I get quite a few emails asking me about The London School in Bishkek. In case you were wondering, Bishkek is in Kyrgyzstan, and The London School in Bishkek is actually a fantastic little language school there – yes, a REAL place!
When I was first searching for things I could do in Kyrgyzstan, I got the idea that I wanted to try my hand at learning Russian because… well… it sounded fun. But, how do you find a language school in a crazy little place like K-stan? Luckily, I came across their website, which is pretty basic to say the least, and started searching for other places that validated its existence. At some point, I bit the bullet and registered for some courses before arriving, even though I still was a bit skeptical as to whether or not the place was legit.
Well, for those of you that have stumbled upon this post wondering the same thing, my official statement is this:
The London School in Bishkek is a great place, and it is an even better place to learn Russian!
When I was there in 2008, it cost a mere $4 for an hour of one-on-one lessons with a native speaker. I can’t even imagine what it would be like for that kind of study here in Australia, but I’m guessing it would be in the $50+ range. The lessons were an absolute bargain, and even though I often found myself slamming my head on the desk in frustration, by the end of 3 months I was having real conversations and getting compliments on my accent.
About the School
The school is located on Sovietskaya just a minute walk past Ramstor. It doubles as an English language school for Kyrgyz locals (TEFL teachers, you can get a job here) and as a Kyrgyz and Russian language school for foreigners. The teachers at the beginner levels will know a bit of English, but they will definitely hit the ground running and bombard you with as much Russian as possible. The classrooms here are actually quite nice, and some of them are equipped with air conditioning, which is a godsend if there in the hot summer months.
On the main floor, you will find the office, some classrooms, as well as the canteen and library. I absolutely loved the canteen. There was one cook there who would prepare Kyrgyz/Russian specialties for lunch (for a fee), such as plov, borscht and lagman. You could also get your in between class coffee fixes by grabbing a cup of Nescafe for 3 som. This was always a great place to practice your newly-learned speaking skills.
If Nargiza is still with the school, you will be a very lucky person. Nargiza was in charge of pleasing the foreign students – making sure they liked their classes, teachers, accommodation, etc. She helped me with random requests more times than I can count; even when I broke down crying on the street in 44 degree Celsius heat she was there to find out what she could do to help. In two words: she rocks.
Where to Stay
There are plenty of different accommodation options to choose from during your time at the language school. My first choice was to just hang out in a guest house for the time being, but I soon realized the in-and-out nature of travelers was not conducive to study. There are now housing options at the school, which are not bad, and they are definitely conveniently located right in town and next to school. If that’s not enough for you, the school (Nargiza especially) will hook you up with a host family.
Coming from experience, I can say that a host family provides a unique glimpse into the Kyrgyz culture. I am so thankful that I took the chance to do this. It may have been short-lived (7 weeks), but I feel like I understand so much more about this tiny little country than had I not. Also, considering you receive a private room and two meals a day, it was also a bargain.
The school also put together activities for the students, whether they were individual tours of local attractions, or school field trips to Ala-Archa and the likes. Again, for being such a closed-off former Soviet Republic, this language school really did understand what it meant to please the customer and provide the best possible experience it could.
Would I go back?
Yes, yes, yes, yes! I’m actually devising a way I can convince Patrick into joining me for some more lessons and a Central Asia excursion. I’m not sure if it will ever happen since I am stupidly living in one of the most expensive places ever – Sydney – and not able to save a dime. Somehow, some way!