"Both of these placements enabled me to grow in self-confidence and independence. Self-confidence, because I had to adapt to a thoroughly different culture, make friends and find my feet in a new job (having never taught before), and I proved to myself I could! And independence, because I went on both placements by myself and learned to stand on my own two feet even more than I was required to do at university. That is to say nothing of my language skills, which improved immensely in a way I do not think would have been possible at home, and of the cultural insight and understanding I gained from my time in both countries.
I had been to St Petersburg previously on short term trips (up to 3 weeks-long), but was not able to settle into a community (and church, incidentally) in the same way nor able to truly rely on local shops, friends and so on in the same way as I did on the year abroad. Kazakhstan was a completely new part of the world for me and the work I did there opened up Central Asian culture and history. I can honestly say that it must have been a unique experience as I stayed with a local Kazakh family in Taraz for a month, and attended all of the family gatherings and religious festivals, with everything else they entailed.
I am now studying to become a solicitor and have a training contract with a commercial law firm, which will commence in 2013. The skills I gained on the year abroad were very valuable at the interview and assessment stages of applying for training contracts, and as I have already mentioned I feel very confident about entering the world of work and dealing with different people due to my experiences as a teacher in Krasnodar. These skills include organising my time effectively around learning a language and doing a job, making friends in a completely new place, being bold in talking to new people and assuming responsibility in a position of authority, even when at a disadvantage in terms of not knowing a language perfectly.
Otherwise my life has been enriched by the diversity of my year abroad experiences, and I am still in touch with friends I made in Russia two years on."