.

You know business, you know English and Russian. You have family contacts. You have Russia experience. You should be as fine as anyone can be. Spend your energy thinking about doing wonderful things and meeting interesting people and being able to be with your wife and learn more about her country.

The logistics of what to do just take care of as they come up. I mean, take it seriously but don't get all confused about it. I think you'll be fine.

You might even decide that you and your wife should split your time between Canada and Russia. Work half the year in Canada and come to Russia for half the year and do whatever work is most interesting here, living mostly off of savings. I think this would be a wonderful life. You can use this year to set things up for that sort of future, if you want.

Good luck, I really think you'll be fine. Focus on all the cool stuff ahead of you. It's a wonderful opportunity.
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Joined: 05 Dec 2004
Posts: 7

PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2004 4:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the advice, you two!

I'm feeling more and more confident that I can pull this off... I sent an email yesterday to the director of the Russian department of the university I went to in Arkhangelsk, and he's going to do a bit of legwork and ask around to see if there are any opportunities up there for me.

Your advice is extremely comforting. In fact, I was expecting to get a bunch of replies saying, "You have no CELTA! You think you're going to get PAID over there??".

Now I read these replies, I think that I can take a step back and figure out a good way to market myself. And I guess I should take advantage of the freedom I have - I am not limited to staying in one city, I can go on an adventure and find work almost anywhere...

Thanks again for the replies.

Now, if I could squeeze one more question out of you guys... I've been to Russia four times now. Three times have been to study, so the universities have taken care of my visas. The fourth was a month just to travel... can't remember how I got the visa, it must have been through a visa service, as I didn't stay in a hotel. If I'm planning on going over there without a school to take care of my visa (1 year business visa, if I remember correctly), am I limited to getting a (1 month now??) tourist visa? Never been to Tallinn... Smile

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