While many people have come to consider Western Europe overly commercialized and entirely touristy, Eastern Europe is home to lots of different cultures and sites that are unique, well-preserved, and extremely localized. Detached from the economic powers that make up the EU, Eastern Europe is an affordable way to experience the lifestyle of a European adventure, while earning a decent living and working in a world often forgotten by U.S. History books. In general, teaching abroad is a great way to immerse in a new culture while making money and contributing to the global community, and this region does not fall short of any expectations.
Individuals can teach abroad in Eastern Europe and Russia in almost every country, although a few offer distinct competitive advantages and unique vantage points to launch an international teaching career.
Kazakhstan, while not a popular tourist destination, is an incredible hub for international education. Teaching jobs in Kazakhstan are available year round as well as in nearly every subject, from Biology and Chemistry to Algebra and Calculus, as well as nearly every grade from Kindergarten on up.
Turkey is also home to many English teaching jobs for those hoping to work with ESL students, although other subjects (such as economics) are also available. Turkey can also be a very flexible destination as contracts range anywhere from two to four months to a few years depending on the school.
Russia offers lots of ESL teaching jobs as well. Most individuals who teach abroad in Russia end up being located in the capital cities, where most ESL students are. While the political climate of Russia in recent years has made it difficult for Americans to enter the country, due to both financial and governmental restrictions, Westerners can occasionally gain entrance for the pursue of teaching English abroad.
Many other Eastern European countries have great jobs for teaching English abroad. Hungary and Poland have a high demand for TEFL certified teachers, while the Czech Republic has some of the largest TEFL certification programs in the world.
Most international teaching jobs in Eastern Europe and Russia are in teaching English as a second language. For these positions, a TEFL or TESOL certificate is recommended, however, very little knowledge of the local language is necessary to teach abroad in most places.
That being said, Eastern Europe offers unique opportunities to teach abroad in a variety of subjects, especially Math and Science. Subject specific teaching jobs in Russia will require a working knowledge of Russian, although some are available in English. Subject-specific teaching jobs in Eastern Europe and Russia will typically only accept teachers with a degree in education or formal teaching certificate.
Most Eastern European countries follow a similar schooling system. Students between the approximate ages of five to 13 complete a fairly standard curriculum. Around 14, students branch off to either attend trade schools or continue coursework to prepare for college. Positions teaching English in Eastern Europe or Russia are available throughout the education system, but subject-specific placements are normally concentrated more at the 14 to 18 age group.
Depending on your host school, most international teachers will work between 10 to 40 hours each week as part of a contract ranging from a few months to a few years. Most English teachers in Eastern Europe and Russia can expect to work four day weeks with semi-flexible hours, but other placements may have more structured schedules.
Eastern Europe is known for being a very affordable place for Westerners and expats to live and teach English abroad. Housing costs are normally very low, as is the cost of food and public transportation. This affordable lifestyle is in part due to the fact that most Eastern European nations have yet to adopt the Euro as their currency, giving the U.S. dollar very strong purchasing power.
Salaries for international teachers will vary, although many range between $1000 to $5000 per month, with the higher salaries typically earned by teachers outside of positions focused on teaching English abroad. Accommodations may or may not be included as part of a compensation package too.
Housing in most of Eastern Europe and Russia is often quite small by most Western standards. Many apartments were built during the era of communist occupation, resulting in very standardized and confined quarters. Apartment style housing is quite popular in larger cities and is often available to teachers when housing is provided.
In addition to cheap housing, Eastern Europe is notorious for complicated, and occasionally expensive, visa applications. Teaching abroad in Eastern Europe will require a work visa supplied by your host country. Many work visas for the region have extra complications involved, including long processing times that may exceed two months, required in-person interviews at the consulate in your home country, and high visa fees. During times of increased political tensions in the region, it can be difficult for Americans to obtain visas too, especially to Russia (either due to formal travel restrictions or visa fees exceeding $500).
Also, many Eastern European countries are part of the Schengen Zone, making travel and relocation between countries seamless as long as you have a visa for another Schengen Zone country.
- Affordable Living: Eastern Europe is a very affordable destination for teaching English abroad, and is especially great for Westerners who want to experience the convenience of travel in Europe while also staying away from the larger touristy cities of the West.
- Diverse Teaching Jobs: International Teachers in Eastern Europe are not limited to teaching English abroad. Subject specific placements are widely available, although they may require a working knowledge of the local language.
- Avoid the Tourists: Eastern Europe provides the charm and romance of Europe, the architecture, the art, the city life, but is far less touristy than the Western side of the continent.
- Language Immersion: English is far less common in Eastern Europe than Western Europe, so teaching in Eastern Europe or Russia is a great way to practice your skills, learn a new language, and experience an adventure in a totally foreign world.