Life in Korea Through Expats’ Eyes- The Best Advice You Could Ever Receive

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I had so much fun doing this series and sharing what I believe to be some of the most practical (real life) advice for those who are interested in living abroad, teaching overseas, or moving to Korea. Like I said in the beginning, I really wish before we came over to Korea I would have been able to know the answers to some of the tough questions on the topic of finances, loneliness, and the challenges/perks of teaching in Korea. Just to side track for a brief second here- When I first started this blog it was specifically for my family/friends to follow along in our adventures overseas. Even though it’s still used for documenting our travels the blog has become a place where I can let you into places of my heart that I am sharing -with the vision that someone some where in the world may read a post that speaks right to their heart.  A post that shows them that they to can pursue dreams of living abroad, that your job doesn’t have to be stressful, and that life can be easily simplified in the pursuit of happiness.

For the last post I asked all four gals:

If you could give one piece of advice to someone when moving to Korea what would you tell them?

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“Come with an open mind and as few expectations as possible. With an open mind and making the choice to see everything as an adventure ~ you will be in for your best year yet!!!”

You can follow Caitlyn’s journey: here & here

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“If you come willing to try new things you definitely won’t regret it. Every day will be like a new adventure and trying to see things from the perspective of a Korean will make your experience here be that much more enriching. Also it will give you the chance to appreciate the journey you’re taking.”

You can follow Chloé’s journey: here

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“If you make a bunch of plans and have specific expectations, they may not always turn out like you had hoped. Everyone has a different experience here, but I think it all depends on your attitude and your reactions to whatever comes your way. Just be open to new things, trying new things, learning new things, and seeing new things because some of you only will have a year here…why not make the absolute most of your time in this amazing country!”

You can follow Lisa’s journey: here

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“Get out and explore! Think of all the places you can see only in Korea and go to it. You may never have the chance to come here again once you leave!”

You can follow Alison’s journey: here

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…and for me? The best advice I ever received when coming to Korea was: Don’t compare. Don’t compare your life with that of other people. Don’t compare apartments, don’t compare jobs, and don’t compare co-teachers. We all have pretty unique situations and just because it may appear someone else’s job is better than your current situation it doesn’t mean that it’s all that it may appear to be. A Big thank you shout out to Caitlyn, Alison, Lisa, and Chloé for taking the time out of their busy lives to contribute to these posts. I admire each of them for taking the big leap to move abroad!

Check out the other parts to the series by clicking the icons below:

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Have a wonderful weekend everyone!!!

South Korea Through Expats’ Eyes Series- A look into the life of an English Teacher

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Happy Wednesday (or Tuesday if you’re reading this from the good ol’ US of A!!)

If you missed the first part of the series on Monday be sure to click here to read why these awesome ladies decided to come to Korea… A question that we all (at some point) faced before our move to this side of the pond.

Today, we’ll get a closer look at their lives in Korea as English teachers. I have  loved reading their responses to the questions and I know you will too! So grab a cup of coffee or wine (depending on what time zone you’re in) and read about what these fine individuals have to say on teaching in Korea!! It’s pretty much the coolest job ever if I must say so myself :0

I’ll start us off with an easy one.

Tell us what grade you teach and the program you came to Korea through?

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I teach 3rd-6th graders (ages 8-12) in three different elementary schools. I also have one class per week in which I teach 1st and 2nd graders. We came to Korea through Canadian Connection and they made the application and moving process so seamless. I HIGHLY recommend them.

 

 

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I came to Korea through Canadian Connection as well. I was in direct communication with Shane and towards the end (near the signing of the contract) I was also in communication with Laura. Canadian Connection is in my opinion a really good choice. They were on the ball from the moment I contacted them. They make the whole process of application/visa really easy and smooth!

I teach in an elementary school. I was originally told I would be teaching grade 3 to grade 6, but as it worked out, I actually teach grade 5 and 6 on more of a regular basis and grades 3 and 4 randomly (and the classes aren’t actually structured English classes).

