Today, we’re so excited to be speaking with Kendal, who worked with us in South Korea.
Kendal, we’ll ask you a few questions about your experience working as an English teacher, and as a Canadian living in a new country!
How long was the program you did? Why did you choose that length?
The program I did was 1 year long. This length is the required time frame for a teaching contract in South Korea (SK), and I had my mind set on going there! I also thought a year abroad would be a good amount of time to set myself apart from the life I had always known, and immerse myself in the other side of the world.
Could you describe your job position in South Korea?
I worked at a private academy, as they call “hagwons” in SK. These are privately-owned language academies that the children attend after their regular schooling day (Korean children study a lot and work very hard!).
My day would start at 2pm and I would finish work no later than 9pm. I worked Monday to Friday with weekends off, which was amazing. My students ranged from 6-14 and I taught classes of 30 minutes in length.
The school had a curriculum to follow, however there was room for developing my own lessons and activities along with the other foreign teachers on Tuesdays and Thursdays – as these were “activity days”. Activity days are focused on the students diverging from the regular curriculum to a more fun and activity-based lesson.
South Korea has an amazing social scene, and people we place there often make lots of close friends. Could you tell us a bit about your social life in South Korea?
My social life was somewhat small, as I lived in a rural town 2 hours South West of Seoul, the capital. However, the foreign community in my town was welcoming and we always got together for people’s birthday and dinners for newcomers and people leaving.
There are a lot of opportunities for foreigners in Korea, which I accessed by travelling to the main cities on the weekends. For example, I went to Halloween and New Years events in Seoul, as well as a foreigner-organized ski and snowboarding trip!
I also think it’s really important to make Korean friends as they can give you a glimpse into Korean culture and life on a deeper level, and they also help with the language barrier! I made three Korean friends that I keep in contact with.
Any recommendations for someone visiting South Korea for the first time? (ex. your favourite spot, places to visit, activities to try etc.)
Definitely try the food!
Korean cuisine is one of a kind and pretty well everything I tried was amazing. From fried chicken and beer, Korean BBQ, and street food, to more traditional dishes such as bibimbap, everything was awesome.
I also recommend travelling the country as much as possible, going to cities such as Busan in the South, Jeonju, a city with a traditional hanok village, and Seoul with its amazing mix of modern and traditional architecture.
My favourite area in Seoul is Hongdae, a university centred area with endless shopping, nightlife, and excitement. I also highly recommend visiting Jeju island, known as Korea’s “Hawaii”.
Teaching is such a rewarding way to discover a new country. Could you describe your day-to-day as a teacher? Ex. 7:30 wake up, 8:00 class with 8 year olds etc.
The experience of teaching in and of itself was amazing and I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to do job that I loved, while also being able to travel.
As I mentioned, I worked in a private language academy, therefore my working day started at 2pm and finished at 9pm.
Being situated in a small town I could walk to work, which was great! I taught elementary students from 2pm until 7pm, while my classes after that were with older students from the ages of 13 to 20. My classes with the older students were solely conversation based as these students had higher English proficiency.
Do you have any favourite moments from teaching?
My favourite moments would have to be just seeing the kids become excited about learning English when doing games and activities. Korean children are in school for many hours each day and are under a lot of pressure, so it’s great to have class and just see them with smiles on their faces!
Also, the language barrier created many instances of miscommunication between my students and I, which in the end were more so moments of laughter than frustration.
Working abroad is more than just working. People go overseas for different reasons, and love different parts of their life abroad. What were your favourite things to do outside of work hours?
Travelling the country and eating were what I spent most of my time off doing! I loved going to Seoul and walking around all the different areas, picking out new cafes to try or finding new restaurants to eat at with friends.
Life in South Korea is different from life in Canada. Do you have any favourite moments that stand out to you as “typically Korean” and which you wouldn’t have been able to have in Canada?
When eating in Korea, it is custom to share all the food instead of each person having their own dish as in Canadian culture. I think that this was one of my favourite things about Korea.
Eating has a more communal atmosphere, bringing you to feel closer to the people you are eating with.
It is also very typical in Korea for certain foods and drinks to be paired with one another, for example chicken and beer. So if you’re going for fried chicken, that means you’re drinking beer, I find that’s very unique and funny!
What part of Canada were you coming from, and how did you hear about Scotia Personnel?
I’m from Toronto and I heard about Scotia Personnel through a coworker at my part-time job while I was studying at the University of Guelph. At the time I was 18 years old, and she had done the South Korea program a few years earlier.
Could you describe the interview and placement process? Would you work with us again?
The interview and placement process took a few months to complete. There are certain documents that you need that need to be in proper order. After completing my application, I was given my school and I decided to commit to it after completing the interview process with the private school.
Living abroad isn’t for everyone. Would you consider living in South Korea, or another country outside Canada again?
If I were to live abroad long-term again in Asia, I would definitely consider Korea as I am already familiar with the culture and country. There is enough to see and explore that I would go back a second time, however I would make sure that I was placed in a larger city as it would benefit me personally.
If you were to meet someone considering working abroad, but afraid to take the leap, what advice would you give them?
I would say that if you are more that 85% sure that you want to live abroad, then take the leap.
Living abroad is a challenging experience, however it is rewarding. It takes a certain kind of person to live within a world that is the total opposite of your own.
If you’ve researched the country and feel that you can handle it for the most part, then go for it! I never fully got used to Korean culture and customs of course, but I do not regret the experience in any way. I learned valuable lessons that I never would have if I had stayed home.
Would you recommend our Teach in Korea program?
Yes, I would recommend teaching in South Korea.
Every experience is different, especially when working for private language institutes as they all have different owners and ways of conducting their business.
Benefits for teachers are great as medical and dental insurance is provided. The salary is profitable considering you do not have to pay rent, only maintenance fees for your apartment.
As well, vacation time is great, I chose to travel to other countries including the Philippines, China, and Japan.
How did our partner organization South Korea help you during your stay?
The partner organization in Korea helped me upon my arrival and made sure that I got to my town on the bus from the airport. From there on, I didn’t need any extra help!