Canadian teachers, David and Zora, began their Teach Away placement with Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools in Kazakhstan in January 2015. We caught up with them to learn how they’re enjoying her teaching abroad experience in Pavlodar so far.
What initially interested you in teaching abroad?
My wife and I are both long-time teachers, and we both love adventure. We have taught in the UAE twice, in several parts of Canada, and now in Kazakhstan. Teaching abroad was a natural choice for us.
Why did you decide on Kazakhstan and the NIS program?
The NIS program came to our attention through my contact with Teach Away on another possibility. We leapt at the chance and don’t regret it!
Describe the school that you teach at.
The school is great, and the kids are amazing! I have taught in many different environments, and I have never met a group of students who are ALL so eager, friendly, welcoming and extremely nice. It is a genuine pleasure being in a classroom with these kids!
What does the typical workday look like?
We (the international teachers) teach 18 40-minute periods in a five-day week, Monday to Friday. We also have to make up a number of hours of ‘extra-curricular’ activities. These may include English lessons with our co-teachers, tutorial sessions, clubs, or other activities. This year, my classroom time consisted of three Grade 8 classes with a Russian-speaking co-teacher, and one Grade 9 class with a Kazakh co-teacher. Class time was roughly split between us, usually in our relative languages. My co-teaching experience has been wonderful this year … classes were a real combined effort, both in planning and delivery. Between classes was time for lesson prep, personal responsibilities such as banking, medical appointments, etc. and collaboration. We are required to be in school from 8am to 5pm, with one hour for lunch between 12 and 2. There are also some required cultural events to attend on the weekends, but these are usually great fun. There are also Kazakh and Russian language lessons once a week.
What’s the cost of living like in Kazakhstan?
We are living in Pavlodar, and the cost of living is pretty low. We understand that it is more expensive in big cities like Astana or Almaty. Also, we have been told that the salaries are higher outside of the big cities. It doesn’t really matter to us, because we don’t like city living and LOVE Pavlodar! We have been to more cultural experiences in four months than in four years teaching in Northern Alberta. The kinds of events we’ve been to include some excellent Russian dance troupes (look up Todes), a jazz evening, concerts, the ballet, and more!
Do you have any tips for teachers who are looking to apply to teach abroad or for the NIS program in particular?
It is a wonderful experience! Kazakhs are a lovely, warm and welcoming people. NIS seems to be a super place to work. I highly recommend working abroad, in general, and working for NIS in particular. However, to anyone who is used to a set plan/schedule and is ‘rigid’ by nature – you really must be totally flexible, and ‘go with the flow’ to survive.
Any final pieces of advice or suggestions?
Yes! Where do I start…
1) You are paid essentially for an 11-month year. Paid leave days are accrued and can be applied either to Christmas or summer vacation. Remember the rest of your leave is unpaid.
2) In terms of medical and dental care, you are covered for most things if you go to an approved clinic. You will have to locate one yourself and take a translator. It has often been easier to just find a good one close by and pay ourselves as health costs are quite low compared to home.
3) You MUST keep original receipts (preferably credit card statements) and original boarding passes in order to be compensated for travel to Kazakhstan and for vacations. I had a huge problem because I paid cash, and had only my boarding passes and e-tickets, which was not considered enough evidence.
Long and short, we love it here, both working and living, and although there are little idiosyncrasies to overcome, we recommend it very highly!
Inspired by David and Zora’s experience? Take a look at our current teaching positions with NIS.