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Our Trainees

A video our Spring 2014 CELTA trainees made about themselves:


 A poem by our August 2018 CELTA trainees:

A bit of reflection

- What is CELTA? – It’s a MUST! All the rest to do is trust!
- Taxi-drivers can apply: CELTA sharpens all! - Oh, my!
- Widely-recognized it be! Be promotion given to thee!
- Cambridge Language is quite dry – teaching practice shouldn’t die!
- Self-reflection and feedback will help us not leave the track!
- Lots of courses every year seem so hard for me to bear!
- Success is sometimes hard to see – We’re not guinea-pigs, are we?
- Written work of four nice pieces brings a lot of hugs and kisses:)))



Anton Karamnov - CELTA course, August 2013

CELTA course for teachers of English in Moscow

If I had a magic wand

I would be an awesome lord

So I wouldn’t need a ring

To make hobbits disappear.


I would use my wand instead

To make CELTA course extend

‘Cause behind those stressful times

Hidden lies a real prize.


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You acquire lots of things,

Such a knowledge, patience, skills.

You meet people who are wise

And quite good at compromise.


You’re watching, writing, teaching,

ICQing, planning, printing,

Concept checking, monitoring,

Trying not to be too boring…


In such frenzy of commotion,

Gradually losing conscience,

You’re still thinking of the grade

To be issued in the end…


So, my friends, relax at last,

Grab a beer and sleep fast,

‘Cause the ghost of CELTA past

Will be always there with us.


No regrets or feeling sorry.

That’s the spirit! End of story.

Go and google DELTA now

Or just buy yourself a cow.


Daria Akulova - CELTA course, January 2013

CELTA is but a challenge

They say the CELTA course is very intensive, stressful and hard work. Well, it is indeed. Once you are on the course you find yourself sledging down a mountain at the highest possible speed with almost no chance to stop. It`s both fascinating and terrifying! Sleepless nights and lunchless days full of lesson planning and actual teaching are a reality. But eventually it all proves to be highly rewarding and leads you to a much deeper understanding of how to establish an effective learning environment in the classroom and what the role of a teacher actually is.

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From the very moment of applying for the course I got a feeling that CELTA tends to be a purely personal training program which needs to be taken at the right time. Pre-course tasks and a Skype interview made me refer to my background teaching and language-learning experience which includes taking TKT, CAE and CPE exams, working with different age groups and levels, participating in teacher training workshops and certainly communicating with native speakers. Every single step I took before CELTA mattered a lot and as those dots got connected I managed to make my way towards further professional development. Some of us might think that as soon as we get admired by our students there are no more stars to reach for, but hopefully most of us believe in lifelong learning as being an integral part of a teaching job. This inner desire to grow constantly not only helps us to polish up the art of teaching, but also makes our lives thrilling!

The course itself turned out to be individual based on many levels. Being trainees, we had to reflect on our own teaching daily, filling in self-evaluation forms and analyzing our strengths and weaknesses. Though all the input sessions and procedures to follow were the same, every teacher struggled with their own individual flaws. And as we developed our skills throughout the course, new challenges would appear. We would spend hours exploring the different types of learners and looking for relevant materials and methods to use for each particular group of students. I personally always wondered how to arrange learning without a continuous presence of an actual course book, which at times seemed to put up barriers against students` interaction. On CELTA I got the answer by learning to adapt course book materials and design my own handouts for each lesson. Now I don`t feel myself being trapped as a teacher anymore, I am free to vary and transform activities and I know how to make it competently. Overall, having only four weeks to digest loads of brand new teaching techniques and put them into practice seemed to be overambitious, but the pressure acted as a powerful tool. Squeezing as much information as possible into oneself and achieving personal and professional goals led to development that each of CELTA trainees are proud of now.

