Traveling Teachers – Teaching in Korea

The traveling teachers series is all about people who travel and you guessed it teach! Each interview features a different teacher, traveling to a different place, and teaching a unique group of students. So often we hear of people teaching abroad, but what is it really like? How do you find the opportunities? There are many questions surrounding traveling and teaching. Through this series, I hope you are inspired by the good work going on around the world, learn, and start to think about ways you can travel and teach abroad yourself.

This week I am excited to bring you a story about a teacher in Korea! I was really excited to hear about Kelly’s experience because I have been following along with her blog for quite a while now so it was cool to learn about her experience in Korea. Kelly is a travel blogger and full time nanny now living in New York City traveling alone around the world. Kelly has funny blog posts with tons of advice for travelers and those ladies traveling solo around the world on her blog Girl with the Passport. Make sure you check out her story of why she travels solo! Here is her story of teaching abroad.

What inspired you to teach abroad?

I was inspired to teach abroad because my life in New York was not really fulfilling. After just graduating college, I had very few friends in New York and a crappy job as a personal assistant. I wanted more from life and I wanted a life that I loved and that I looked forward to living.

And that’s when I remembered my experience in South Korea the previous year. I had visited for a month as an exchange student to Seoul Women’s University and absolutely fell in love with the Korean culture and people. So, I decided to follow my dreams of travel and a better life by traveling to South Korea and teaching English at a Hagwon in the capital city of Seoul.

How long did you teach and where?

I taught at a private Hagwon in Seoul. The children in this kindergarten were between the ages of 4,5, and 6. I only stayed a year since the school was poorly run and financially unstable but had the school been a little better, I would have stayed longer.

Were any of your expenses covered with the teaching experience?

Per my contract, my flight both to and from New York was covered by the school. They also gave me a cell phone and a studio apartment to live in. I paid for the utilities and the apartment but since I don’t speak Korean, the school helped me setup my bank account and created an automatic debit from my bank account so that I could quickly and easily pay my bills.

How did you find the program or opportunity to teach abroad?

I used Boston English Recruiting Agency. I liked the idea of a recruiting agency because I felt like they could help me find the best teaching positions that would treat me well and help me have the best experience possible.

Were you able to spend time traveling and exploring the country while teaching? Where were did you go? What did you do?

Teaching abroad was a great way to travel both abroad and within Korea. With my days off I traveled to Jejue Island and Busan. I also got to travel to Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, and China. It was great because not only were the flights much shorter but they were also much cheaper if I had bought them from New York. Being able to travel throughout Asia more cheaply and quickly was definitely a huge perk of teaching English in Korea.

What were interactions with students like?

I worked with children between the ages of 4, 5, and 6. The children were lovely and my co-teachers helped a great deal by communicating with the students in Korean to ensure that proper discipline was maintained. I just wish I had had more guidance from my school in terms of lesson planning. I was really given no formal teacher training or curriculum so it was difficult for me to create lessons and to figure out how to pass my time with the children. That’s why we ended up playing a lot of Hangman.

What was your favorite part of teaching abroad?

My favorite part of teaching abroad was meeting new people and experiencing a completely different culture and value system. It was nice because while living in South Korea, I really got to experience the country in an in depth way that is completely impossible if you only visit a place for or week or two. I really got to meet locals, create in depth relationships with them, and experience the profound differences in culture that at times could be quite difficult. But it was an important life lesson that helped me understand the true meaning of cultural differences.

What is one piece of advice you have for someone who wants to teach abroad?

I would say that you really need to do your research and make sure the school you are working for is a good one. My school was private and not regulated by the government. Therefore, they never paid me on time and refused to give me some of the money I was owed. But had I properly researched the school and spoken with someone who spoke English and worked there, then I might have had a better experience. So just be vigilant and make sure you find out as much about the school as humanly possible so that you can have a great experience while you’re there.

You can follow Kelly on her social media listed below. For more about Korea and other awesome destinations, make sure you check out her blog!

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For more about the traveling teachers series, click here.