Home

 

Getting Experience

- # of # Filtered -

Getting Settled In Seoul

Q&A with Sarah: Taught English in Korea
Share this
Print this
Sarah
Taught English in Korea
Mount Allison University
Her thoughts on Motivation
I wanted another chance to live in a foreign culture, but I wanted to take it a step further and go where I wouldn’t be able speak or read the language.
Her thoughts on First Impressions
I felt disoriented and overwhelmed in the first couple of weeks. The jet lag, new language, pollution and creepy seafood all added up to feeling way out of my comfort zone.
Her thoughts on Taking It All In
It was tough to connect with other teachers outside of school, but my breakthrough came when I got involve with the Seoul Players, a theater company for expats.

Where did you teach English abroad?

I taught ESL in Seoul, Korea, with my partner for a year. I’d taught ESL in France through a program organized by the French embassy, and my fellow ESL teachers there suggested Korea as a possible next destination. I knew from my immersion experience in France that I wanted another chance to live in a foreign culture, but I wanted to take it a step further by choosing a culture where I wouldn’t be able speak or read the language right away.

How did you conduct your search? How did you select your program/country and/or find an employer abroad?

Getting connected with an ESL position in Korea was surprisingly easy. There were a number of big agencies that were recruiting teachers from all around the world. Footprints Recruiting is a Canadian agency with a great reputation (I’d heard about them through my ESL teacher friends in France). In the end, Footprints was unable to place me in the city itself and the job would’ve required me to live in a teacher residence dorm room. I ended up connecting with another smaller agency. My partner and I submitted our resumes and reference letters, and within a week they’d found us positions teaching young kiddies at a posh school, Laurus Little School, in the Gangnam area of Seoul.

Describe the application process.

Our agency guided us through the process for getting work visas. The Korean embassy had recently put in place a very thorough visa application process, so we had tons of forms to fill out and the delay was much more than we (and our agency) had expected. If I remember correctly it took three months or so to get the visas. We ended up heading to Korea two weeks late, and we arrived in Seoul two days in to the school year. Once we arrived at Incheon airport, things were pretty straightforward. We were met at the airport by two representatives who brought us in to the city to meet with the vice principal of our school. We met her outside our future apartment, which our school had found for us in the Haebangchon neighborhood near the foreigner center of Itaewon. Our apartment turned out to be a beautiful, huge three-bedroom apartment with a balcony, washer/dryer and comfy beds with brand new mattresses. From what I’ve heard from other ESL teachers, we lucked out on our spacious living arrangement.

How did you deal with the cultural divide?

Despite my past experience with ESL teaching, I remember feeling disoriented and overwhelmed in the first couple of weeks. The jet lag, new language, pollution and creepy seafood swimming in the tanks in front of the fish restaurants – it all added up to feeling way out of my comfort zone. And although Seoul is full of ESL teachers from around the world, there was still some xenophobia on the part of some the Korean people we met. We also discovered the off-putting phenomenon of “saving face” through the actions of the administration of our school.

Did you participate in any extra-curricular activities? If so, how did they differ from those in your home country?

It may have been because I was there with my partner, but at first it was tough to connect with other teachers outside of school. The breakthrough moment was when I got involved with the Seoul Players, a theater company for expats based in my neighborhood. They put on shows throughout the year, including 24-hour theater and a “night of a thousand plays.” I found a yoga class at a gym close by, and I started venturing off on my own self-guided walking tours of the city (thanks, Lonely Planet!). I took Korean-language classes put on for free by the Korean government, and I learned to read the signs in the subways and grocery stores. Once you decide to throw yourself out there, there are tons of resources online for ESL teachers; Dave's ESL Café is one of the best. The key seemed to be to jump in with both feet.

How did you finance your trip abroad and did you find any creative solutions to stay on budget?

One of the best perks of teaching ESL in Korea is that the standard seems to be for the school to cover the costs of the flights and rent for their teachers. This means that it’s possible to arrive in Korea with very little to your name, and, assuming that paychecks start arriving on time, surviving financially is pretty easy. What was your return like? When I came home from Korea, I was ready to be back – to have that familiarity of language and family and old friends. But within a few months I was thinking about my next ESL teaching destination. South East Asia was on the top of the list – I’ve heard good things about Vietnam and Indonesia, for teaching and living. And I still regularly have pangs of longing for Korea, despite the struggle in my first few months in Seoul.

What are your future plans for travel and career?

I have to admit that now I’ve hit a place in my life where I’d find it harder to give up my community in Halifax and start fresh, but the dream to head off on another international immersion adventure is still bobbing around in my mind. For the moment though, I travel regularly, backpacking in Europe and South America, with plans for Eastern Europe and Africa in the next few years. And back in Halifax I remember my time in Korea with frequent outings for Kimchi Stew and Korean Barbeque.

