When we heard that Tim was having a very different kind of TEFL adventure in Moscow, Russia, we immediately wanted to find out more. Teaching in Russia as a tutor, Tim travels all around the world: brace yourself for one incredibly inspirational story!
Where are you originally from? Adelaide, South Australia.
Where are you now? Moscow, Russian Federation.
Why did you decide to look at teaching English? After working in various positions including sales, storeman, assistant manager and administrator, time had passed me by and it was 11 years later. I was bored. I needed a new challenge and I had injured my spine which limited what work I could safely manage. I have always loved children, I love history, and I had never been outside of Australia in my whole life. TEFL was a gateway to enable me to work with kids, but also to travel.
Which TEFL course did you complete? I completed the i-to-i 120 hour online course. It consisted of 20 contact hours on a weekend which was priceless, and 2 years later I still keep in touch with 2 people from that weekend, and also the teacher.
Why Russia? Lots of reasons. I want to write a historical fiction novel and my setting is various areas of Russia, so partly for research. Also, I am now 32 and wanting to have a family, so the love-factor also. Moscow has 15 million people, where Australia as a country has only 20 million. I like the odds of finding Miss Right. I also felt Russia is misunderstood still due to its portrayal in movies, and I just wanted to see for myself. Probably the main reason though, when I was looking at teaching jobs abroad I was choosing between 2 or 3 countries all in Eastern Europe, but Moscow is where I received interest from schools seeking native English speakers to teach.
What age students are you teaching? Initially I was working in a school where the students were aged between 18 and 60. Due to a low salary I registered with 4 or 5 tutoring agencies to boost my salary, and now I work privately for 3-4 families. My students are between 3 and 8, but in one family there’s also a baby of almost 1 year who I am encouraged to just speak English when he is around to get him used to the sound of it.
How are you finding the experience of teaching? When I first came here, the few months after arriving were tough. I calculated my salary in Australia and it seemed incredible, even though I knew that in European countries salary vs cost of living makes it very difficult to save any money. I made a miscalculation on the number of hours I would be working.
Since tutoring my life became easier; now that I work privately for these families, my salary is higher than my retail salary in Australia (if I have my full month of tutoring and we aren’t travelling, my salary is 1 ½ times that of in Australia). The kids I teach are extreme beginners, needing to know the basics for the moment, so largely I am paid to simply speak my own native language, do fun and educational things with the kids, and play games.
What’s the best thing you’ve discovered about living in Russia? This is a tough question, largely because my situation is not like anything I have heard of before. Through tutoring I met a family that I work privately with and I signed just to work for them, excluding the agency. We travel every few weeks to some part of Europe, eating in the best restaurants and all without cost to me. Through them I found my other clients, one of whom is a very famous Russian TV personality. Probably the best thing is the travel I get to do, and the salary I earn while working relatively few hours in a week. And, one of the main reasons for me coming here, it is not remote like Australia. It is inexpensive to travel and stay through Europe and I’ve experienced things I never did in my life before coming (see real snow, see a squirrel, eat caviar, eel and escargot, go snow skiing, enjoy real Russian hospitality).
What would you rate the experience out of 10 and why? I would give it a resounding 10, because my life is COMPLETELY different to what it was, and that is what I was seeking. Where else can you travel the world doing the work I am doing (London, Monaco, France all in 1 month)?! I’m very comfortable. How many people leave their home country for the first time, so sure before leaving that they will never call that country home again? I did this, and after 2 months in Moscow, even through the struggles, I am more sure than ever, and am currently I am thinking of residency and citizenship in the next 5 years.
If you have one piece of advice to give someone, what would it be? Seriously, and I know this is very cliché, JUST DO IT! I received my notification of course completion on the day I went to hospital for spine surgery at the age of 31. ALL of my family and friends (bar 3) tried to persuade me not to go on this journey. I came alone. No friends, no family, I did not know any of the language; I arrived in Moscow with only $200 US in my pocket. I did not have anywhere to stay (I secured a couch to sleep on during my stopover in Singapore). And now, life is better than ever. I work for successful people, salary is great. I see the world. I see growth in the kids I teach. Is there anything more I really need to say to persuade you that this is a life-changing course.
Window, aisle or middle seat on a plane? Window. Even if I am tired, I like having the privacy of people on only one side of me.
Are you the same person as a year ago? Definitely not! I am happier, more secure and comfortable in what I do. When I first arrived here I felt a sense of calm and peace, like this is where I am supposed to be. That feeling is still with me, simply now my life is in a position where it starts to resemble a normal life again already.
If you could take 3 things with you on a desert island, what would they be? Given the lack of electricity, electrical devices are useless, so:
1. A book on history and mythology – entertainment 2. A knife – cooking purposes 3. I really don’t have a number 3. I wouldn’t wish anyone to have to endure that situation with me. And if I still was able to remember things, I can amuse myself (singing music I know, thinking of friends, family, things I’ve seen and done).