It`s also worth mentioning the friendships and support network we created through the course. Going on CELTA to Moscow I didn`t expect to become a part of such a solid multinational team of teachers. Despite the fact that everybody had far too much on their plate, we built a close rapport and mutual trust, which is priceless. An innumerable number of hugs, “I did it!” dances and “We will survive!” songs that we would perform after each teaching practice made this month of hard work a never-to-forget life experience.

So, if you asked me whether the course is worthwhile, my answer would definitely be positive. Once you are determined enough to expand your horizons and gain an insight into the best of both classic and innovative teaching methodology, take a deep breath and push your sledge down the CELTA mountain! All in all, isn`t life about discovering how far we can go?

Comments on CELTA from some of my peers:

“I would say that CELTA is a short trip on a fast ride, it is very intensive but this is very productive to learn quite a lot of things and put them into practice every second day.” - Daniel

“My sense is that one needs to have all of one's time devoted to CELTA. It's very feasible to live near the place where CELTA is held in order not to waste time on travelling. It is intensive and it's better not to understate it.” - Evgenia

“I really miss those Celta days though they were dreadful, demanding with deadlines that drained us of all energy. It was certainly a useful course, that has given a new dimension to teaching language.” - Sudha

“It revolutionizes your perception of ELT. The teaching methods and approaches you were used to seem totally wrong now. The one-month course seems to have given me much more than a 5-year course at the institute!!!!!” - Alexandra

“No sleep, no rest,
Much work, real stress.
But then great fun,
Good job! Well done!
A lot of friends,
Champaign and dance.
Help and support
When, why and what.
Celta's behind,
but still on my mind!” - Tatiana


CELTA course for teachers of English in Moscow

Svetlana Firsova - CELTA course, September 2011

I decided to enroll for the CELTA course mostly for professional reasons. Having certain teaching experience, I still felt that there was something missing in my knowledge of different methodics and overall practical skills. It's one thing when you read about it but to use these aspects in practice right away is something really special.

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At first, I was a bit sceptical if it would be possible to cover such substantial material in such short terms. But it turned out to be a really rewarding and effective experience. Now looking back on the past three weeks I can say that I'm really satisfied. All the hard work (and sleepless nights as well) have paid off. It would have never been possible to finish this course without the inestimable help and support of my trainers (Irina and Simon), who provided all the necessary assistance and proved to be excellent motivators. I also owe many thanks to my wonderful group who've been really supportive and great to work with. I was afraid that criticism from both my tutors and my group would actually crush and demotivate me but, vice versa, it was really substantial, gave me a lot of food for reflection and helped me focus on my weaker sides trying hard to improve myself.

Camellia C. Cheriki - CELTA course, September 2011

Although I had previously obtained some teacher training certificate, to expand my teaching experience beyond the borders of my country I required an internationally recognized certificate like CELTA. As you know CELTA provides the trainees both practical experience and theoretical basis. Regardless of the fact that during the intensive course huge amount of information is packed into a very short space of time and many trainees find it scary, this gives you

a realistic idea of what it is like to plan in a short time like a teacher in real life.

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Before signing up for the course and leaving my country with my husband, we were warned that it would be unbearably difficult and many trainees quit as a result of the pressure. But to be honest, despite being away from our homeland and all those restless and sleepless night of preparing for the next day’s teaching practice, I literally enjoyed every minute of the course. I really loved the input sessions, TPs and the feedback sessions because everybody was supportive and encouraging and offered assistance. Overall, it was an amazing experience where my husband and I met colorful people pursuing the same dream and we have BKC’s teacher training staff to thank for giving us this unforgettable experience.

Richard Soulliere — CELTA course, March 2008

CELTA, well, yes it’s demanding, but it’s all about increasing your awareness of the language and methodologies. If there’s one thing I can say about most of the techniques is to trust the process! That’s one thing that really helped in my teaching, even though I’m patient to begin with. Overall, the course was the career qualification I had been looking for in terms of helping me teach better.

