Welcome to our new interview series, ESL Around the World! This is where we interview people who have taught English in various locations around the world. If you’re interested in trying it out for a year or maybe making a career of it, this is where you’ll find first-hand accounts from people who have done it! Today we’re learning about teaching English in Kazakhstan.
Since publishing this interview, we’ve also written about teaching English in
Our first interview is with Megan Starr.
Hailing from the USA (Richmond, Virginia specifically), Megan has been living and traveling abroad for most of her life. Before moving to Almaty, Kazakhstan, she lived in Norway and Germany.
She has also traveled to so many destinations, it’s crazy! Seriously, head over to her site and you’ll be overwhelmed by the number of places listed on her Destinations page, and those are just the places she’s blogged about.
One of her many obsessions is Soviet history and architecture. She’s even taken online courses about it. Perhaps that’s why she loves traveling and living in that part of the world.
As a lover of hiking and the outdoors, she has also explored some pretty amazing places like the Charyn Canyon in Kazakhstan.
Now that you’ve gotten to know her a bit, let’s get on with the interview!
What It’s Like to Teach in Kazakhstan
Where did you teach and what was your position?
I decided to teach in Kazakhstan on a whim as a means to pay for my accommodation out there. I currently teach a bit here and there via the internet, but it isn’t much and I don’t really want to increase the frequency of it as I’m digital marketer by trade.
I went to Kazakhstan kind of last-minute last year knowing I had a job lined up as a friend set me up with the people to work for there. The details were a bit vague, but I took a chance and went out there anyway. Turns out, everything worked out somehow!
What were the hours and pay like?
I made my own hours and took on the lessons I could when available. I worked with very advanced students and mostly business professionals, so it was fun and I could communicate with most very easily.
The pay in Kazakhstan for teachers is pretty decent given the cost of living there. You can make anything from $18/hour to $50/hour.
What was a typical day like?
The company I was working with actually is British-owned but with an office in Almaty. So I would go into the office when I woke up as I had my own space and I would work on my other work (marketing, blogging, etc) for a few hours, then I would teach a couple of lessons and leave.
It was very relaxed and I was given permission to teach in my own manner and with my own methods. I am very interactive and that approach seemed to work well in Kazakhstan despite going against a still-engrained Soviet mentality.
What were the pros and cons of your job?
The pros were flexibility and the resources. I had everything I needed all the time. It was really nice.
The cons are that I had to walk a few miles each day to get to the office from where I was staying. I could have taken a bus, but they are jam-packed in Kazakhstan and I would have had an anxiety attack.
I lost about 10lbs in Kazakhstan, but I gained it all back when I got back to Germany (and then some!).
What’s the best way to find a teaching job in Kazakhstan?
Networking is the best way to find a job there. You could also apply to an international school or simply google “English companies” and inquire within.
Why did you choose to live and teach in Kazakhstan? What did you like and dislike about it?
I chose it as I had traveled there before and loved Almaty. I found it rather liveable and I knew that if I lived anywhere in Central Asia, Almaty would be it.
I loved being in a city that had something new for me each and every day. The food is good, the people are nice, and I found my routine pretty quickly.
As for things I dislike- I was there in winter, so the ice and snow were a bit of a pain after a while!
What is the cost of living like compared to your earnings? Are you able to save money?
The pay for a native English teacher in Kazakhstan definitely is far and beyond the cost of living. You can have a really, really good life there if you play your cards right.
I could have saved money, but I basically only worked enough to pay my rent during this time. I just needed a stable amount of money weekly to pay rent and eat and then I worked on my other stuff on the side.
What advice do you have for people considering moving abroad to teach English?
Have fun with it! Take into consideration the country’s history and education system when you plan lessons.
A Soviet-minded person may not take some things as easily as others and vice versa.
Are you ready to pack your bags and head to Kazakhstan now?! You may have learned of Kazakhstan from the movie Borat, but this country is far more than “the number one exporter of potassium.”
Extending from the Caspian Sea in the west to the Altai Mountains on the eastern border with China, it’s a fascinating country to explore. So why not do a stint teaching English there to fund your travels?
Before you start applying for English teaching jobs, it’s a good idea to get an English teaching certification. There are so many perks to getting a TEFL or TESOL. You’ll learn classroom management, how to plan a lesson, be entertaining while teaching, and so much more, helping you to teach with confidence.
We got our TEFL certificates with BridgeTEFL and would highly recommend them. They provide a stellar course and will pair you with an online mentor to grade your assignments and help you as you progress.
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Stay tuned for the next interview in our ESL Around the World series!
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