“I was feeling exhausted and becoming a bit grumpy too.”

From Teacher to Governess in Russia

Without having anything lined up, Rachel Barnett left her job to start searching for something she enjoyed more. Now, she's loving living with a family and teaching their children in Moscow. Find out how she made the change.

What work were you doing previously?

I was a primary school teacher.

What are you doing now?

I am a governess for a family with two young children in Moscow

Why did you change?

When I first went into teaching, my plan was to teach for maybe five years or so and then do something different.  After four years I still had no idea what this would be! Part of me wanted to move abroad for a while, or work for a charity, or use my languages (my degree subject), but I had no clear ideas or direction at all. However, at the time I felt sure I was ready to move on.

When was the moment you decided to make the change?

I remember chatting to some of my colleagues and teachers in other schools. It seemed that lots of us were feeling run down with the workload. I was certainly feeling exhausted and I think I was becoming a bit grumpy too! I also knew that if I kept putting off my rather vague plan to 'do something different', then I might never get around to making the change. It was really hard to give up a permanent job, but definitely the right thing to do. Of course, it's much easier to say that with hindsight.

Are you happy with the change?

Yes!  I don't speak Russian yet, but I like living in another country. Being a governess is less tiring than classroom teaching as I'm only working with two children rather than a whole class. I get to plan activities and lessons that match their interests and learning styles too, so I see quicker progress. There isn't a class-load of marking either!

What do you miss and what don't you miss?

I miss having the natter in the staffroom with my colleagues as you are more isolated when you work in a family. I also miss custard and Marmite!

How did you go about making the shift?

I had already been talking to colleagues, friends, and relatives about what they could see me doing. During my fourth year of teaching I had intended to look for other jobs, but couldn't find the time alongside work.

I went to the Careershifters workshop, where I met other teachers and picked up some more motivation to make the change. I didn't have a job lined up to go into, but I knew if I waited I might still never find the time to search for something else.  I handed in my notice the following week.  The job hunt that followed did take longer than I had thought it would - about eight months. In the meantime, I did some local voluntary work to keep me occupied and active.

Eventually I found an advert for a British governess in Moscow on my university careers website. As I had a teaching qualification and TEFL, I realised this would make an ideal shift. It would use the skills I already had, while giving me a change and an adventure.

How did you handle your finances to make your change possible?

I took in a lodger to help pay the bills. I had also saved up while I was teaching so this helped a lot too.

What was the most difficult thing about changing?

Giving up a permanent job. Job-hunting can also be a long and frustrating task!

What help did you get? 

Having a family and friends who were supportive of the change really helped.

What have you learnt in the process?

That being proactive and taking the risk pays off.  You can't have a new adventure without taking risks! However, I had a financial cushion in my savings and taking in a lodger, which was definitely sensible.

What do you wish you'd done differently?


What would you advise others to do in the same situation?

Definitely think through and plan the financial side. I may well not have handed in my notice if I hadn't had some savings to start with.

What resources would you recommend to others?

The government's Rent A Room scheme allows you to earn rent from a lodger tax free up to a certain amount.

Also, the Careershifters workshop is really useful as a motivational kick into action.

What lessons could you take from Rachel's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below. 


Plus, if you know someone who's made a successful shift into work they love, we'd love to hear from you. Drop us a line at [email protected]. and you could win a £25 / $35 voucher in our monthly draw.