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«Ever since my flight landed in Moscow in mid-March 2008, I’ve found the world works in very different ways than it does here. I left Ottawa after a weekend that saw 2m of snowfall to arrive in a green Moscow. That plus everything is heated here, including the metro. Needless to say, my mukluks and huge winter ski jacket were out of place.

Before the trip, I’ll have to say that getting the visa was actually pretty easy for this Canuck, even after recent legal updates earlier in the year. Point to note: be clear on what type of visa you want. If you sign up for CELTA with the intent of being hired BY BKC, then specifically request the extendable three-month business visa. If you intend to work at another school in Russia upon completion, you’ll need a non-BKC-sponsored visa (usually requiring repatriation as part of the process).

The application was pretty straight forward thanks to the wonderful ladies in Teacher Training. They were very helpful in providing all forms, visa application info…the works. Do pay attention to the name at the end of emails (as teacher training is a departmental email account). The sign with my name on it at the airport was nice, but I’m dismayed to this day that I haven’t received the traditional Russian greeting of a slap on the back and a kiss on each cheek. Oh, get the metro pass with 100 or so rides on it as you’ll use that up throughout the course easily.

CELTA, well, yes it’s demanding, but it’s all about increasing your awareness of the language and methodologies. If there’s one thing I can say about most of the techniques is to trust the process! That’s one thing that really helped in my teaching, even though I’m patient to begin with. Overall, the course was the career qualification I had been looking for in terms of helping me teach better.

Both instructors I had on the course were great. Loads of very practical materials with great pointers throughout. Half of the class was Russian, which I thought was surprising, but they, too, want to live and work abroad, so…. What added some fun was the fact that the entire group spoke North American English while the two instructors spoke British English. Purely by chance and it was fun to exchange idioms, but we didn’t get penalized for different accents as we were all clear to understand.

You won’t really have time to read in your spare time (i.e. weekends) because you won’t have much time at all. So, read up beforehand and bring one or two reference books (I highly recommend Swan as you’ll need it for the assignments). The libraries are stacked here, so no need to worry about finding materials for the practice classes. Plus, it helps to stroll through the (very) nearby Red Square after a long day. Oh, and the catered lunches offered at BKC are inexpensive (given food prices in Moscow) and tasty, especially the mouth-watering buns/rolls.

Speaking of the practice sessions, they were great. The students were eager to learn and appreciate almost anything new you throw at them that they can understand. If the grammar is new, no worries as it will be discussed in afternoon sessions. If you’ve never thought about grammar before, try an online ELA course (I did one before CELTA and it eased my worries tremendously, especially when I started teaching at BKC afterwards).

Prior to Moscow, I had spent four consecutive years teaching English in mainland China and what a huge difference it is! That said, I’m used to living abroad, so culture shock wasn’t so great this time around.

You won’t be a monkey here; you’ll have to know your stuff. Fortunately, there are plenty of experienced teachers and huge libraries of resources. In fact, senior teachers are allotted to various areas of the city to act as mentors, giving advice and keeping in regular contact with those newer to the Russian bloc. All you need to do is keep one step ahead of your students, so, again, trust that process if you have to wrap your mind around any new concepts.

Students are generally eager to learn and are direct with questions and expressing needs to fill gaps in their language base. Adults are mature and accept a bit of humor in the classroom, kiddies are appreciative of opportunities to learn and engage themselves, teens are usually pretty cool, and the libraries of resources give you loads of activities to keep pre-teens on track to improving their English.

If you decide to sign on here at BKC, there are loads of benefits. You don’t need to fly back to get a visa, free accommodation from the end of the course onwards, quick visa processing, orientation, etc. You’ll most likely have a few days to treat yourself to excursions and sleeping in, so budget accordingly. Monthly seminars are more like social gatherings and some important what’s-what sessions, definitely worthwhile. If you’re set on working in a small town near Moscow, that’s pretty much only done in September (beginning of the academic year) from what I’ve been told, although once you’re there….

