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Things I wish I knew before I moved to South Korea to teach English

Teach Away’s Katie spent a year teaching ESL in Anyang, South Korea, before travelling around Asia. She shares her tips below on what she wishes she knew before moving to the land of Kim Chi and K-pop.


As a new teacher, patience is key.


I knew that becoming an ESL teacher in a foreign country would require patience, sure, but this is still sound advice to take into account. The challenges that come from teaching children who may not understand you or speak your language are ones you just can’t imagine before you arrive. With more time comes more confidence and a more honed skillset, but before that, patience is the name of the game.


You will get lost…a lot.


You are on the other side of the world, where many people speak little to no English. All the street signs are in Korean, the subway stops are in Korean…ok, everything is in Korean. (It is Korea, after all!)


Ask for help. Koreans are some of the nicest, most helpful people you will ever meet. Even if they don’t speak English, they will do their best to help you get back on track.


If all else fails, just dial 1-3-3-0 for English assistance on ANYTHING, ANYWHERE. Seriously. The English-speaking operators on the tourist assistance line will help you with any problem you could ever have.


As a new teacher, plan, plan, plan!


There is nothing more handy than a wellthought out lesson plan. When working in a new place, with new co-workers and teaching plans, it’s always good to have a structure to work from. It will help you lead the classroom session, stay on track, and keep the students interested.


As a traveler, plan, plan, plan!


Whether it’s obtaining visas to visit China or Vietnam, or making sure that the airport in Guangzhou, China, won’t close down in the middle of the night on a flight back to Seoul from Bangkok, it’s always best to do your research and due diligence before traveling around Asia from South Korea.


Try all the new foods you can find, and remember how to order them.


I still wish I had the piece of paper where my co-worker wrote down all my favorite dishes in Korean, but I lost it somewhere on the way back to Canada. Try anything and everything you see – you never know that you will love (dried anchovies anyone?), and what you cannot get when ordering in English back at home. If anyone knows what the Korean words for ‘Pork Bone Soup’ are, please reply in the comments.


Pack light!


South Korea is a shopping mecca. My most cherished memories in Korea were the relaxing Saturdays I spent shopping and roaming around the streets of Hongdae in Seoul. You will be able to find amazing pieces for your wardrobe here, often at bargain prices. Sneakers, hats, purses, apparel, sunglasses, bathing suits – South Korea has the best of the best.


Experience everything.


Hike mountains with Ajoshis. Visit temples. Buy a dangly Hello Kitty charm for your cell phone. Offer English lessons in exchange for home-cooked Korean meals. Stay out at a noraebang until 5 am. Get lost in a Shinsegae/Lotte/E-mart. Walk through the cherry blossom trees in the spring. Take the bullet train across the country. Wakeboard on the Han. Go to any and every mud or music festival you can find. Experience a Korean homestay. Meditate. Shop. Eat. Drink.


Take in every single thing your Korean experience has to offer so you can look back 5, 10, 15+ years from your time there, and know that you did it all.


Do I have you convinced? Check out the jobs we have posted right now for teaching in South Korea!


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