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Several questions and concerns
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DMoore



Joined: 10 Sep 2011
Posts: 5
Location: Columbus, Ohio, USA

PostPosted: Thu Sep 15, 2011 7:28 pm    Post subject: Several questions and concerns Reply with quote

I've been hovering around this board for some time trying to gather information about a potential move to Russia to teach.

First, a little bit about me. I am 29 years old and have been on a job search for almost 3 years with no luck. I am currently employed, in fact I have 2 jobs, but neither of them are what I want to be doing for a career. They are just jobs that pay the bills (barely) for now. I have three college degrees. An AA in Philosophy from Cincinnati, a BA in Russian Language and Culture from Ohio State, and a BA in Philosophy also from Ohio State. I spent a few months in Russia in a study abroad program at OSU and loved it. I'm familiar with the people and the culture. I've been looking for mostly government jobs, but have not limited myself to only that. I received my Russian degree back in '06. Obviously there is not a lot of opportunity to use my Russian skills in Ohio, so a lot has been lost since graduating. I feel that this is the main reason why I am not making any headway in obtaining a language specialist position with the government. So my hope is to go to Russia for a few years and get my language fluency back up to par and beyond, and thus be better suited for these jobs upon returning to the states. Ideally I would like to be in Russia for 1-2 years.

Here's where it gets complicated. My girlfriend and I have been looking around and trying to figure out where we would best fit in. Yes, she will be coming along with me, and the schools we've spoken with are OK with hiring both of us. We are not TEFL certified yet, but will be going through those courses in February or March. We also have a dog which we would love to bring along with us. In fact, it is a necessity. Again, the schools we've talked to don't have a problem with us bringing him, as long as we pay all his expenses and we cover any damage he causes to the flat. We've looked into how much it would cost to bring him, and it is really quite reasonable.

However, after reading through these forums and finding answers to most of my questions, it really seems like we are going to be screwed over when we first get there. Having to work for one of the "McSchools" (LanguageLink and BKC) at first, really sounds awful, but I guess we don't have a choice since we have little to no experience. My question is, should we go ahead and start looking more into these schools and do it on our own, or should we wait until we finish our certification and go through the job placement programs that they have? Will our options be better going through them? Second, is it really as bad the first few months I'm there for my contract as I've been reading?

Any advice on what to do now? What should our next step be?

Any help that can be given is greatly appreciated.

David
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jpvanderwerf2001



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

PostPosted: Thu Sep 15, 2011 10:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi David,
First off, best of luck on your venture.
Now, to your questions...


My question is, should we go ahead and start looking more into these schools and do it on our own, or should we wait until we finish our certification and go through the job placement programs that they have?

If the certificates at said "McSchools" offer are Trinity or CELTA, then I would think it might be easier to do it through the school. If the cert is the school's very own cert, it might not do you any good down the road in TEFL-ing (if there is a down the road in TEFL-ing for you...).
I can only speak for EF, but while it's a large rather impersonal organization, in my experience they paid on time and generally tried their best to help out new hires.


Will our options be better going through them?

The main reason, I think, that most newbies in Russia go through McSchools (I was one such, long ago) is that they can more easily attain work permits for their teachers. In that sense, yes, they are a good option.

Second, is it really as bad the first few months I'm there for my contract as I've been reading?

I don't know what you mean by "really bad". Could you clarify?

Any advice on what to do now? What should our next step be?

If you and your girlfriend are both going to teach full-time, then you should have enough money to get by. If that is the case, then I see no reason why you couldn't get your feet wet by taking McSchool contracts. Russia is not an easy market, comparatively, to take the initial plunge; McSchools can alleviate many of the bureaucratic and logistical pains that many newcomers go through. You could sign a one-year contract, make contacts, and if you're any good you could find yourself working for much better pay and conditions in a year's time.


Any help that can be given is greatly appreciated.


I do wonder about your dog a bit. Is he/she big? I guess you've been here so you know how small the flats usually are. Won't you feel a bit cramped in a one-room flat with you, your girlfriend, and a dog? Just a thought; I'm sure you've considered it.
Good on ya for asking a lot of questions. Most people on the Russian board are pretty helpful, so I hope you can make an informed decision.
Again, good luck.
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spiral78



Joined: 05 Apr 2004
Posts: 11471
Location: On a Short Leash

PostPosted: Thu Sep 15, 2011 11:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My dog came with me for a three/four month project in Moscow. Absolutely no problem with this. Dogs are ubiquitous in Moscow and the airports have efficient systems in place for dealing with them.