As for life in Moscow proper, well…. I find it’s more expensive than most places, especially fresh food, so bring your vitamins. Russians, like myself, don’t understand vegetarianism, but there are veggie shops around. Clothes of all (affordable) styles are in great abundance, although there’s a big focus on denim for dudes. If you don’t do the Russian thing of spending the portion of your salary that’s truly disposable on vodka, then you can cook up some great eats, eat out every once in a while, save, and go on occasional trips (not only the ones offered in-house). Books in English are available at a few well-known shops and good Russian textbooks are widely available.

Moscow is the first city with a population of over 1.5 million I’ve lived in that I like. In future, I’ll see about doing the Young Learners’ Course.»

Faina Nizamutdinova - CELTA Course, July 2007

It all started sometime in April when I felt a little bit stagnant, exhausted and unable to move further. I was in desperate need of a refresher course. Falling back on my old teaching techniques and methods seemed to be getting less and less effective. Apart from this feeling of dissatisfaction, I had been cherishing the idea of working abroad for some time. I spent long hours surfing the Internet in search of the information which could help me meet both of my objectives. So I came across the CELTA course.

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After the pre-course task and interview had been performed, I began to read for the course. Once the course started, I felt really challenged from the very first day. It had a very tight schedule packed with two teacher inputs, feedback, lesson preparation and teaching practice. As a result, the pace throughout the course was very dynamic and fast.

The first teaching practice as well as the other TPs highlighted the areas for me to work on, which were and still are time and classroom management. Though I felt completely stressed by the end of each week, I felt satisfied at the same time. The sense of accomplishment and even small improvement made all that difference.

I am very grateful to our tutors, Joanna Graham and Irina Grekova, who were efficient and motivating, very supportive and helpful throughout the course.

The CELTA course helped me develop better awareness of teaching and learning processes, plan for more effective teaching of adult learners and improve my classroom teaching skills.

I can definitely say, 'It was an experience I will never forget.'

Faina Nizamutdinova - CELTA Course, July 2007

Julia MacGregor — CELTA Course, September 2005

Most everything about the CELTA and BKC-IH Moscow was how I expected it to be: the staff was super friendly and helpful and did everything they could do to make the trainees comfortable and happy upon arrival to Moscow and throughout the course. The course itself was intense as promised, and there is really nothing you can do to prepare yourself for standing up in front of the teaching practice group on the first day of CELTA!

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The one thing I didn’t really expect about the course was the trainers’ level of knowledge and experience which they brought to the course. Their dedication to taking twelve seemingly normal folk and preparing them for classroom teaching made me glad that I had chosen to come to Moscow after all.

The course is incredibly well designed in that it is a healthy balance of inputed information about teaching along with practical experience with live victims, I mean, students! The teaching practice was really a time when you could use the strategies the trainers spent so much effort trying to get across to you and actually see them either fail miserably because you did something wrong or experience the elated feeling of "WOW! That worked!" when you executed something correctly. This was an invaluable part of the training because being able to take notes on a new topic and being able to implement it into a lesson are two very different things. The balance created by having both these aspects of teaching incorporated into one teacher training course is really what makes the CELTA unique. The CELTA course at BKC-IH Moscow is a good place to begin a career in English language instruction or, if you are already a teacher, to further your professional development and open new doors of opportunity.

David Connolly — IHC YL Course, May 2005

Some excerpts from the diary of a IHC-YL course 6 nervous teachers, a dozen (!) surly teenagers and 7 awed-at-first but soon very enthusiastic 9 year olds. Using 2 (wise and wonderful) trainers and 2 very patient and helpful administrators, mix thoroughly and bake in sweltering May temperatures under lots of pressure. Results in a tough (firm but fair) crust with a soft warm centre that, um, just melts in your mouth. Sprinkle liberally with dill and serve with vodka.