Advice from MyWorldAbroad
Jean-Marc Hachey, Publisher

There’s no question that Sarah has been bitten by the travel bug! Although she is very attached to her home base in Canada, she has many plans for future international travel. We’d recommend that she maximize the personal and professional value of her short-term international excursions by participating in one- to two-week volunteer programs in the countries she visits. And if Sarah and her partner do choose to travel abroad to teach again, we’d suggest that they consider going to a South American country – perhaps Argentina or Chile – in order to broaden the cultural scope of their international teaching experiences. As seasoned international travelers and experienced English teachers, the two of them would have no trouble finding good positions.

Sarah's Next Steps
Advice from MyWorldAbroad
by the founder of MyWorldAbroad
Jean-Marc Hachey
Want to Have the Same Experience?
Sample Application Documents: See How Others Did It!
Get inspired by actual documents that real students used to apply for internships, volunteer positions and other go abroad experiences.
In a Rush? Read These Articles First
These carefully chosen articles will lead you to our most important go abroad strategies!
Discover the Career Value of Going Abroad
Get the facts! See surveys and stats linking your experiences abroad to future career success.
Quick Guides! Our Most Popular Go Abroad Topics
View, print or share our easy-to-use guides available in English, French and Spanish.
The World Online
Want to stay in touch with the world? Check out these top (and sometime quirky) links!
Are You Prepared for the International Job Search?
How much do you know about international jobs in your field? Get ready for a targeted job search!
Do You Have Enough International Experience?
Have you maximized your international experience? Are you ready for the international job search? Find out!
What's Your International IQ?
How much do you really know about living and working abroad? Take this quiz to find out!
Quizzes: Your Master Scorecard
Check your scores for all quiz categories: international skills, experience & the job search.
Earn $50 Gift Card & Submit Your Story From Abroad
Been abroad? Want to share your story? Submit your Q&A today to see your experience online!
Self-Evaluations: Think Analytically About Going Abroad
Keep track of your evolving international skill set before, during and after your international experience. Be ready to apply for jobs in the global economy.
Career-Boosting Strategies for International Students Studying in North America
What does it take for an international student to succeed in North America? We’ve got tips to help you thrive!
Frequently Asked Questions
Find answers to all your questions about MyWorldAbroad by diving into our Frequently Asked Questions section.
Top Tips on Going Abroad & Your Career
Scan our top tips in 40 go abroad subject areas: international skills, getting experience, finding work, and the professions.
Your International Resume & LinkedIn
Write your international resume first, and then create that all-important LinkedIn profile.
International Skills: Be More Than Just a Tourist!
International people have a unique skill set. Learn the terminology and get professional about describing your time abroad.
100+ Career-boosting Strategies While Abroad
Discover enterprising, innovative ideas for how to demonstrate your international skills to future employers.
9799
- # of # Filtered -
  • 90
90
9769
Getting Sporty In Switzerland!
1
9791
Making Contacts Count In The UK
2
10851
Tips From Tasmania
3
9803
Ten Years Teaching In Seoul
4
15387
Bliss on a Budget in Brazil
5
15405
From Daydream to Reality: Teaching Abroad
6
15401
From Korea to Oman: Teaching English Around the World!
7
15383
Hustle and Bustle in Vietnam
8
15347
12 Months, 12 Countries!
9
15333
A Literary Education in the UK
10
15327
An Open Mind & Open Arms in Spain
11
14594
Growing Abroad: Hong Kong & South Korea
12
9770
Contributing To Change In Ghana
13
9760
Getting In Sync In Nairobi
14
9799
Getting Settled In Seoul
15
10258
Encountering Cultures Across Europe
16
9772
Learning To Go With The Flow In France
17
10218
Adaptation And Appreciation In Japan
18
9776
Soaking Up Japanese Culture
19
9785
Motivated In Madagascar
20
9786
Kids And Culture In Korea
21
9748
Adventure In The Alps
22
9742
Take-Charge Travel: Germany And Beyond!
23
9788
Business And Pleasure In Australia
24
9744
Food, Fun And Festivals In Germany
