On February 20th, I will be moving to Seoul, South Korea! Usually I usually get combination of the following questions when I tell people this:
North Korea or South Korea?
South Korea, of course.
What will you be doing there?
I'll be teaching English in a private tutoring institute, referred to as a "hagwon" in Korean. In Korea, and in other Asian countries as well, students will go to these hagwons after school for tutoring in a range of subjects, including English. The actual job itself won't differ too much from when I taught English in public schools in Japan.
Do you speak Korean?
Than how can you teach English when you don't speak their language?
It's surprisingly simple. The more basic level at which a language is taught, the easier. For simple nouns such as "horse" you don't need more than a flash card. You show the student the flash card and pronounce. For verbs, gestures and actions (possibly in conjunction with a flash card) go a long way. For example, for "like" I would show the students a flash card for a strawberry and say "I like strawberries." Pointing to myself on "I" and on "like" put a big smile on my face, rubbing my belly and doing anything else that would signify strawberries are the most delicious food on the planet.
Naturally, the more complicated the ideas and grammar that are being taught, the more complex the teaching methods have to be and a better grasp of the students' native language is definitely is a huge help. However, because I teach mostly lower level English, I don't have much of a problem. Also, in Japan, there was typically a Japanese teacher in the room with me if I ever needed quick translation assistance, either the students' home room teacher or their main English teacher, depending on the school.
What age group will you be teaching?
I'll be teaching pre-school or early elementary aged students. Which of those two I will end up teaching will be decided upon my arrival.
Why South Korea?
Back when I went to Japan I hadn't really thought about opportunities elsewhere, I had heard about teaching in Japan and it didn't cross my mind that it was really possible to do it anywhere else. It wasn't until I had grown a liking to teaching that I thought of the where else it would be possible for me to teach. One of my good friends in Japan had previously taught for a number of years in Korea. After hearing a lot about what he had to say, I grew very interested in the possibility. After a lot of research, South Korea really posed itself as the best place for me to teach next.
Due to South Korea's rapid economic growth in the last few decades, there is a huge amount of international business that takes places in such a relatively small country. Because of these and many other factors, the demand for English is extremely high. Because of this demand, it's standard practice for teaching jobs in Korea to include free flights to the country as well as an arranged apartment to stay in. Also, thanks in part to my experience in Japan, I have much more of a choice in my location. Which is not something I could get in almost any other country, including Japan. On top of all of this, the cost of living is relatively low and English teachers are paid fairly well.
Why Asia again?
My going to Asia again is mostly a coincidence. If I had my choice of any where to teach in the world things might be different, but that isn't reality. Demand for English teachers, immigration policies and my relative lack of experience are all factors that remove countries in South America, Europe, Africa and elsewhere from my consideration.
Where in South Korea will you be living?
Seoul, the capital and largest city in the country. Surprisingly enough, Seoul is one of the biggest cities in the world.
How long will you be thee?
About a year.
Is it safe, considering North Korea and all that stuff that has been happening there?
For the most part, the possibility of an attack from North Korea is extremely small. There are two fairly large factors involved in this. The first being that South Korea is extremely well allied due to its current economic importance. So in the event of an attack, North Korea would experience instant retaliation from South Korea and a number of other countries, notably the US, who actually has an Army might in the center of Seoul. The other factor is that North Korea's government and economy are extremely feeble, as are its people after decades of extensive famine. The only threatening aspect about the country is how unpredictable and insane it is. But many believe their scare tactics are simply a way for them to ensure continued foreign food assistance.
I'm naturally extremely excited, for all sorts of reasons; I'll be living in a proper metropolis, this is an extremely exciting time for Korea, I will have new fun and interesting travel opportunities and so much more. As part of that excitement, I've changed things up here at the blog. With that will come lots of new, interesting and exciting content.
As before, if there is ever anything you're curious about or would like me to go into further detail about, don't hesitate to leave a comment or send me an e-mail at KramersEmail@gmail.com .