Why South Korea?
My journey down the teaching-English-abroad path began in France. I was passively looking into a program called TAPIF which would have allowed me to teach in France, but I accidentally forgot about my application (oops!) and wasn’t able to complete all of the components by the deadline. However, this was a good thing for me. The TAPIF program is more for students or speakers of French who want the experience of living abroad for a while–you don’t need any teaching certification or experience, and the pay is very minimal with no flights/housing/additional assistance provided. You’re essentially applying for the experience, almost like an internship, as opposed to a career path.
While TAPIF was off the table, the idea of teaching English abroad only continued to become more and more appealing to me. I did a little research and discovered Asia was a fantastic place for first-time teachers to begin their ESL careers. Unlike in Europe, the barrier to entry was relatively low and some countries like South Korea already had well-established programs and expat communities.
I initially looked into Hangzhou, China as I have personal ties there. I had visited a close friend once back in 2009 and even met her family, so it wouldn’t feel completely foreign. I applied at a few private schools and received multiple job offers rather unexpectedly. When I mentioned what I was planning on doing to some of my Korean friends, they immediately asked “Wait, why not Korea?!“
And why not? I started weighing the pros and cons, and after reaching out to some recruiters and interviewing, my Korean job prospects were a bit more appealing.
Why Jeollanam-do and Boseong-gun?
To help clarify, Jeollanamdo is South Jeolla Province, and Boseong-gun is Boseong County. Also, it looks like this:
|Stunning mountains, rows of tea, and an ocean view. Boseong. Enough said.|
Technically, Jeollanamdo was a collaborative choice between my placement agency (Canadian Connection) and myself. I knew I wanted to be as far south as possible–if I’m moving abroad, I’m saying goodbye to those nasty Wisconsin winters!–and had already been in touch with a few private schools in and around Busan.
The only downside to private schools, however, was that their hours were after regular school hours and on weekends. I’m not a particularly productive person during the morning/daytime when I know I have to go to work in the evening. So, going to work early and then having free time in the evenings leads to me being more productive overall. Clearly, teaching during the day in a public school would be the best fit, but I was a little late on the EPIK train (English Program in Korea) and didn’t think there was anything left.
When I contacted Canadian Connections and told them about my “wishlist”, it ended up being a perfect match: they were responsible for supplying the Jeollanamdo Office of Education’s Language Program (JLP) with teachers for the public school year, and my timing was perfect. Awesome! From there, I began researching the big city and county options for my preferences. There were really only two that jumped out at me: Yeosu, which is an amazing coastal city, and Boseong, which is famous for its mountains, green tea, and coastline. While Yeosu was my first choice, I was also very clear with my recruiter that if I couldn’t be in Yeosu, I definitely wanted to be somewhere beautiful. With my love of tea and fantastic scenery, the more rural Boseong seemed like a perfect fit!
In July of 2014, I ended up with a placement in Hoecheon at their elementary school, which you can read about here. I have since moved on to another high school in the area, but couldn’t be convinced to leave Boseong! It’s such an amazing place to live, and I know I’ll have a very hard time when it’s time to move on.
You studied Apparel Design & Production. Why are you teaching English now?
Because you’re never too old to explore new avenues in life! I have always loved studying other languages and immersing myself in new cultures. I’m confident that if I hadn’t gone into a creative field in university, I would have studied linguistics and multiple languages. A small part of me regrets not discovering just how passionate I was about this subject sooner, as I could have used my time in college more efficiently and taken more language courses while I had the change! Regardless, my point is that you can love more than one thing in life. I’ve already dedicated the last four years of my life to studying the textile and apparel industry, and I’m confident that I could also excel in that field should I choose to explore that path again.
But, I haven’t yet had the opportunity to give my love of foreign languages, cultures, and traveling a fair chance. When the idea of teaching and traveling crossed my mind, I couldn’t shake it. I paid around $300 for a great TEFL Certification course by i-to-i Learning that gave me a solid background in teaching philosophy, grammar, and how to teach English in a variety of settings. (However, I only completed the general and grammar portions as I ended up leaving to start my job before I could finish.) When I first set out on this journey, even though I didn’t have a background in education I was confident that with my love of languages (both native and foreign), experience working with young children, and my flexibility and understanding when encountering cultural barriers that I would manage to survive. And look at what an amazing journey I’ve had so far!
In the end, while I love the apparel industry and designing clothing, I can’t fully commit to a career in that field just yet. I need to explore more in the realm of linguistics and see the world first!