Two words of caution and advice on the canine question:

When you arrive, it may be that you and the dog are all released from customs without the special paper for the dog from the veterinarian. Take the time before leaving the airport to visit his/her office and get the official paper of general health (is free, and takes five minutes). It's useful when you want to leave!!

Second, beware of the street dogs. They do not appreciate domestic dogs in their territories and can be aggressive, particularly when in packs. They are feral, and will not be overly concerned about whatever sounds or motions you might make - they don't see people as bosses on any level. The schnauzer and I had a few really bad - seriously dangerous -moments in our time there.

On the cert issue - if you are thinking of getting certified in the US and going with their 'placement programmes' - don't. They don't place anyone. They merely give you a list of contacts - you still have to send your resume/CV, go through the interview process, negotiate contracts.....the US-based cert courses are basically useless in terms of practicalities in Russia or other parts of Europe. Read the fine print.
Go with a cert course in Russia.
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
Posts: 11061
Location: Moskva, The Workers' Paradise

PostPosted: Fri Sep 16, 2011 5:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Best of luck to you both!

Good advice written up here so far. I too would recommend doing your course with a McSchool. The CELTA is offered in BKC-IH. That organisation can be quite grim, it is true. But there is a world of grimness a whole lot worse if you are in Russia all alone and bewildered (as you probably will be initially). Some people do manage to avoid the McSchool route, but I'm not sure that it is worth it in the long run. More paper work than I can bear to contemplate...

Grin and bear the idiocies of a Mac, then move out when you are equipped to do so. Just my tuppence ha'p'orth.

Good luck!
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stacyrey



Joined: 10 May 2011
Posts: 19

PostPosted: Fri Sep 16, 2011 7:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

David,

I have been with Language Link now for about 3 weeks. Granted, my degree and my background are in teaching, but I am enjoying the work and my flat. I live near the Vladikino stop on the metro, which is not downtown, but I live 5 minutes from the botanical gardens and Ostankino Park, and I'm only 5 stops from the central school.

I like most of my students and co-workers, but I do have quite a split schedule. If you and your girlfriend are self-starters, things will go somewhat smoothly for you. There are bits of information left out for those that have not done an internship with Language Link, but all of the directors and assistant directors of study answer all of my questions immediately and thoroughly. I'm sure it will suck eventually, like any other teaching job I've had, but for now things are going well, and I have a good life here.

I'll happily answer any questions I can.
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stacyrey



Joined: 10 May 2011
Posts: 19

PostPosted: Fri Sep 16, 2011 7:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I forgot to add...my flat is quite large, and my roommate and I constantly hear about how crappy other folks' flats are.

The dogs in my neighborhood are not terribly territorial, but lots of pet owners live here, too. My roommate and I miss our dogs from home so much that we are considering rescuing a dog from a shelter here.
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smithrn1983



Joined: 23 Jul 2010
Posts: 320
Location: Moscow

PostPosted: Sat Sep 17, 2011 11:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

stacyrey wrote:
I do have quite a split schedule.


This is going to be common no matter where you work. It's unavoidable in Moscow. Also, people I know who have taught at all three McSchools in Moscow tell me LL is the best. I have no personal experience with them, though.

Having an apartment away from the center may not be a bad thing, especially if you have a dog. You might end up near a park, giant shopping center, or other attraction that you find more interesting than the center.
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DMoore



Joined: 10 Sep 2011
Posts: 5
Location: Columbus, Ohio, USA

PostPosted: Wed Sep 21, 2011 3:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I apologize for not keeping up on this thread. It's been a busy week. The things I've heard about the "McSchools" are that they don't pay on time, you don't get the amount of hours that they promise, and just a general displeasure with the whole situation.

I've looked into taking our dog with us and have found a website that is very useful (www.pettravel.com for those interested). You can get a "pet passport" from them and it streamlines the whole process. I ahve talked with a guy from LanguageLink and so far they are the only ones that are OK with pets.

Stacy, I have a question. The LanguageLink website eludes to provided housing, but the email that I received from someone there made it sound like I had to find my own and they would reimburse me. Can you shed some light on this? Did they provide you with a flat or did you have to find your own?

