The decision to move and teach English abroad was inspired by many sleepless nights leading up to my university graduation. I was earning my BA in behavioral sciences and entirely unsure of what I would do next.
Deciding what to do after graduation.
The list of options was as follows:
- Apply for graduate school to become a psychologist.
- Stick with working in the non-profit sector, with the homeless population in Austin.
- Start applying for any job that sounded fun (hey, I was eager to pay my private school diploma off ????).
Throughout this, I kept thinking how wonderful it would be to just travel for a while, to have some time to work out what my next big decision should be.
Given my student loan predicament, it didn’t seem possible to simply travel without any income, so I began to think about the types of jobs that allow you to travel, earn a decent wage, while still offering fulfillment. The one thing I’ve always known is that I want to spend my days being of service. If I can do that, I know I’ll feel fulfilled.
I’m not the type to jump into anything without first researching all possible outcomes. Despite my desire to be more spontaneous, I just can’t help myself. So, the more I searched for that perfect career the more it kept leading me back to teaching abroad.
Then, in a most fortuitous turn of events, I landed on the English Program in Korea (EPIK) website late one evening and discovered that I didn’t have to be a certified teacher to teach abroad. In fact, I didn’t have to have anything but the bachelor’s degree that I would soon be receiving.
I began to fill out the very lengthy application form and became quickly overwhelmed. A medical exam, visa paperwork, apostilled documents, oh my.
Taking the first step towards teaching abroad after graduation.
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I would now have to reach out to all of my professors and supervisors and explain that I wouldn’t need a letter of recommendation for graduate school but, for an English teaching job in South Korea. I stopped the application there and left it at that for a while.
But I kept researching ways that I could become a teacher and move abroad while doing so. I discovered a number of recruitment agencies and settled on one that sounded like a good fit for me. The application process was less daunting than with EPIK and helped me decide on a region while breaking the process down into a more manageable step-by-step process.
Meanwhile, I applied to graduate school - well, six schools to be exact! I awaited responses with bated breath and wrapped up my last few weeks of college exams and my thesis.
During many late nights, I would travel, via the internet, to all of the places in the world that I wanted to be that weren’t Austin. I worked on applications for jobs with the recruitment agency I was working with and even started my online TEFL course.
I also watched videos of people who had moved abroad, read their blogs, and through this, finally figured out where I wanted to live and teach abroad.
Researching the best places to teach English abroad for graduates.
I did initially fall in love with the idea of teaching English Thailand. I thought it seemed like paradise and a place that I could really discover myself and what I was meant to do. However, the more I looked into teaching in Thailand I realized it didn’t actually align with my goals. Although I would be able to teach underserved communities I didn’t think it would provide the right opportunity for me to become a well-trained educator.
After looking into the most desirable and even least desirable options I settled on a country that seemed like my Goldilocks (“just right”) teaching destination. I decided to set my sights on teaching English in South Korea once more, as it was one of the highest-paying countries to teach abroad in, with the most attractive benefits and accommodations. EPIK also provides teachers training and orientation upon arrival, ongoing support and co-teachers to support new teachers in the field.
I ended up applying to EPIK via a recruitment agency, which was helpful in that they secured and managed applications and interviews for me. I don’t know that I have ever been as nervous as I was when someone from the agency told me that I landed an interview with an EPIK school. That was to take place via Skype. With a number of school leaders. Who may or may not speak English. ???? It was late in the evening, give the time difference, so I had a full day to sweat the jitters out.
I read through every potential interview question and memorized my most appropriate responses. I even wrote them down and practiced up until the call came through. I made sure I was wearing a suitable outfit, that nobody could interrupt me and eagerly awaited that incoming Skype call jingle.
Miraculously, I passed the interview and moved on to the second part of the application process! I considered the hard part over (little did I know that packing my entire life into two suitcases lay ahead).
Throughout the entire process, I was incredibly nervous, which told me that this was actually what I wanted to do. When I received the message that I would become an EPIK teacher and was only awaiting which city and school I would teach in, I was elated.
I waited months to find out where I would be placed but, unlike most candidates I really didn’t have a preference. I felt so grateful to even be accepted and had so much hope for the experiences to come, that I knew wherever I ended up would prove to be an amazing adventure.
The traditional start time for EPIK teachers is August but I had a late start, beginning in September. This meant I wouldn’t complete my orientation and training prior to the start of the school year. I would be thrown right in, the day after I arrived. I was placed at a large elementary school in a small rural farming town called Jincheon. I couldn’t find anything about it online at the time (things have changed quite a bit by now). I really didn’t know anything about the school or the town but I knew that whatever I walked into it would be a learning experience.
My advice: When in doubt, teach abroad after graduation!
I could never have imagined that my one year in Jincheon would have been the start of my career teaching (both at home and abroad) as well as a catalyst for world travel that resulted in lifelong friendships.
It truly was the best decision I’ve ever made and has shaped the person that I am today. I would highly recommend such a radical change to anyone interested in learning about a new culture, teaching about their own or just discovering themselves within the context of such a raw experience.