Teachers Share their Experiences While Living Abroad!

The Hardest Part of Being an English Teacher in Korea (Part I)

Posted on Mon, Jun 16, 2014 @ 02:56 PM

We all know that life can be hard at times. Living in a foreign country away from your family, friends, and home can make a bad day... even worse. Since we all have tough days, I thought it would be helpful to show some examples of what difficulties to expect and how to I got through it.

1) Being Poor And Lost And New- As noted in my previous blog post here, you will probably be poor at the beginning of your stay in Korea. I remember when I first moved in, I was in my apartment sleeping on a yoga mat. There was no internet hooked up. I didn’t have a phone or anyway of communicating with anyone. I also didn’t speak any Korean, so I would just walk around and point at things that I wanted to eat.  No money, no way of communicating, no close friends, no bed, no chopstick skills. It was kind of lonely, but looking back also funny.

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(My friend Matt and I made friends with these older Korean businessman. They bought us dinner.)


I think that’s the attitude you need to have. You just got to laugh things off. I remember making friends with the baristas (who I am still good friends with) in coffee shops who spoke little English. I was friendly with everyone at any restaurant that served 4,000 Won noodles. (They still laugh at me when I drop something with the chopsticks) I made friends in the elevator. (As stated in my previous blog, don’t wear headphones in the elevator or lobby.) I started playing pick up basketball with some guys on the court next to my apartment. (Now they Kakao/text me to play with them.) I went exploring and found hiking and running trails just 10 minutes away from my house. I also made some really good friends in my apartment building, who I hang with every week to play FIFA, watch movies, eat, or drink on the roof.


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(In Korea, you will meet some interesting, awesome, and hilarious people. My friend Devin singing at a Noraebong) 


Remember there are thousands of English teachers who are new, confused, maybe a little worried. If you have enough courage to fly to a new country to teach English, then you have enough strength to make the most out of Korea.


2) A Bad Day of Teaching - English Teachers know exactly what I am talking about. In fact, I’m sure all teachers know what I mean. A bad day of teaching is worse than a bad movie, a bad run, and a bad run-in with your ex... put together. For those of you that haven’t taught yet, it simply means that you didn’t execute or didn’t plan well. It’s like watching a stand up comedian who can’t arouse the crowd. One bad class can really ruin your day and take out your energy for the rest of the day.

As a new teacher, you will definitely have rough days at your academy in the beginning. The best way to deal with it is to tackle the stress. After your day of teaching, go out for a couple of beers with your coworkers. For all of us that live in Korea, we know that SOJU can open people up. Post work is also a great time to forget the class and allow you to move on. I often go on runs or play basketball with my coworkers to alleviate in stress that has built up during the day. I forget about everything when I’m running at night. It’s amazing.

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(Normal night out after work with my coworkers.)

To get through the rough days of being a new teacher, just do what you do best. If you are a good artist, go paint. If you normally enjoy a glass of wine after work, try makgeolli. I don't think you need worry too much as an English teacher in Korea. 




  After graduating from Georgetown, Brian sought out the life of international travel and living abroad. Beginning with his volunteer work in South Africa, Brian decided to continue on to South Korea to experience East Asian culture and society. In February 2014, Brian accepted a position through Aclipse to teach for Chungdahm Learning at the Bundang branch just south of Seoul. When Brian is not in the classroom, he is busy with his running club, exploring the surrounding mountains, and learning the Korean language. 

Tags: Korean culture, teaching in Korea, things to do in Korea, English teacher in Korea, drink in Korea, advice, eating out in Korea, students in Korea, Activities to do in Korea, makgeolli

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