Tom_H's Travel Journals


If you could travel to any place in any period in history, where would you go?

Moscow (or Saint Petersburg) after the fall of Berlin.

  • 46 years old
  • From Florida, United States
  • Currently in Moscow, Russia

Amerikanets v Rossiya

I am traveling to Russia to teach English to a young Russian couple. I will be writing about my experiences from my planning the trip, to organizing lessons, to teaching and assessing, and some valuable lessons that I am learning the hard way. I am calling this blog “Amerikanets v Rossiya” (An American in Russia). I’m naming it after a show in Russia that my friends told me about. It was called “Italyanets v Rossiya” or “An Italian in Russia”.


Russia Moscow, Russia  |  Jun 28, 2011
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 Planning my trip to Russia 

I decided to go to Russia to teach English for three reasons.  First of all, I wanted to gain valuable experience in teaching a language.  That was my main objective.  Secondly, I wanted much needed practice in my Russian speaking abilities.  Thirdly, I wanted an opportunity to visit Russia and some of my Russian friends.

I made my decision in October to go to Russia.  Since I am a teacher, I chose to go to Russia during my summer vacation (June and July).  After deciding where and when to go, the next step was to decide how long.  Since I had been in Russia before and I had a good understanding of the Russian language, I decided to go for about 2 months.  If you’re going for the first time, I would recommend not going as long as I have.  Two months can be a very long time if you are in an unfamiliar place.

Once I decided where, when, and how long, Geovisions paired me with a young Russian couple.  Their names are Rinat and Elena.  I was given contact information and began conversing with Rinat via email.  With each email, I looked very reoccurring mistakes.  I also wasn’t sure how much help Rinat was receiving in writing the emails.  I did see a couple of things.  The biggest weakness was with verb tenses.  Rinat had trouble using the correct verb tenses.  I also noticed that Rinat was translating many expressions directly from Russian to English.  My knowledge of Russian helped me understand why he wrote the expressions the way he did.  While we are saying the same thing, it is sometimes said differently in English than in Russian.  So I knew that Rinat’s vocabulary was good but not strong.  So I had a good understanding of some areas to focus on first.  Geovisions also had some resources that I could use.  I had access to the website where I could get many lesson plans.  Jane (from Geovisions) also gave valuable tips to use.

Now that I had a plan, the next step was to make the travel arrangements.  Since I traveled to Russia before, I understood the steps that I had to take.  First thing was that I had to get a Visa.  Before getting a Visa though, I had to receive an invitation from Russia.  In order to travel in Russia, you must have an organization sponsor you.  They have to get an invitation from the Russian government.  I also had to find out how to obtain the visa.  In the past the travel agent did all these arrangements.  However, I was with a group then.  This time I was going as an individual.  So it was better for me to make the arrangements.  Since was staying for longer than a month, I had to get a student visa instead of a tourist visa.  This complicated things a little because in Russia you cannot apply for a student visa earlier than 45 days before your arrival.  This meant that there wasn’t time to apply and process the visa.  I found a company, Travisa Outsourcing, that worked with the Russian embassy to process visas. 

I received my invitation two weeks before I planned to leave for Russia.  Since I had my invitation, I decided to purchase my airline tickets before receiving the Visa.  I wanted to do this because the longer I waited, the higher the price of the tickets.  However, this was a mistake.  I bought my tickets from a travel agency in Connecticut (Sanditz Travel).  I had worked with them before and they had always done a great job.  After purchasing my tickets, I completed the visa application form on the Travis Outsourcing website.  I did not have all the information I needed though.  It took me a few more days to get all the necessary information.  I finally was able to complete the application and send it one week before I planned to leave for Russia.  The problem was first this was Memorial day weekend.  So Travisa Outsourcing would not get it until Tuesday.  Secondly, it takes them a day to process the application and get it to the Russian embassy.  Thirdly, the embassy can process it the same day they receive it.  However, they do not allow entry into Russia earlier than 5 business days before they issued the visa.  So bottomline, I could not leave for Russia until 4 days after the day I had planned to leave.  So I decided to leave one week later.  I had to pay a fee to get my airline tickets changed.  Plus I also had paid a fee to rush the processing of the visa.  But everything finally was in order and all I had to do was wait to leave.

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  • Pre-Departure

    June 28, 2011
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