 

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I came to Korea through EPIK (English Program in Korea), they are the biggest public school provider in the country, and I have loved working through them. The system is so structured and thus provides you with great job security as well as the opportunity to meet hundreds of foreign teachers within your first 2 weeks after arrival.

I teach Elementary School kids, Grades 4 – 6 to be specific. We weren’t given an option as to what age group we’d like to teach, so I really did land my bum in the butter by having been given the privilege of teaching my delightful little ones!!

 

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Lisa-I teach at a public Elementary School, so I teach 3rd-6th grades. I came to Korea through EPIK (English Program in Korea).For more information on EPIK click here. You can apply directly through EPIK or you can apply through a recruiter, which is what I did. I applied through Reach to Teach, a recruiting company that serves as a middle man through the entire process of coming to Korea. You apply through them and they help you with every step of the way. I would highly recommend them to anyone considering teaching in Korea or any other country they recruit for.

 

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What does a typical day at work in Korea look like?

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I teach at 2 schools, one on Mondays and Tuesdays and the other from Wednesday to Friday, so I’ll be sharing about my main school, the later of the two.

I am due to arrive at school at 8:30am, but being an early bird I tend to get there by 8:10 every morning. I share an office with my two co-teachers so on arrival we chat briefly before all settling in at our computers (the school provides these). I then usually spend a few minutes going over my lesson plan for the day and then check my email and write my to-do list for the day. At 8:40am I head up to our English classroom, where I turn on the computer, open the windows, etc and basically get ready for the kids to come streaming in.

Class starts at 8:50am (late, I know right?!), and each lesson lasts exactly 40 minutes. After the 40 minute lesson, the kids make their way back to their homeroom class and they have a quick 10 minute break.

The next class then arrive at our English room, I teach an entire grade(4-5 classes) every day.We have a 20 minute break-time after 2nd period, which I usually spend back in my office, working on my own things. After break time, I teach the next 2 periods and then lock up the English classroom for the day. We then head down to lunch at about 12:30 (the school provides this but I have to pay for my lunches at the end of each month). I can’t say that lunch is always appetizing, but for the most part they are perfect.

My afternoons are my free-time and I love this about teaching in Korea. I plan my lesson (based on the textbook) for the next day, sometimes with my co-teacher’s help, other times on my own, and then work on my own things, usually my Life Coaching work. I am fortunately at two very active schools so every Monday I play badminton with 3 other teachers from 3 – 4:40pm and then every few weeks we play volleyball on Friday afternoons too, which is right up my alley.

School ends at 4:30pm, a bit later on badminton days, and we usually all leave the office together and head in our different directions.

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How does teaching in Korea compare to teaching back home?

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Wow, there are so many ways that it’s different, but I find more similarities everyday.

Let’s start with the differences:

– I work so many less hours in Korea. In the U.S., it was not unusual for me to work 11-12 hours per weekday and about 3-4 hours per weekend, which comes out to over 60 hours per week. In Korea, I work 40 hours and never have to take my work home with me. My stress levels are much lower in Korea!

– In the United States, there is a huge emphasis of walking in straight lines, raising your hand to speak, only talking when a teacher calls on you, etc. I have noticed that there is not as much of an emphasis here on those particular aspects of the classroom.

– In Korea, it seems as if rote memorization is a best practice. From my experience in the United States, teachers are moving away from that practice and focusing more on answering questions in a variety of ways.

– Most schools are heated in the United States, but in Korea the heat is not always on and the windows are open. BRRRRRR!

– In the U.S., students are encouraged to pursue a variety of after school activities and sports. In Korea, many students focus on one activity after school, which is often more academic classes in the evening.

 Now for some similarities:

– Most students are eager to learn and love when the lesson is engaging. I have a feeling this is the case for students all over the world!