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It is always a strange experience for a teacher to become a student again. At last someone else would be entertaining and informing us. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be. Get into pairs, get into threes…. I hate the communicative method! Our trainers effectively (and actually quite painlessly) elicited our collective wisdom and filled in the gaps. The sessions were practical and hands on, related well to our classes and some were even quite fun.

Two classes and two groups for teaching. Each group had a week teaching one class and observing the other, then we swapped. Teenagers first for me, I don’t think I’ve seen that many teenagers in one room since I was at school. The room wasn’t a bad size but it just happened to be the hottest May in Moscow for a very long time. I suppose it’s better to get this group out of the way.

First day everyone was totally nervous. The teachers that is. The little kids seemed a bit overawed, and it made me realize what an adult environment Tverskaya is. The younger ones have that wonderful quality of wanting to please the teacher. All the time. Me, me, me! Keep them all moving and doing something all the time and they don’t have a chance to think about anything else.

The teenagers took everything in their stride and kept their cards close to their chests. A very mixed bunch: levels, personalities, size, maturity. A week of teaching and a week of watching were just enough to start getting to know them. Much to our surprise they seemed genuinely sad to finish. They could have looked like they were enjoying it during the classes. Such is the nature of the beast, I guess.

Glad I did it? Definitely. Learn lots? Absolutely. Recommend it? Unhesitatingly. Is that a word? It is now.

Ole Abildsness - CELTA Course, September 2003

When I did the CELTA course last autumn, I don't think I was sure how exhausting it would be. Looking back, it was without doubt the most intensive month of vigorous studying that I've ever undertaken in my life.
In retrospect, I think that the CELTA course taught me a thing or two about the importance of being hands-on, at the students' own level so to speak rather than lecturing.

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The CELTA course leaders are obviously very experienced and give constructive, objective feedback throughout the course. The major part of this feedback is based on the lessons that the teacher trainees give. Needless to say, it can be a rather daunting experience to teach under these circumstances.

In retrospect, I think that the CELTA course taught me a thing or two about the importance of being hands-on, at the students' own level so to speak rather than lecturing. This highly practical approach works particularly well for the relatively small classes that we have at BKC and at many other language.

Audrey C. Pitonak - CELTA Course, January 2001

With few expectations but reading the pre-course material and obediently packing warm clothing, I arrived in Moscow for the first time on a frigid January evening. Greeted and immediately taken to meet my roommates for the month-long course, we stayed up late into the night getting settled into our temporary housing.

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Any thoughts of having extra time to tour the city soon fled as our workload was slowly laid before our still jet-lagged eyes. As we had invested our time and finances to learn how to become proper English language teachers, we would receive more than a bargain. Our tutors having many years of experience throughout the world were more than competent in sharing their knowledge in a well-organized manner while sequentially building on each lesson.

A little nervous about practice teaching immediately, I was set at ease in the comfortable and safe environment that was created where we could learn from each other, offer complements and suggestions, and receive valuable critiques from the tutors. In this way, we were given the opportunity to implement what we had learned throughout the day in a practical, hands-on learning approach to reinforce methods in lesson planning, preparation, and style of delivery. The course successfully covered all aspects of learning and teaching English as a foreign language to adults.

Although the course was demanding, most of us had ample opportunity to visit various highlights of Moscow, absorb some of the culture and history, as well as make new friends both inside and outside of BKC. The metro stations were alone something unique and artistic to behold. I even managed to go on my first one-horse open sleigh ride! For those who were a little more warm-blooded than myself, there were outdoor activities available to help them satisfy their thirst for fresh air and nature. Our friendly BKC staff helped us attain tickets to an opera and were always willing to help fulfill our needs.

All in all, the CELTA course was one that filled in many open gaps in my teaching capacities and provided the proper training that I had been longing for in order to offer the best education to my students. The knowledge I gained about the English language increased my confidence for presenting the language to students here in the country of Macedonia or anywhere in the world. Completing the CELTA course was a personal educational growth and development decision that reinforced my professional skills, and I know that the investment will aid me throughout the rest of my career.

