Have you been thinking about coming to Asia to teach English? While I am mostly experienced with teaching in China, an old friend and classmate of mine has been living and teaching in South Korea for the last few years. She has been nice enough to answer some interview questions and is extremely knowledgeable and experienced with living, working, and traveling abroad. Below you will learn about how she got started, her journey so far, and her feelings and insights on many aspects from teaching to daily life in a new country. If you have more questions for her or for me feel free to contact Abroad in Asia via the contact page.
Hi! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Why did you decide to go to Korea?
How long have you been there?
I have lived in 2 towns since I have been here and they are in countryside areas. I have never lived in the city here in South Korea so all my experiences come from my towns and not the city. I chose to stay in small towns to save money, better air, less traffic, the kind locals, and I am 5 minutes from the beach. It's too hard to say goodbye to the beach but I will heading off somewhere new next year.
Can you speak Korean, did you know any before you came, and how do you feel about it?
As of today, I can hold a short basic conversation and my reading and writing is pretty well. Because I live in a more rural area where no one really speaks English, speaking by using body languages and gestures has become so normal to me now. But hey, it's all part of living abroad!
It honestly all depends on your motivation and if you are driven to learn a new language. I have friends who have been here for years and only know a couple Korean words but I also have friends who have been here for year and they can hold a conversation with a Korean.
It's easier to get by if you live in a larger city because more people speak English. But if you living in a rural area like myself, learning how to read and write will make your travels so much easier.
How long did you plan to stay here originally and have your plans changed?
What grade/grades do you teach?
Do you have any degrees or certifications?
Did you come through a teaching agency/recruitment company or did you find work and arrange everything alone, and what do you recommend?
Some downsides with EPIK- You can't request a specific city, just the province. EPIK is pretty last minute and won't give you much information about your location and schools until you finished your orientation in Korea. EPIK can give you up to 5 schools (like me) and your home may not be located near your school.
One must have an open-mind and positive attitude :)
How do you prepare your lessons and teach your classes?
What do you enjoy most about teaching and what is most difficult about teaching?
Most difficult- THE KOREAN SCHOOL EDUCATION SYSTEM!, Having different levels in class, the unmotivated students, drastic cultural differences between you and the Korean teachers, and the long hours my students have to go through everyday.
What are your personal strengths and weaknesses as a teacher?
Weakness- I don't know how to be strict and I sometimes lose track of time in class.
What are you favorite things about living in Korea?
-Working high school
-Saving money (I am living in a small town for a reason)
-Beautiful hiking spots
-All my Korean and foreign friends that I have met throughout my stay here.
-The random acts of kindness that many Koreans will do for you.
-Korea has a lot to offer such as islands, large cities, and traditional towns.
What is most difficult about living in Korea?
-The elderly have a lot of power so my opinion doesn't matter a lot of the time.
-The constant staring, personal questions, and forwardness.
-Appearance based type country. Plastic surgery is a normal thing here.
What do you miss most from and about home?
-Being around open-minded and social people.
-The different styles and seeing people doing what they love.
-My family and friends of course
How have you changed from living and working abroad?
What I have learned living in a tiny town:
-It has taught me how to stick up for myself. Many Koreans are confused as to why I am traveling, not married, not having kids, etc. I try my best to explain to them that I am doing what I love. That gets them even more confused.
-It has taught me to smile and let go of the stereotypes that come my way. It is also a perfect time to teach them about my culture and my country! :)
Any advice for new or aspiring ESL teachers
I see teachers leaving after a year or so because maybe teaching wasn't for them or the country wasn't what they expected. That's okay. I also see many teachers staying here and really enjoy teaching. You won't know until you try.
Don't let fear get in the way of your goals and plans :) LIVE, LOVE, AND TRAVEL!
If anyone has questions about teaching in South Korea, message me and I will try my best to help.