– My students in the U.S. and my students in Korea can be easily motivated with positive rewards. If they can earn the chance to watch a video at the end of class, you bet they will work very hard towards it!

– For the most part, my students in the United States and in Korea are so sweet towards me. They want to chat after class and are so excited to give me drawings they made. They really love making connections with their teachers!

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What is something you didn’t expect about teaching in Korea that you learned once you were here? 
photo (13)I tried to come to Korea with zero expectations, which was probably the best thing I could have ever done. However, I did have this idea that Korean kids would be extremely well-behaved, which don’t get me wrong, most of my classes are wonderful, but their behavior is a lot different than I had pictured. Kids in Korea are kind of on their own a lot more than in America. In the schools that I have taught in before coming here, children always have to be supervised, but here, they go from class to class all on their own and can pretty much do whatever they want. It’s not uncommon to see children hitting, kicking, punching, or slapping each other in the halls or in between classes as well. It was hard to get used to at first because if I saw that back in the states, it would not be acceptable, but here it’s not really a big deal. If kids are ever fighting in my classroom though, I don’t allow it and have made my own classroom rules, which have helped a lot.

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What is the BEST part about your job?

 photo (10)The best part of my job is the interaction with not just the students but with my co-workers. The kids were really shy at first, but it’s been almost a semester now that I have been teaching here and I can see a difference in them. They are much more comfortable and approach me randomly to talk, not only in class or school but on the streets. Also I love seeing that the kids are much more interested in learning English than they were  at the beginning of September, just because they want to be able to speak to me.

As for the co-workers, My school is pretty active as far as social gatherings. We go for dinners together and on Wednesdays we play volleyball!

What’s are the challenges you face at work?

The biggest challenge (and the only one so far for me I think ) that I have faced at work is the language barrier. My school is actually really great! Everyone treats me so well and they all look after and worry about me (sometimes it’s almost too much). So really the only thing that does bother me is that sometimes things get lost in translation and there’s miscommunication. It’s never anything serious though!

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SO there ya have it folks! The life of a public school teacher in Korea in a nutshell!! Teaching here is pretty darn fantastic! Friday will be the post on our Finances in Korea. Probably the topic I received the most questions about as we took the leap to move abroad. Finance Friday!! Perfect ring to it dontcha think?

Happy Wednesday everyone 🙂

South Korea Through Expats’ Eyes {4 beautiful souls tell all}

photo (12)There have been so many times since my husband Tom and I moved to Korea 8 months ago that I have thought “Man, I wish I had known that before. I wish there was a place I could read about real life experiences. I wish there was a way that I could connect with someone who has lived in the city that I will soon call home.”

I’ve been thinking a lot, and the past few weeks I have been jotting down notes of things that I wish I had known about moving to Korea. I came up with quite the extensive list, narrowed it down, organized it, and reached out to a few ladies that have inspired me in ways that they may not even know when it came to taking the plunge and leap of faith to move across the world to South Korea. 

These four ladies come from South Africa, Canada,  Seattle, Washington-USA, and small town Wisconsin-USA.

This will be a six-series post that I will publish Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for the next two weeks (It’s Monday in Korea so this is post #1!) I am SO excited to give you an insight into life in Korea! Over the next two weeks these lovely ladies will be covering topics like: Teaching in Korea, Finances in Korea, Loneliness, Expat life outside of work, and giving some advice about moving to Korea! Even if you don’t plan to move abroad, I think this series will provide you with knowledge and help you better understand what our lives look like while living and teaching in Korea.  Without further adieu, it is my absolute pleasure to bring you these inspiring women who have skipped across the pond and made Korea their new home.

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My name is Alison and I come from the beautiful city of Seattle, Washington. Back home, I taught 3rd grade at a wonderful elementary school, but felt my life would not be complete unless I had the experience of teaching abroad. I was lucky enough to have a fantastic boyfriend who had the same desire. So here I am, teaching English in Korea!

