Teaching in South-korea
I didn’t want to continue being a solicitor and I wanted to live abroad.
Time for a Career Change – Time to be a TEFL Teacher Harriet Parker
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A journalist who wrote a new story as a teacher Paloma Tiba
At the end of March 2020, I packed a very large suitcase and got on a plane to Seoul, South Korea where I’ve been working as an EFL kindergarten teacher since.
Taking the leap to use my TEFL qualification was one that I had never really thought would happen, but looking back a year later, it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
I have been living and working in Seoul for exactly a year, and if you are considering taking the step to becoming an EFL teacher, I cannot recommend it enough. I never considered myself the “teacher” type, and had never imagined living so far away from home but it turns out opening that door opens up a whole new world to explore, experience and thrive in.
South Korea has two options for EFL teaching. You can either choose to work in the public school system through programs such as EPIK, or you can find a recruiter and work in a private academy (called a hagwon). I currently work in a private academy that runs an intensive English language kindergarten program in the morning from 9am until 2:30pm, and some elementary English classes once kindergarten is finished. The work environment can be intense, but it is immensely fulfilling if you enjoy being creative, thinking on your feet and working with children. Every single day working with children is different, and as someone who was often quickly bored when working desk jobs, I have found a lot of joy in every day looking a little bit different.
It’s also extremely fulfilling to see the impact that a consistent exposure to English has on children and how quickly they can absorb things. My TEFL qualification has given me the freedom in my classes to create lessons that engage both my students and myself, and allow me to enjoy this time without worrying about filling class time or how to handle time management.
I should mention that I have been teaching in South Korea since the pandemic began, and the choice to move has been one of the best I have made. In the last year, I only experienced two weeks of unpaid work due to school closure from the pandemic. My school then made the decisions to set up online teaching options for our students, which meant staff were able to continue to work and be paid in full when we experienced major closures due to the virus.
South Korea’s approach to the pandemic has not been perfect, but I have been able to consistently live, experience the culture and enjoy a new place while feeling incredibly safe and following proper protocols. Wearing a mask is mandatory in all public spaces from everyone, so both myself and the kids I teach have become excellent at expressing ourselves through our eyebrows.
I chose South Korea after much research, and my main advice to anyone who is choosing to go abroad to any country is research and ask questions. Knowing what is the norm in a country, what is generally expected in TEFL positions there, what are normal working hours, and when are the hiring seasons is all advantageous to know and will ensure so much peace of mind while you’re sitting on your plane waiting for take-off.
TEFL is a great opportunity to explore and really experience career options without the pressure of an expensive masters or degree. When I completed my TEFL qualification, I never actually thought I would use it, but one of the best decisions I made was contacting a recruiter and starting the journey.