David Keane - CELTA Course, August 2003

I had a fantastic time studying for my CELTA with BKC in Moscow. There was a great mix of students from America, Canada, Europe and Russia. This gave very different views on teaching and language but provided an exciting and stimulating environment in which to study.

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The course was very intense but rewarding and the lecturers set very high standards. The teaching practise was great fun, and the Russian students who we were 'practising' on added to this part of the course due to their interest and commitment. There was a real sense of achievement in the passing the course.

One of the added benefits of doing CELTA in Moscow was being in one of the liveliest and interesting cities in Europe. The school was just 10 minutes from Red Square and in the summertime there is a vibrant 'outdoor' life city.

Anissa Matthews - CELTA Course, July 2003

I took the CELTA at BKC-IH in the summer of 2003. My overall impression of the course was very good. Our tutors were Sue Collins and Bill McCann, both native Australians and highly-trained. The course was very intensive, at times even overwhelming, but was challenging in all the right ways.

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Learning all you need to know about your native language in one month is daunting at the very least. However, I feel that we were given quality training from the interactive "lectures" and the many opportunities to develop experience in an actual classroom with real students. The many written assignments were my biggest stress, but were worthwhile in the end. Generally, I had a positive experience with all aspects of the process. All of the Russian staff are pleasant and helpful. The teacher-training center took care of my visa and provided all of the trainees with acceptable accomodations. I highly recommend this course to future teachers, especially if you have any desire to teach in Russia.

Phillip Donnelly - IHCYL Course, February 2004

I started teaching eight years ago and from the very beginning I have spent about one third of my teaching life with young learners. I noticed that what worked wonderfully with adults would often fail in a teenager or kid's class. I think the course enabled me to understand the fundamental differences between teaching young learners and adults, and also showed me how to apply this theoretical knowledge.

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While my teaching experience gave me plenty of hands-on experience, I have come to realize that I was still quite ignorant of the theoretical background to teaching young learners and the implications of this learning theory on my everyday classroom management. By providing me with this information, the course enabled to not only exploit more fully the materials I was using in my young learner classes, but also helped me to understand the rationale behind these materials. In other words, it not only taught me what to do in class but also taught me why I was doing it.

One other thing which I found very useful in the course was the large amount of observations it entailed. The course tutor was able to analyse my teaching and highlight its strong and weak points. The course was also long enough to enable me to work on these weak areas, and by the end of the course I feel there were significant improvement in these areas. Moreover, there was also a great deal of useful feedback from the course participants themselves, most of whom was also experienced teachers of younger learners. Furthermore, observing my colleagues lessons also allowed me to learn from their classes and apply what I had learnt in my own teaching.

On a more practical level, the International House certificate I was awarded upon completing the course has improved my CV considerably. Although most teachers nowadays have a CELTA or equivalent teaching qualification, few teachers have obtained a qualification specifically designed for teaching young learners. This is unfortunate as approximately one third of a teachers' schedule is normally spent teaching young learners. I feel that having this young learner certificate will make me more employable in the future.

To sum up, I can honestly say that I probably learned more during the course than I had done in the previous seven years of teaching. This may seem like an unreasonable claim, but so often in class our teaching becomes ritualized and we stop asking ourselves if our teaching is as good as it could be. The course is almost like a full length mirror that provides you with a 'warts and all' image of your teaching performance. However, unlike a mirror, the course also allows you to change for the better. I recommend all teachers do this course as it will improve your teaching of young learners immensely.

