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Kazakhstan Job Listings

Kazakhstan (also spelt Kazakstan) declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. The country’s bordered by other ex-Soviet republics, as well as by Russia, China and two vast inland lakes, the Aral and Caspian Seas. Kazakhstan is an exciting country that few Westerners have visited, but its great reserves of oil and minerals have brought it better standards of accommodation and transport than the other ‘-stans’ (Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan).

Most people probably still think of Borat when they think of this Central Asian country, and you should remember that it is still a developing nation. But the biggest city, Almaty, has quite a European feel, with tree-lined avenues, stylish cafes, slick shopping malls and hedonistic nightlife. Because Kazakhs were traditionally nomads living in rural areas, all the cities are dominated by modern buildings, but none more so than the capital Astana, which has a truly bewildering display of bold and wacky futuristic architecture.

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Outside the cities there’s plenty to explore in this enormous country (the ninth biggest in the world, and the largest landlocked country, but with a population of just 16 million). You can hike in the mountains and valleys of the Tian Shan, or search out wildlife on the steppes – there are bears, elk, golden eagles, ermines and snow leopards. You can enjoy homely hospitality in village guesthouses, or explore the deserts to the west, with their remote underground mosques (Islam is the main religion and Kazakh is the main language). The summers are very hot and winters very cold, but there’s swimming to be had on the beaches of one of the 48,000 lakes, and skiing in Chimbulak from November to April.

As Kazakhstan opens itself up to the world, English is replacing Russian as the second language, so there’s good demand for ESL. But unless you get a contract with a large organisation, such as an oil company, the salaries are fairly low. Almost all the EFL opportunities are in the big cities of Almaty, Astana, Atyrau, Shymkent and Karaganda, and the cost of living there is high. It isn’t uncommon for TEFL schools to pay some housing and travel expenses, but it’s still unlikely you’ll be able to save. It’s a good idea to have some savings as a safety net, but you should be able to enjoy a reasonably comfortable lifestyle on your salary. One benefit is that ESL teachers tend to be given great respect, even by older students. And most schools will offer foreign teachers the chance to take free or low-cost Russian language classes. EFL employers should help with visas and work permits, because the laws can be difficult to understand and are strictly enforced.

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