Personal Experience Teaching in KoreaBy esljoblinks I East Asia I 0 comment
Occupation: Interim youth coordinator at The Mediation Center in Hendersonville
John Avery left his job in Hendersonville and moved to South Korea to teach children English for a year.
Why did you decide to teach overseas for a year?
I decided to make the move because I was interested in both traveling and teaching. I had never been outside of the United States before, and I definitely wanted to travel before I turned 30. I also thought it would be a good way to explore teaching as a potential career.
What did you enjoy most about your experience?
The kids. Their creativity. They can think of new ways to use language and they’re funny, very delightful. It was so amazing to see the breadth of topics they could discuss in their second language.
Is the education system more intense in South Korea than in the U.S.?
Yes, a lot more intense. I taught in an afterschool program that began at 4:30 p.m. and I would teach until 9:50 p.m. some days. Most kindergarteners there are bilingual, with the vast majority speaking English well. The literacy rate there is amazing. I want to say it’s one of the highest in the world. I was amazed at how many words were borrowed from English.
Where exactly did you teach in South Korea?
I taught in a city called Cheongju, which is the capital of Chungcheongbuk-do, a province located in the middle of South Korea. I taught at a private after-school academy, known as a “hagwon” in Korean. I taught children from the ages of about 10 to 16.
Is the cost of living in South Korea the same as here in the U.S.?
The cost of living in South Korea is a little lower than here. That’s one of the reasons that a lot of people like to go to South Korea. You can spend $4 to get a decent meal. I had so much good food!
Did you have a favorite meal?
I had a lot of favorite meals there. My diet definitely changed. I have a few dietary intolerances, so eating in Korea was not always easy, but it was interesting. I ate more white rice and soy than I have ever eaten in my entire life. I grew to love kimchi, though I am on hiatus from eating it at the moment. I ate a lot of kimbap, pronounced “kim-bop,” which is a seaweed and rice roll with vegetables and egg that often includes tuna fish, cheese or cooked beef.
I also ate a lot of bibimbap, pronounced “bee-beam-bap,” which is a bowl of rice with various cooked and uncooked vegetables, hot pepper paste and a fried egg. One of my other favorite meals, which sometimes took place at restaurants where you had to remove your shoes and sit on the floor, was called “samgyeopsal,” traditionally known as Korean barbecue, where they give you raw pork belly and you cook it on a grill at your table.
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