Teaching English Overseas ….one Latina’s adventure in Korea
I am a dreamer, poet and a doer, in other words, a natural born traveler. If you are like me, then you should consider working abroad (teaching English overseas). It’s the travel opportunity trifecta – learn about a culture first-hand by living among the natives, enjoy the convenience to travel extensively (where you work and neighboring countries) and lastly, work harder than you can ever imagine (you’ll realize that work habits/ethics are very different abroad).
My adventure began with an opportunity to teach English in South Korea. As a Latina born in the Bronx, and raised in Queens New York, you may wonder how I ended up in Korea. Well, I utilized my prior experience working with children to become a conversational English teacher. I even used the fact that I was a native New Yorker as a selling point. As you know, the New York accent is famous around the world. I figured, if people can appreciate New Yorkers then someone would pay to learn English with a New York-style accent. Of course I left out the part that my speech has more of a Nuyorican accent…I was hired anyway. YAY!
There is a lot to say about living, working and traveling overseas. Here are a few common questions that I’m asked regarding my experience.
Ø Why South Korea?
I initially thought to myself, if I’m going to be a world traveler, might as well start at the furthest end of the world (available to me). On a practical level, South Korea offered the most flexible schedule (opportunity to travel on my days off), there is a US military base there (which made me feel a little safer) and frankly, it paid the most.
Ø Important questions to ask prospective employers…just a few to get you started.
Is there a travel stipend? Is housing included? What is the pay rate and schedule? Please outline work expectations. Will I be working with other foreigners and, if yes, may I have their contact information to ask questions? Is Health insurance included or do I need to purchase my own? What is the weather (important for packing decisions)? Can I ship items ahead of time?
Ø How did you find job opportunities?
Mostly on the internet. Today I recommend networking, reading travel blogs and directly contacting international schools. Please do your homework and research. The internet, as much as the World, is full of wonderful people, but there are also many scams…be careful.
A few key reminders.
- You should NOT be asked to pay any money.I didn’t pay a dime; the airline ticket was sent to my home, and once overseas, my boss provided me with funds to manage until I received my first monthly paycheck.
- The initial work visa for teaching english overseas was done by the consulate in New York City. Once in Korea, I went to the consulate to be formally registered. Make sure to find out in advance what specific documentation is required.
- Remember at all times, that you are an adult, moreover, a foreigner in a foreign land and you are responsible for yourself. Take laws seriously.
Ø Did you sign a contract?
Yes. There are usually different contract lengths: 3 months, 6 months and yearly. The contract was sent to me for review prior to signing. Make sure to follow through in a timely manner. Employers are very business oriented, especially when you are going to be teaching english overseas.
Ø What were your hours like teaching English overseas?
Remember, working overseas means that you are working in a real job, with responsibilities. I worked 6 days a week, from 11am until (sometimes) 8pm. But I made sure to enjoy myself too! I went to dinner after work, and enjoyed the nightlife (since I didn’t begin work until 11am). On my day off, and holidays, I took advantage and traveled…after all, I was born with a wanderlust gene!
Additional Suggested Reading: One Latina’s adventure in Korea continues…Why Language & Etiquette are important
Ø Did you enjoy living there?
It was an experience of a lifetime. I truly believe everyone should live, or at least visit, abroad once in their life. The world is just waiting to be explored! Traveling can show you what you’re made of – taught me that I’m a pretty tough cookie. Was I lonely? Yes, at times. I had to learn to depend on myself which made me the strong, independent person that I am today. No regrets. Also, I learned how important friends and family are to me and how a little care package can be filled with love.
There is so much more that I could write about besides teaching English overseas – the culture, language, embarrassing but funny situations, friends, and adventures encountered at every turn, but I’ll save them for another time. Share some of your overseas adventures below! Safe travels!
This is a guest post by: Awilda Ponte. To see her poetry, follow her on instagram: @Poetress218
Additional Suggested Reading: Top 3 Attractions in Korea for Budget Travelers