Why Korea? Why did you choose to move to Korea?

When I first told people we were moving to Korea, I got this question ALL THE TIME! Kenny and I were both teachers in Seattle and we decided that we wanted to take our teaching abroad together. However, we wanted to find jobs in which we wouldn’t have to take a huge pay cut. So, after a lot of exploring, we found out about teaching English in Korea. All of a sudden, it seemed that every person we knew had someone in their life who was teaching/had taught in Korea and loved it, for the most part. It made so much sense!

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photo (10)My name is Chloé Diamani. I am 26 years old. I come from Whitby, Ontario, Canada and I graduated York University with a degree in Environmental & Health Sciences with a specialization. Before coming to Korea, I was studying, working full time at Aldo and and part time at Danier.

Why Korea? Why did you choose to move to Korea?

I have always been interested in Asia (the culture, the food, and even anime and some music) and in 2008 my little sister and I really started to get into the K-Pop scene. Also the high school I graduated from was an international high school and we had a lot of Korean people there. Some of those people are still people I talk to today and even back in high school they would always tell me that one day I should visit Korea because it is such a beautiful place. In university I also made some Korean friends and they also fed my interest in Korea. Travelling has always been something I wanted to do so when I was researching how to travel and be productive at the same time, of course Korea came up. I have some friends who were in Korea these past couple of years and talking to them about their experience finally convinced me to take the leap.

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Hi, I’m Caitlyn and I’m from Cape Town in South Africa {the most beautiful country in the world}. In March last year (2012) I married my best friend, Hendrik, and after he finished his Charted Accounting articles at the end of 2012, we left the place we call home, to move to Korea to teach for a year. I have my honours in Clinical Psychology and have my own Life & Career Coaching company, Caitlyn de Beer Life Coaching, which has given me the freedom and space to live out my greatest passion in life, to inspire others to live out their full potential. I also have a strong Christian faith, love running, travelling, the beach and basically anything outdoorsy.

Why Korea? Why did you choose to move to Korea?

The reason we chose to come to Korea was 3 fold. Firstly, we couldn’t think of a better way of building a stronger foundation for our marriage, than a year away from pressures, relationships and work burdens. Secondly, we are both adventurers at heart and so the idea of living aboard, meeting people from different cultures, as well as endless opportunities to travel, made our decision to come over here very easy. Lastly, I sort of wish I could leave this one out as although it was one of the reasons we came here, our year has been so more than just this…but yes, we did come here to save too. Life back home is expensive and Korea has really provided us with the opportunity to save an amount of money that would have taken us years to save up back home.

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My name is Lisa Radloff, and I’m from a small town in Wisconsin, USA. A little over three months ago, I packed up everything, said goodbye to my family and friends and moved to Korea to teach English for one year. My original plan was to graduate college, find a perfect teaching job, settle down, and live happily ever after, but that didn’t exactly happen the way I had pictured it. I never imagined myself teaching 6,000 miles away from my hometown, but I’m loving every minute of my adventure here, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Why Korea? Why did you choose to move to Korea?

I always wanted to teach in a different country, but I never thought I would be brave enough to do it. I had always pictured myself getting a teaching job right after graduating, but it didn’t quite happen the way I had planned. After job searching and substitute teaching for two years, I wanted my own classroom. I wanted to use my teaching degree for something more than subbing, so one day I began researching several different countries that offer teaching abroad programs. I also had a few friends teaching in various countries that I contacted to get more information on how they liked where they were. After lots of research, I decided to go for it and apply to Korea. I had only received positive feedback about teaching in Korea and decided to move forward with it. Coming to Korea has been the best decision I’ve ever made, and I haven’t regretted it for a minute.

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Follow these awesome women by clicking their picture below:

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I am so excited to let you in on pieces of their journey’s in Korea as we go through this series. Stay tuned for Wednesday’s upcoming post about the ins and outs of: Teaching in Korea.