25
9747
Fun And Friends In The Netherlands
26
9750
Host Hospitality In Morocco
27
9754
Building Memories In India
28
9752
Giving In Guatemala
29
9775
A Year Of Feeling French
30
9777
Into The Wild In Alaska
31
9759
From Cold Feet To Confidence In Germany
32
9779
One Summer, Two Internships!
33
9753
A Season In Sweden
34
10230
Getting Caffeinated In Bolivia
35
10923
Insight And Education In Korea
36
11467
Stepping Outside the Box in Sweden!
37
11557
Un stage au Cambodge (Français)
38
9812
Caring And Career Skills In Belize
39
11468
Learning While Teaching in Beijing
40
10157
Changing Course In China
41
9740
Sports, Study And Fun In France
42
10204
Across Europe In A Caravan!
43
9787
A Spring Semester In London
44
9778
Study And Adventure In New Zealand
45
10145
Real Stories And Real People In Mexico
46
9766
Short-Term Trips For Long-Term Gain
47
9771
Learning To Love London
48
11645
A Love Affair with Shanghai
49
9755
People, Places And Passionate Volunteering In Peru
50
9738
Living For The Moment In Valencia
51
11845
Hospitality and Hosting in the DCR
52
11850
The Warmest Welcome in Guatemala
53
9783
Off The Beaten Path In Africa
54
9781
A Hospital Helper In Costa Rica
55
9757
Teaching And Learning In Tanzania
56
11996
Daring to Go Solo in Ireland
57
12058
Architectural Adventures in Australia
58
9773
Independent In India
59
9741
Adapting To Work In Peru
60
9746
A Cross-Cultural Co-Op In West Africa
61
9789
Loving Life In Lyon
62
9762
American Freshman In London
63
9784
Skill-Building In Bonn
64
9774
Gaga For Ghana!
65
9745
An Unforgettable Adventure In Nanjing
66
9792
Rolling With The Punches In Seoul
67
10188
Now Or Never In Colombia
68
11904
Enthusiasm, Education and Experience in Greece
69
9807
Fast Friendship In Korea
70
9790
Design And Dining In Korea
71
9758
Learning The Local Ways Of Addis Ababa
72
10163
English Teaching In Eastern Europe
73
9768
Going Solo In Spain!
74
14483
Finding Home, By Teaching Abroad
75
9743
Hooked On Volunteering!
76
10153
China, South Africa And Beyond!
77
14088
An Eye-Opening Experience Teaching in South Korea
78
9751
A Canadian Globe-Trotter Visits The US
79
9737
Passionate About Panama
80
10192
Out And About In Paris
81
9780
A Year In Marvelous Mexico!
82
9756
Springtime In Spain
83
9761
Communicating Creatively In Spain
84
9763
A Professional Visit To Vietnam
85
9764
Do It Yourself! A Proactive Intern In Rome
86
10143
A Warm Welcome In Mexico
87
9765
Simpatico In Florence
88
9782
Making The Most Of Milano
89
9767
Beyond The Call Of Duty In Africa
90
9799
All Job Boards
457
All NGOs
1436
Au Pair Resources
40
Awards And Grants Resources
55
Business Directories
17
Canadian Federal, Provincial And Territorial Government Profiles
60
Canadian Government Resources
29
Children And Families Abroad
16
Consulting, Economic And Finance Job Boards
63
Country Guides
73
Cross-cultural Skills
81
Engineering Job Boards
59
Engineering Resources
81
Expatriate Networking Sites
32
Foreign Students Working in the US
9
Freelancing Abroad
27
General Job Search Books
16
Global Education And Social Action
42
Health And Medicine Job Boards
48
Health Career Resources
67
International Associations With Clubs on Campus
45
International Development Career Resources
75
International Internship Organizations
270
International Internships And Student Programs With Canadian Governments
31
International Internships With The US Government
39
International Job Hunting Resources
13
International Law Careers Resources
116
International Law Job Boards
27
International Studies In The US And Canada
13
International Trade Resources
25
International Volunteer Organizations
480
Internship Directories And Advice
43
Internships With The UN And Other IGOs
156
Language Careers
28
Learn A Language
97
Licensed Teacher Abroad Job Boards
30
Licensed Teacher Abroad Resources
31
Loans for Studying Abroad
20
Low-cost Travel
64
NGO Directories
33
NGO Job Boards
47
Re-entry
12
Regional Job Boards
103
Relocating Abroad
26
Resources For International Students Studying In The US Or Canada
50
Stories From Abroad
90
Study Abroad Resources
185
Teach English Abroad Job Boards
97
Teach English Abroad Resources
64
Tools for Travelers
75
Top International Blogs & Podcasts
85
Travel Health And Safety
39
UN and Other IGOs
266
UN And Other IGOs Job Boards
26
UN And Other IGOs Resources
73
US Government Profiles
76
US Government Resources
36
Visas and Passports
25
Volunteer Directories And Advice
52
Women Living And Working Overseas
18
Working Holiday Resources
64