Thanks for all the information so far. You have all been helpful. We are really excited about taking this step and I'm stoked to finally get back to Russia. The only decision I haven't made yet is which Moscow team to root for...CSKA, Lokomotiv, Spartak, or Dinimo. I'm leaning towards CSKA, they have a better shield.

I realize this is pretty unrelated, but have any of you caught a game over there? What are they like? Do you actually have time to hit up any matches? I'm a huge soccer/futbol fan, and am excited to actually catch a match there, especially if it's a Champions League match. I'll lose my mind if I can see Arsenal play there.
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spiral78



Joined: 05 Apr 2004
Posts: 11471
Location: On a Short Leash

PostPosted: Wed Sep 21, 2011 12:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I've looked into taking our dog with us and have found a website that is very useful (www.pettravel.com for those interested). You can get a "pet passport" from them and it streamlines the whole process.


You can (and should) get the international pet passport from your vet.

It needs to be filled in and stamped by an authorised veterinarian anyway. The passport is free, but your dog needs a microchip if he/she hasn't got it already. When you check the current regulations for Russia, you may find requirements for rabies and a current health clearance (your vet says the dog is currently healthy officially). All this must be entered into the passport.
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
Posts: 11061
Location: Moskva, The Workers' Paradise

PostPosted: Wed Sep 21, 2011 12:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Football matches are easily doable, but I'd advise only going with Russian friends. They can be the scene of some heavy-handed policing or fairly physical hooliganism. I tend to stay away myself, and stay away from nearby metro stations too.

Beware!
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stacyrey



Joined: 10 May 2011
Posts: 19

PostPosted: Thu Sep 22, 2011 7:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

DMoore wrote:
Stacy, I have a question. The LanguageLink website eludes to provided housing, but the email that I received from someone there made it sound like I had to find my own and they would reimburse me. Can you shed some light on this? Did they provide you with a flat or did you have to find your own?


They found me a flat and placed me in a good location for me. I understood when I applied that I would only have to find my own flat if I chose to, and then Language Link would reimburse me up to a certain amount. I would definitely ask for details, because I can't imagine that they've changed this in the last 3 months.

Good luck and keep me updated. Let me know if you show up in Moscow!
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DMoore



Joined: 10 Sep 2011
Posts: 5
Location: Columbus, Ohio, USA

PostPosted: Sat Sep 24, 2011 2:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Stacy, so far, have you had any issues with getting paid or with getting the hours you were promised?
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ancient_dweller



Joined: 12 Aug 2010
Posts: 415
Location: Woodland Bench

PostPosted: Sat Sep 24, 2011 2:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

getting paid depends on how well you get along with the department that pays you. they can make it difficult or easy wherever you are. although, language link, as i understood is a series of franchises and getting paid is a very personal thing to each one. obviously, they always aim to pay on time. you just have to view the pay date as an 'on or around date' so you won't be disappointed. you may even find they'll pay a little earlier sometimes. as for not getting paid at all - i've never heard that happen anywhere (on an ongoing basis that is - i've heard the last payment has been forgotten about sometimes).
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ancient_dweller



Joined: 12 Aug 2010
Posts: 415
Location: Woodland Bench

PostPosted: Sat Sep 24, 2011 2:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

i can't remember what happened to the topic on here. but there was in depth discussion about the 'tricks' played by schools. not getting paid at all is rare.

but, offers of hours is very common. they ask you what you want and then lure you in with the offer of getting your prize choice but always give you something else and say 'oh ye, that special one you want is still thinking, but i think she wants it'. Cool
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stacyrey



Joined: 10 May 2011
Posts: 19

PostPosted: Sat Sep 24, 2011 2:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

DMoore wrote:
Stacy, so far, have you had any issues with getting paid or with getting the hours you were promised?


I wasn't promised any hours. I knew coming here that I would not have a "good" schedule. I am actually not even up to a full schedule yet. I'm at 26 and am contracted up to 30, with anything over being overtime.

I just got paid Thursday, at the central office, and had no problem. I am at the central school, though, so I can't speak about any others. The office has a list of all teachers to be paid, they count your money out, you recount it, they cross you off the list, and you sign a form for the amount, etc. You keep half of the form. I feel like they are aboveboard and fair.
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