During my university days, I always dreamed of living and teaching abroad. I had read so many articles about what it was like, I lost track. I even had my old man sending me links to read during his free time! I thought extensively about doing an exchange during my studies since I’d be able to fulfill my dream of travelling the world while also continuing to earn my degree. However, due to a few financial constraints at the time, it just wasn’t feasible. So, once graduated and got a few pennies saved up, I made my decision.
Teaching English abroad has been one of the most fulfilling life experiences I’ve had up to date. The people I’ve met, the things I’ve tried and the challenges I’ve faced have been such a roller coaster, and I’m definitely a better person for them.
From the initial thought of becoming a teacher to actually stepping foot in the classroom, it took about 3 years. I chose Korea for a number of reasons (which you can read about here!) and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve been here for about 3 months now and just like Katherine, let me tell you how insaaaaaaaane the ups and downs have been. I’m not even joking when I say that my thoughts jumped from “Well this is the best thing in the world and I’m never going home” to “I would give ANYTHING to be having a beer with the boys back home right now” all in a matter of hours. Fortunately, as time passes and we settle more and more into the rhythm of life here, I feel the former much more than the latter.
The big question I get most often from my friends and family is “Jordon, how are you liking your job in Korea?”, and for good reason. My life here is drastically different from what it was back home. I love change so naturally I always give a positive answer. But it wasn’t always like that, I really had to think about how I felt about living in Korea. I had never done anything like this before so there was no standard to measure up to. Unlike Katherine, once we found out the details of our placement, I tended to stay away from reading too many opinions about the place for fear of tainting the image before I could paint one for myself.
Disclaimer: everything written here is my own opinion based on the experiences I had. For those interested in doing something similar in Korea or elsewhere, please keep in mind that your journey will most likely vary a lot compared to mine. Everything in Korea depends. Get ready to here that 458,553,290 more times during your research! Or not, it depends 😉
Since Katherine and I had first decided we wanted to live in a big city (Seoul was our number one), we weren’t quite sure what to expect when we first found out we were being placed in the southern most province of Korea of Jeollanamdo – home to only the 6th largest city in the country. Looking back, I think I would’ve been kind of upset if I lived in a big city now. The country side has a certain charm that you simply can’t get in a larger city. Keep in mind that we are only about a 25-30 minute bus ride from the aforementioned 6th largest city (Gwangju) so when we need big stores and more restaurants, we aren’t too far away! Overall though, we love it in Hwasun. There’s definitely enough here to be able to take day trips exploring the rural areas, a nice little “downtown” core, and the pizza lady already knows our order when we walk in…
This is probably the biggest difference in our experience between Katherine and I. Our schools are just so totally different that it makes for some interesting dinner table chats. Originally also asking to be placed in an elementary school, I am SO happy that didn’t happen. Some of my high school kids are among my favourite because they have a better handle on the language and most of them have similar interests to me! (like music, games etc.) Unlike Katherine, my school is quite small. To give you an idea, we have approximately 150 students across 6 grades! I teach 3 middle school classes, which is roughly equivalent to grades 7,8,9 in Canada, and 6 high school classes, which is similar to grades 10,11,12. The lower student population has given me the chance to get to know some of the students quite well and I’ve gotten a pretty good handle on many of their names! My colleagues are all super friendly and amazing. They help with any issues I have and I always have fun teaching with my English co-teachers. Because of the location and size, my school has adopted a very close-knit “community” or “family” vibe to it. Sometimes my co-teachers take care of me as one of their own children which can be a really nice feeling when I’m feeling blue.
Also very different from Katherine’s situation, I am lucky (unlucky?) enough to teach at two schools! On Tuesdays, I take a different bus to the northern part of town to teach one day a week at a different middle school. This school only has 3 classes for a total of about 15 students. Similar to my regular school, everyone is quite close and laid back (maybe a little too much so sometimes)!
My schedule is in a similar vein to Katherine in that it can be best described as a living breathing thing…it has the ability to change at literally any moment! Although more stable than hers, there have definitely been days where class has been cancelled 5 minutes after it had already started or where I had an extra class back to back.
My typical week has about 19 teaching hours. 14 of those are regular classes with students, 1 is my high school English club and 4 of those are teacher workshops. Any open blocks are me usually planning lessons for next week’s classes or catching up on administrative work. I get to school around 8-8:15 and catch the bus back home just after 5.
If you want to apply to JLP, you can find the information here.
Have you ever dreamed of teaching or living abroad?
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