Is the London School in Bishkek a real place?

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bishkek centerI 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.

Nargiza

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.

Activities

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!

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About Brooke

Brooke is a passionate traveler who has a love for any country that ends in -stan, languages she'll never be able to speak, and cannoli. She is the creator of the female travel focused FTU Newsletter and Her Packing List website. Follow on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

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12 Responses to Is the London School in Bishkek a real place?

  1. Zablon Mukuba November 2, 2010 at 3:45 am #

    I hope you go back you make it sound so interesting, i have never heard of any going to K-stan. am glad you did and i know its a great place

  2. Bethany November 2, 2010 at 10:29 am #

    For some reason after reading this I now I want to go to Bishkek. I think it’s the $4 language lessons. That is a freaking bargain! I noticed ads in Italy and France that were also much cheaper for lessons than they would be in the U.S. It’s sad really – why is it so expensive in the U.S. and Oz?

    Anyway what happened to our grand plans of being completely wireless and working from the road?? Why is it so hard?!

    I hope you guys make it there sometime soon. :)

  3. Sophie's World May 1, 2011 at 1:15 am #

    Learning Russian is very future-oriented. Few outsiders speak the language and I’m convinced it will be a great demand in the not-too-distant future (might already be).

    What an interesting country you chose for your language studies. Kyrgyzstan and the other Central Asian republics are high on my list. A very cool & informative post.

    • Brooke May 2, 2011 at 7:04 pm #

      Thanks! It was a crazy decision that worked out for the best. I’m happy with the amount of language study I received for the price :)

  4. Steve June 25, 2012 at 3:43 am #

    Hi Brooke, I’m just a visitor who found your website randomly while trying to verify if the London School actually exists–I’m interested in teaching English there. Thanks for your testimonies and as an avid traveler myself, I’m looking forward to reading about your other travel stories!

  5. Laine January 8, 2013 at 11:21 am #

    So fortuitous to stumble on this post because I too studied at the London School for several months. I echo Brooke in that it was an excellent bargain and I haven’t found such a good value for language lessons anywhere else in the world. My instructor spoke three languages and I could decide when I arrived to my lesson whether I felt like doing Russian or Kyrgyz that day. They also are supportive of students shopping around and trying out different instructors, which I did. You only have to give them notice a few days before about how many instructional you want the following week, which was really conducive to taking off traveling for periods. Also, it was conveniently located on a main route for various shared taxis so I was able to get to class everyday from my apartment for about 20 US cents!

  6. Vincent Alexander December 11, 2013 at 12:23 am #

    I’m glad you enjoyed learning here, and I believe you when you say that many of the teachers and staff were professional, but this place has a much darker side. I just spent the past 6 months applying for an TEFL internship at the London School in Bishkek. I did everything that was requested, had a solid resume, and was pre-approved. On a form sent by Anastasiia, a high level manager, a question was asked about my gender. I made the mistake of answering honestly and telling them that I was a transwoman. After a week of no contact, no questions, no follow-up whatsoever, I was told by a program coordinator who was arranging the trip that they had received an email stating that I was a ‘safety concern’ and that I could not teach at the school. Even if the people here are nice, the management at the London School in Bishkek is discriminatory and hurtful, and threw months of planning and research away to serve their own prejudices.They do not deserve any kind of support.

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