The Orange Revolution which saw free and fair elections finally bought to the Ukraine in 2004/5 has led to a great enthusiasm for change, and brought about a great sense of freedom. This is reflected in bold fashions and enthusiasm for partying and living the good life, where possible.
The population of forty-eight millions fits snugly into a landmass of two hundred and thirty square miles. Ukrainian is the official language, but also Russian, Romanian, Polish and Hungarian are spoken. Religions observed include Ukrainian Orthodox, Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox, Ukrainian Catholic, Islam, Judaism and Protestantism. In other words, quite a mix.
Since 1989 the transition to a market economy in what was the old Soviet Bloc has led to huge demand for English language skills. Everything from tourism to commerce, to the much-desired membership of the EU depends heavily on English, and natives who want to make the most of this free market recognise that English Language skills are a must. Nevertheless, native English teachers are something of a rarity, and one can expect minor celebrity status in your chosen domain. Don’t be at all surprised if you receive many invitations to dine, and many invitations to social events. The hospitality of Ukrainians is only matched by their curiosity about the Westerners and the West.
The Ukraine is still a place where you can secure a job with little more than a TESOL certificate. Hence, there is no requirement at present for an undergraduate degree, much less a PGCE or a higher degree, or a great deal of teaching experience. Indeed, many voluntary service organisations (VSOs), are keen to place those with TESOL qualifications in ‘Language Assistant’ positions in high schools.
Outside of the official education system there is a plethora of language institutes, and these tend to be on the look out for well-presented, confident candidates, and, of course, all the qualifications you can muster will help you gravitate to the better institutes.
Another thing to be aware of is that many companies run in-house English language training, and these tend to be the better paid, more stable and predictable posts. In addition to this, for those who do not wish to commit themselves to a full academic year, language summer camps are very common, and can represent a fulfilling way of experiencing the country without having to spend the whole year there.
Students are extremely enthusiastic, and it is recognised by parents and pupils alike, that well-developed English language skills are very important to a student’s job prospects.
Visas and Regulations
The situation for visas and work permits has been highly fluid since the Orange Revolution, and will depend on country of origin has fixed up with the Ukraine. You can find all about this from your local Ukrainian embassy. Think about also what you have to do to renew your visa. All the way back home, or does a cross-border trip do nicely? How many times can you renew your tourist visa?
As with most countries in the region, in order to get a work permit you can expect to have to have available originals of your education certificates, a medical certificate, a contract of employment and a health insurance policy.
Kyiv, the capital, has a history that goes back to the 5th century AD. It was the heart of the Kyivan Rus, the super state from which Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine descended. Kyiv has survived the Mongol invasions, fires, communist urban planning and great destruction during WWII.
Lviv is the cosmopolitan capital of western Ukraine. Until 1939 it had never been ruled by Moscow, and it is here that Ukrainian nationalism emerged in the late 1980s. Having escaped the ravages of WWII, the city is a living museum of architecture spanning the Gothic to the present day.
Odessa is a curious combination of seaside resort and behemoth, Black Sea industrial port. It was immortalised in Sergei Esenstein’s Battleship Potemkin, where it’s part in the revolution of 1905 is highlighted.
Getting a Job
Jobs in Eastern Europe continue to be advertised in the educational press. In addition to this there are a number of organisations who recruit directly into Eastern Europe.
With this said there is a great deal to be said for getting work on the spot. This gives you the opportunity to negotiate a salary, evaluate class sizes, timetables, teaching materials, hours and, where applicable accommodations.
For many, getting a job will mean knocking on doors - another occasion upon which you will need your educational certificates Local telephone directories detail universities, schools and language institutes, etc, which are often only too willing to interview candidates. Highly-qualified, and more importantly, well-turned-out, organised and enthusiastic teachers are in short supply. If they like you they will most certainly find some teaching for you!
Hence, one of the best and most realistic propositions is to build a working life based around getting a contract for some hours, and the work permit that will come with it, and bearing mind that revenue from ‘privates’ can double a teacher’s income, one should always be on the look out for private students, whatever one’s employment or visa status. The market for those wanting private tuition or conversation practice is huge, and potentially very lucrative, therefore, not be neglected. Give yourself time to build a portfolio of work. This is best safeguard to both your income, and employment status.