by Charlie Pearson
Russia is somewhere I never planned on visiting which is why I decided to go.
My gateway into the country began with a job opportunity working with Oxbridge Trinity Partners. The company deals with pairing English speaking “governors/ governesses” with Russian families who are looking to have their children learn English as a second language. As a governor you essentially spend your days living alongside the children, conversing with them, playing with them, teaching them, etc. This usually lasts for at least a year, but can be done for longer.
Before moving to Russia I had spent the previous four to five years completing an undergraduate and master’s degree at University College London. My undergrad was in anthropology, and my master’s in ethnographic and documentary filmmaking. Prior to living in London I grew up (relatively) close by in rural east England in Suffolk. I am not particularly well traveled with regards to spending a lot of time away from home, but I have visited a variety of countries (mostly European) for days or weeks at a time. So the prospect of moving away to another country somewhat indefinitely was a completely new concept for me to consider.
After applying, and successfully interviewing for the position you are then left to wait while a suitable family is found for you to work for. For myself, it was during this time that I was really able to begin thoroughly considering what I was entering into with regards to both living in Russia and working so intimately with people I had never met before.
I will be completely transparent in saying that I had a number of assumptions and reservations about Russia, what it would be like to live there, what the people would be like, etc. etc. I knew I would be working in the Moscow region, but that is a vast area encompassing a large amount of rural space as well as the metropolitan area. I also knew that I was not alone in having these reservations. I feel that a lot of people within the UK have a somewhat warped view of Russia because it is often presented in a very particular way through a variety of media both fictional and non-fictional, often times as a dangerous or hostile place. While I truthfully cannot speak for anyone other than myself, upon telling people that I was planning on going to Russia there were definitely a number of wary responses.
The Western perception, let alone the “reality” of Russia, is a complex one that requires more insight that I can offer for now. But having such a background in anthropology I have an intrinsic willingness to always suspend my assumptions in favour of experiencing something, someone, somewhere, first hand.
Coupled with the fact that I would have to face an entirely new culture, I was also having to contend with the notion of essentially entering into a second family as a strange pseudo family member/ service provider. A family which I knew very little about, and visa versa. I was concerned about if we would all get along, but most importantly if I would be able to cultivate a good relationship with the children I was going to teach. Ultimately this was not an anxiety specific to Russia. It was the same feeling that can be attributed to starting a new job or engaging with people you have never met before, albeit more intense. You cannot really guarantee anything in these situations so there is almost no point worrying about it. The best I felt I could do is approach the situation with as much flexibility as possible in order to create a good first impression with the potential to build a good working relationship going forward. After all, this type of relational work takes time.
Having now spent close to a year living and working here in Moscow, I have definitely had a very positive experience. The stress of finding my own apartment was completely eliminated because housing was provided, and consequently I immediately had somewhere I could call my own and feel comfortable in. I am also situated close to the city centre as opposed to the more rural areas where other families and tutors are located. It is a personal preference but this location suits me very well as I feel more integrated into city life. There is a good selection of shops and activities nearby and public transport is readily available. OTP were also able to offer my girlfriend a job, so over the course of my first year Moscow has certainly become more of a second home.