When I told my friends and family that I was heading off to Korea to teach English, the first thing out of their mouths (aside from “OMG that’s awesome!”) was: Why did you choose Korea? What made you want to teach?
And you know what, at first, it was hard for me to answer that.
Why am I quitting my full-time job at a well-known university that was just named the top employer in #HamOnt? Why am I leaving my friends and family to go to a place whose culture is unlike my own? Why am I choosing a place where they still have shaky tensions with their neighbours to the north?
Well, I’ll tell you why.
The start of 2014 is one I will never forget: my father was diagnosed with cancer. The idea of heading to Korea was barely a thought in my mind. There was a bigger bump in the road for my family to overcome first. But I told my dad my potential plan anyway and he encouraged and supported the idea through and through. I knew plans would be put on hold for a while, until we were able to beat this. Unfortunately, within two months of his diagnosis my father passed away.
What I learned from losing a loved one is that life is too short and precious. I can’t waste it on thinking about doing something. I just have to DO IT. Even if it takes a while to get around to it due to certain circumstances, you’ll get there eventually. 2015 was going to be my year of adventure! This was something I needed to do for my well-being and I knew it would help me with my grieving.
My dad would be oh so proud of me.
But Sam, why Korea?
Shortly after graduation, my good friend and university roommate packed up and headed for South Korea to teach with her boyfriend. When she returned to visit Canada in between her first and second year abroad, she raved about the amazingness that is Korea. She definitely planted a seed in my head.
That’s when I started to do more and more research. She directed me to an agency called Canadian Connection – an educational consulting service that deals with placing ESL teachers in South Korea. I will write about my experience with them in a later post. Let me just say she was a big help in my decision to take the plunge and is an inspiration for wanderlust-ers like myself! Check out her blog here – she’s jet-setting off to South America next!
I also spoke to some other folks who were teaching abroad in South Korea and in nearby Asian countries. The positives seemed to trump the negatives. Their assurance made it that much more of a reason to go!
I chose Korea after reading countless articles that it is one of the top places to teach. Nomadic Matt gives a good explanation. South Korea is booming with teachers and has a large expat community.
I can only speak for public schools, but honestly, who could turn down a decent salary, paid vacation (that’s right, PAID!), health insurance, a bonus, a flight to AND from Korea, and best of all… FREE HOUSING!? Taking this route would allow me to see parts of the world I’ve always wanted to explore, but never could afford.
But you went to school for communications, and now you want to be a teacher?
It doesn’t matter what discipline you studied in university; if you want to start a career in any area, it’s possible. Trust me, my old job was preaching this to kids in the humanities. I’ve noticed many parallels between a job in communications/events and teaching (I’ll save it for another post). This has always been something I’ve wanted to try and coming to Korea has given me a taste of what teaching could be like elsewhere.
My final thought to you: If you have been humming and hawing over something that you’ve always wanted to do that’s maybe a little out of your comfort zone, just get up and GO! I can almost guarantee you won’t regret it. Plus, how satisfying is it to be able to check something off that bucket list?