Richard Weaver - CELTA Course, January 2001

I would rate the CELTA course at BKC as excellent. It's very intensive involving mostly late nights (sometimes 1-2 am) preparing lessons and getting up really early to prepare through the morning. You have to be prepared to take lots and lots of criticism.
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This is always constructive, but when you are working so hard and still being told what you are doing is wrong it is often depressing. Working hard will get you through all this but it will find people out who are not committed to trying to teach well. All the hard parts (criticism, preparation time) have been worth a lot in my first two months in a full time job here at BKC. All the criticism was actually invaluable advice.

The course is hard for this reason. The trainers are great even though I offer warning to any prospective CELTA trainees.

Moscow in January was really cold, but still a fascinating city (it is my first time and I am learning Russian from scratch). The school generally organizes good places to live (by moscow standards - my flat is in a big tower block but is warm and comfortable). Moscow has got loads of job opportunities. A CELTA Certificate means you would almost always find something. If you also have previous teaching experience and a decent CV you would definitely find something. BKC generally recruit from the CELTA programme but this is no guarantee. They do have loads of schools in Moscow so they always need new people.

I' d recommend BKC. You 'd have to make up your own mind about Moscow.

It is not dangerous if you are careful, but it is very different about Moscow. It is not dangerous if you are careful, but it is very different in ways I am still finding out. In winter it gets to - 15 and is stupidly cold but that is part of the fun if you are an intrepid type. The students we teach are all really friendly and that gives you contact with Russian people. There are loads of (safe) bars and clubs to go out to and the metro system is excellent.

If this helps you make the decision to come to BKC Moscow I look forward to saying hello''

Good luck.

Charlotte Nairac - CELTA Course, September 2006

I arrived in Moscow to be ferried to my apartment, at about 10pm, by two what I can only describe as Russian Cowboys.... Complete with mandatory 70's Lada and furry dice... Yes, welcome to Moscow... This is something you have to get used to in Russia; they aren't the safest of drivers!

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Thinking about the CELTA, I can say I enjoyed it thoroughly. The students were, on the whole, really keen, and I shared a vodka or two at the end with some of them which was my first, real experience of the Russian way of life.

There is not doubt that the work side of things is often tough to negotiate, and you do feel like you're hitting your head against a brick wall at times, but that is the CELTA! I can say, in my experience, that I was given space, time and support to achieve all I was capable of, and picked up when I felt down by the tutors and course mates.

Moscow is a difficult city to become accustomed to, but out of nine graduates I was the only one who decided to leave the city after the CELTA. I can say only good things about the school in terms of the administrative staff, tutors and resources and having witnessed the warm atmosphere of the school, I feel confident in recommending BKC to anyone with enthusiasm and a drive to succeed... oh, and having prior knowledge of basic grammar helps too...

Edward Sanders - CELTA Course, July 2006

I came to Moscow in July 2006. Up until now, I’ve been living in France as a student, trying to make ends meet with odd teaching jobs and an enormous amount of luck. It wasn’t until recently that I realised how I needed to start taking some serious steps to secure my situation by getting more training and experience.

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I remember talking once with a colleague who told me about her CELTA training in Paris, and how it was a positive experience; and then later with my boss who told me that it was a good investment if teaching was something I considered doing for long term. I’ve never been able to imagine myself in an office with a tie and a serious look on my face, and now that I’m seriously considering going further with my studies and getting a doctorate, I see myself heading further and further into this profession. In chess-like anticipation, I decided to do my CELTA training in July (in fact it was the only time I had available between my exams and the coming school year). Furthermore, I decided to do my training in Moscow because it seemed the logical thing—I still get that funny look from people when I tell them that. I’ve been studying Russian in France for a year and a half, and even if I speak it like crap—that was my motivation. It felt like hitting two birds with one stone. Nothing prepared me for the administrative, cultural, and pedagogical experience that was to suddenly drop out of the sky and hit me like a grand piano.

