The Wayfarer's Book

Why I’m Moving to Kiev to Teach English

Why I'm Moving to Kiev

Yep, it’s going to be cold. Nope, I’m not emotionally prepared for that.

On February 26, 2016, I boarded a midnight plane flying direct to Kiev. I had scored an amazing $300 ticket, one way to the city that would launch the European part of my nomadic life. The plane didn’t have personal entertainment screens, but (unsurprisingly) there weren’t a lot of people flying to Kiev in the dead of winter and I was able to stretch out on the empty seats next to me. I still carry the ticket stub in my wallet, even though I’ve thrown out the other two dozen stubs from this year. Because what I thought was just the first stop on a six month romp through Europe became much more important to me.

Moving to Kiev_Midnight Fight to Kiev

Snapchat sees all my best fashion choices, including how I like to rock 90s flannel.

I’ll be honest with you guys – I did not fall in love with Kyiv immediately. Moving to Kiev was nearly arbitrary, a decision made because of personal connections. And, as one of the few places where Americans can teach English in Europe, it was the perfect launch pad for my European travels. When I arrived it was bitterly cold still, and while I was thrilled to see my first snowfall of the winter, the gray skies and overall gloominess of March worked its way into my psyche. Still, Kyiv has a natural warmth to combat the cold. You can find it the hipster coffee shops, in hot mulled wine, in the hominess of borscht and varenyky, in the genuine friendliness and curiosity of the Ukrainians.

I started crushing hard.

Moving to Kiev_View from Saint Sophia Bell Tower

The old, the Soviet, and the new.

Three months after moving to Kiev, I had my favorite places. I had a coffee shop under my apartment I’d write at. I had my favorite place (or two) for cocktails in Kiev. I was learning Russian (very poorly), starting to read advertisements on the metro that I had recently learned to use. But Kyiv is a city you can keep unpacking. Three months in and I was still discovering exciting new places. The restaurant with over 750 kinds of whiskey. The city beach. Even more coffee shops. Kiev is dynamic, bursting with secrets and potential, and I wanted to explore all its nooks and crannies.

So when the school I was teaching at offered me a full-time position starting in the fall, I jumped at the possibility of moving to Kiev. Yes, it means giving up being a nomad for a year. Yes, I am terrified that it will backfire on me, that I’ll not enjoy returning to teaching or Kyiv. But I’m obsessed with Kiev. I’m crazy about its chill people, its undiscovered atmosphere, its fierce character.

Moving to Kiev_IH Kyiv

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So there are a lot of reasons why I’m moving to Kiev. One of them is financial stability. My summer lifestyle of gallivanting around Europe as a digital nomad has not been sustainable. I’m not sorry I tried it, but I’m not sorry to give it up either. I no longer even want to be solely a freelance writer. I love writing and will continue to pursue specialized assignments, but I do not love spending 6+ hours a day staring at a computer screen just grinding out copy. I miss people. I’m ready to focus on teaching again – I have even sketched out a vague three-year plan, which will shock all the people who know spontaneous me.

And I miss it. I’m homesick for Ukraine. I was in Cluj a few weeks ago, treating myself to pasta carbonara, and I almost teared up because it reminded me of the pasta carbonara at one of my favorite Kiev restaurants. I almost cried. Over pasta. I want to buy my cappuccinos from coffee trucks again and become a regular at the National Opera House. I want to go hiking in the Carpathians, the leisurely kind where I only have to hike the parts when we can’t drive any further. I want to learn all about Ukrainian wines and Ukrainian craft beer. I want to have my friends over to dinner at my own apartment so we can gossip about our students and dream big travel dreams together.

Moving to Kiev_Potempkin Steps

Nerding out the most famous steps in film, which are in Odessa. Which most people don’t even realize because they weren’t forced to watch silent Soviet propaganda films in college.

And I’ve rarely been so taken by a whole people. Having just celebrated 25 years of independence, Ukraine is at a definitive moment in its history. This is a country that’s making itself right before our eyes. The air buzzes with hope and struggle, with difficulties and possibility. I think about the sacrifices Ukrainians have made for each other, and I almost start crying. (Why am I so weepy all of a sudden?) There are hundreds of conflicts in the world. There are dozens of issues that have caught my attention in the last year. I don’t know why Ukraine’s situation has moved me so much.

