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Serendipity: An American Home in Russia

English Teachers Needed in Language School

Church in Vladimir, Russia

Walking down the frosty streets of Vladimir, one is hard pressed to find any signs of Western culture. All around are symbols of old Russia: the glorious Golden Gates, the imposing Uspensky Sobor, the babushkas selling potatoes at the markets. In contrast to Moscow and St. Petersburg, it is nearly impossible to find a billboard written in English. Vladimir is, in almost every respect, hardcore Russian.

Or so it would seem. Ask any cab driver in town what “Letne-perevozinskaya, house 3” means and he’ll say, “That’s the address of the American Home.” Talk to the English-speaking students at the Pedagogical Univ. and many of them will tell you they study at the American Home. In short, the American Home has become something of a legend in this sleepy winter wonderland. With approximately 250 students taking classes every semester, the interaction between Russians and Americans has reached new heights.

The American Home exists not only to provide its students with high-quality English instruction but also to spice up the study of English with American colloquial speech, cultural information, and humor. Students are encouraged to do everything they can to effectively communicate with each other in class and out.

Most of the locals have never left Russia. Some of them have not made it as far as Moscow. But here, only a trolley bus ride away from their homes, is a bastion of American culture. Six native speakers. Dozens of films. Hundreds of books and magazines. America, the beautiful, right in Vladimir’s backyard. A substantial number of the students are eager to study in American universities and are grateful for the information and assistance the American Home staff is able to provide. Equally satisfied are the teachers who work at the American Home every year. It is an incredibly exciting time to be in Russia, a country constantly in transition.

Teaching at the American Home allows one to observe these changes firsthand. The Russian economic crisis, while certainly not pleasant, made working here particularly interesting. The fact that people haven’t received a paycheck or pension in months, yet somehow manage to survive, clearly demonstrates the extraordinary nature of Russian life.

In addition to the cultural, social, economic, and historical education that one can receive in Vladimir, the chance to greatly improve one’s Russian is another major benefit. Teachers work alongside a Russian staff and live with Russian host families. This informal language training is complemented by three hours a week of lessons with private tutors. It is impossible to walk away from this experience without a noticeable improvement in one’s language ability.

All in all, the American Home provides a program that benefits both the students and the teachers, a situation difficult to find these days in Russia. Teachers receive a stipend, room and board with a Russian family, one-on-one Russian lessons, and a well-equipped working environment. More importantly, they leave with an experience they will never forget.

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