I was so unprepared for the visa procedures. Living in France for three years, I had become so used to the annual visit to the prefecture’s office to renew my “carte de sejour,” and I had forgotten about the initial steps, and how every detail had to be checked. There are only three Russian consulates in France!!! In addition, they are precisely situated on the three opposing tips of the French hexagon. I carefully planned my trip to Marseille because in terms of train fares, it was the most economical, and I was even going to ask for the “emergency visa” so that I could have it the same day and avoid a second trip to the consulate (visa procedures take about a week otherwise). I planned for everything—except for the fact that the consulate doesn’t accept scanned copies of “Invitation Letters.” Screwed. In typical French administrative fashion, only the originals of all documents are accepted, and if not for the help of the patient administrative staff at BKC, I would not have even left French territory. If this can serve as a lesson to some first-timer, call the consulate that you are planning to visit and verify whether or not they want the originals of all the documents because not all of them take scanned copies.

In the end it worked out, and I made it into Russian territory without any mishaps. I just wasn’t ready for the inadequacy of my Russian. I remember meeting the BKC chauffeur at the airport, and the long silence between us as he drove me to my flat. I remember seeing the adverts on the highway, and trying to pronounce the 30-lettre words as our car drove past. And then going shopping with Nina (one of the administrative staff), and the loneliness that ensued five minutes after she left me so that I could sort out my affairs in the flat. I kept wondering to myself, how I’d make it through the month. Living in France for such a long time made me forget what it was like starting over again, but the culture shock, that was normally supposed to take over, was soon pushed aside by the CELTA course that I would begin that coming Monday.

What a shock! Dealing with the metro on the first day, being handed the 1,001 handouts, undergoing six hours of introductory and pedagogical training, and preparing my first lesson of the month—I’m not quite sure what stressed me out the most. All I know is that this would not have been manageable without the help of my CELTA trainers Michael and Joanna. Their support during the training went above and beyond all of my expectations; and from that first day, I knew that the money I had spent on the program was well spent. Their guidance and especially their support were unfaltering, as they helped us plan our lessons, and as they gave us their feedback. They are the best teachers I’ve ever had because of that. I remember going to the feedback sessions at first feeling discouraged, and then feeling much better about myself after having talked with them. If teaching in front of my CELTA classmates and my CELTA trainers proved to be stressful, I think the feedback sessions made all of the stress worth it. I find it also worth mentioning that during the observed teaching lessons we gave, only one of the trainers actually observed us. What impressed me was how they were both aware of how we (the CELTA trainees) were progressing even if they weren’t there with us in the classroom.

With all of the training, teaching, lesson planning, weekend homework assignments, the stress, the stress and the stress, the month passed by and I found myself in the final week preparing my final lessons and handing in final assignments. Michael and Joanna stopped giving us comments during our lesson-planning stages, and we all started developing a certain amount of autonomy. We even received an input session on how to get jobs in the EFL world! All were signs of the moment when the CELTA fledglings would set out upon the world to teach English to the willing. It all happened too fast, and as soon as I had given my final observed lesson, I found myself getting my bags ready for the return trip to France. I had barely even visited the Kremlin, and the only things I learned in Russian was to order cigarettes and beer. As much as my trip to Russia was a linguistic failure, the skills I had acquired made up for it amply. Let this also be a lesson—CELTA is not for tourists or the culturally curious, but for those ready to work. In the end, I don’t regret having seen so little of Russia as I had wanted because it means that I’ll be back there in the future.

Upon my arrival in France, I told all of my colleagues about my experience in Russia. To my surprise, not all CELTA experiences are the same. My bosses at the Chamber of Commerce told me that the quality of the training depended largely on the trainers, and that not everybody is as lucky as I had been. They told me of TEFL/CELTA courses where the practical teaching experience was with children instead of adults. All I can say is that this wasn’t my case; and that despite all of the other complications, I still tell my parents and friends that the experience was worth it. It is true that organising a trip to such a place can be trying, but the BKC staff is adept, and when you find yourself in a classroom with trainers like Joanna and Michael, you’ll know that you’ve made an excellent decision.