I just know I want to be there now.

Moving to Kiev_I heart Kiev

Get ready for way more photos of Kiev street art!

So seven month after I first landed in Ukraine, I’ll be boarding another flight to Kiev. Just like the first time, I’m about to head off on an unpredictable adventure. But this time, I’m also heading home.

Have you ever been to a place that feels like home? Where was it?

And why can’t I seem to make up my mind about spelling it Kiev or Kyiv? It’s complicated. Basically, I spell it ‘Kyiv’ because that’s how the people who live there spell it and I want to respect that. I spell it ‘Kiev’ because that’s how people who don’t live there spell it and I need to show up in Google searches.

Why I'm Moving to Kiev

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18 thoughts on “Why I’m Moving to Kiev to Teach English

  1. Megan

    I completely get every word you are saying. No places feels so like home to me like Kiev. I tried going there so bad…. it just didn’t pan out like I needed it to this time. It was so bittersweet! But I am happy to be there for a short period of time before heading even more east :)

    I spell it Kiev on blogs and Kyiv on FB or personal conversations. Most Ukrainians I know in Kiev spell it the Russian way actually. And I do it for SEO purposes just like you (although it is still up in the air of whether Google catches it or not). But I guess most of my time in Ukraine has been spent in Russian speaking areas, not Ukrainian areas… so most people always spell it Kiev, not Kyiv. Oh well 😛 Excited to see ya there soon!!!

    1. Amy Post author

      I hope you like breezy days with toasty sunshine because we’re having the most AMAZING weather right now and I’ve never been so in love with this place! Too bad you’re only going to be in Kyiv a few nights, but you’ll have to give me all your other Ukraine tips so I have places to explore on the weekend.

      My company spells it Kyiv so I think I’m a little biased, but no one has ever corrected me if I spell it Kiev. :)

  2. Dominique

    I know what you mean, I experienced the same with Edinburgh and ended up living there for three years :) I need to go to Kiev though! You make it sound so awesome I can’t wait to visit it one day!

        1. Amy Post author

          Spring is amazing! I left at the end of May — the lilacs were blooming and the cafes were setting up their outdoor seating. May or June would be a splendid time to visit. :)

  3. Ellen

    Wow I’d never thought of Kiev as a place to teach English, but sounds like a perfect base. I can totally relate to feeling homesick for a place you fell in love with. I studied abroad in Istanbul and I miss it so much!

    1. Amy Post author

      Istanbul was my original idea when I got my CELTA. I visited twice that year and definitely believe I’d be happy there for a while. Unfortauntely, I haven’t gotten to work there yet, but there’s still a chance for the future. :)

  4. Eva Casey

    The more I see and read of Kiev from you the more I feel like I would love it!! Traveling through the Baltics now I totally understand what you mean about countries making an actual effort to survive. We take for granted that the USA is an independent country and will stay that way, but the people in these regions know that it could all be gone if they don’t hold on to what they’ve got! I’m not sure if that makes any sense, since I’m still processing everything I’m learning here, but it’s so interesting! Here’s to an amazing year in Kiev, I’m glad you’ve found home!

    1. Amy Post author

      Girl, there are so many cute coffee shops you would LOVE. Yeah, last year in Tallinn was definitely one of the first times I experienced a ‘new’ country. Traveling in Europe this summer, from Kiev to the Balkans to Normandy to a brief pit stop in Berlin, it’s been a crazy eye opening experience about history, culture, and modern conflict. I’m hoping to be a keen (and respectful) observer while I’m here in Kiev!

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  7. Audi

    Just came back from Kiev and odessa
    After Istanbul trip
    I find Ukrain is the most interesting place and cheapest country ever. People so nice and smiley face. I love it and I must get back there asap
    Iam regular traveler around the world. Don’t know how on earth Ukrain was not on my travel list for last 15 years.
    Ukrain is live cheap beautiful love the people love the test. Will make it my home soon

    1. Amy Post author

      I’m glad you enjoyed your trip! Yes, Ukraine — despite being the BIGGEST country in Europe — is kind of a hidden gem. It’s starting to gain more popularity though, as people visit and spread the word, so it’s good you visited before the tourist boom starts. :)

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