Jayjay came to Russia all the way from Lagos, Nigeria, in the West of Africa. If you check it out on the map, it borders Benin, Niger, Cameroon and Chad. It’s also not far from a huge number of West African countries, majority of which Jayjay has visited. Lagos is an overpopulated city with over 18 million and is the commercial city of West Africa.

Six years ago when Jayjay came to study Networking & Information Technology at St. Petersburg State University of telecommunications, he was part of a small group of five international students trying to make their way through studying their courses in English. The reality, however, was that his knowledge of Network & Information Technology is now mostly self-taught and with the help of friends. He learned most of his Russian from a friend he met on the suburban train. In fact, his advice for anyone who wants to learn Russian is to make friends and blend into the culture.

“That can be hard sometimes because most Russians seem to be reserved but when you get to know them you see another side of them,” he explained.

Somewhere along the way Jayjay found himself teaching English full time as the Foreign Language Training Centre began to implement new English programs for bachelor’s students and staff. He also became a student of the Master’s program, Supercomputer Technologies in Interdisciplinary Research offered in English at ITMO. The teaching and student life in Russia is sweet, as Jayjay has experienced, there are lots of holidays, and the summers are long!

Jumping in the cultural heart of Russia also has its perks, “I like the Russian theatre,” Jayjay explains, “I go there at least once a month to watch a drama or ballet, you get one of the best here, and nowhere else, I’m fond of that here. If you’re lucky you can even find cheap tickets.” As a teacher, it also comes with its perks. At the end of one course, his students gave him a ticket to the Mariinsky theatre, and this was his chance to visit his first ballet.

It’s not just the theatre that brings our Nigerian teacher joy in Russia, sometimes it’s the little things, like the transportation system. Besides the traditional methods of public transportation, Jayjay loves the convenience of Russian-style mashrutkas (mini-vans spread across the city on traditional bus routes). The perks of this city-wide system is that you can ask the driver to stop anywhere you want on its conventional route, as it’s not confined to only bus stops. As long as you shout out as loud as you can “Stop, please!” in Russian of course, you can jump out simply anywhere you want.

Besides the theatre and transport, Jayjay has had a lot of interaction with friends, colleagues, classmates and his own Russian students and is inspired by the work ethic of Russian people, he says “I really like Russians because they are dedicated to whatever opportunities they have at their disposal. They don’t break away from that. If they start something they usually finish it.”

As a native English speaker, he’s a hot commodity on the English language school market here in St. Petersburg and he has worked in a number of different establishments, so what’s kept him at ITMO?

“ITMO University is the best place I’ve taught English, I’ve bonded with my students, they’re family, when I wake up in the morning at 6am and I have it in my mind that even though it’s -20 degrees on the street, you still find at least 8-10 people as early as 8am waiting for you in class. Even if I’m a minute late, you get calls from them “where are you?”, so that alone makes me proud as a teacher,” explains Jayjay, “so ITMO is one of the best places I’ve taught English and I’ve felt confident as a teacher. The students have a need and desire to study, which encourages me to create stimulating lesson plans”.

Last summer, Jayjay jumped on a professional development opportunity to learn more skills in teaching English as a second language. He went all the way to San Diego, California and had a chance to teach different people from various cultural backgrounds. He says that this experience helped him a lot as he was able to get a sound understanding of classroom management, and is proud to say that he can go into any classroom with just a marker and that’s enough to teach.

“I believe teachers are one of the best learners and as a teacher I’m always ready to help others acquire knowledge” – shares Jayjay.