In my six years living and teaching in Korea, I’ve been lucky to take many vacations all over Korea and Asia. However, I’ve only been able to go back home to America twice using my personal vacation. After reading these tips, you should be well prepared on how to plan a vacation while abroad to ensure you won't become stressed and so you can fully enjoy your time off.
Planning Your Vacation
Besides your personal vacation days, there are two major holidays where ChungDahm normally closes down. These holidays are Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) and Seollal (Lunar New Year). If you work for April, you will have a winter break and a summer break so that the students can enjoy their vacation from their normal school.
When you are planning your vacation, make sure that you give your team leader or faculty manager ample enough time so that they can find substitute teachers to cover your classes. At my location, my teachers give about 3 months notice for when we would like to take our personal days. For myself, I gave them 6 months notice so that the management team knows that I really need to leave during that time and so that I can buy tickets as cheap as possible. If you are looking to buy your tickets, I suggest that you use Skyscanner.com or Expedia.com. For me, Skyscanner is the better of the two because they show smaller, regional airlines and is perfect when traveling within Korea and Asia. Some smaller airlines include Busan Air, Jeju Air, Jin Air, Peach Air, and Air Asia. Also, make sure that you plan accordingly for visas especially if you are traveling to China and Vietnam.
I also suggest that you ask your faculty manager if they could predict what days the branch will close during the major Korean holidays. The prices for traveling during that time can be up to 3 times the normal price, so the earlier you plan out, the more you can save. Don’t feel discouraged if they can’t tell you the days right away that the academy will close. However, because you brought it up, they will tell you as soon as they get the answer. If you get a lot of days off (this year’s Chuseok my branch is getting 5 consecutive offs), be aware that there may be make-up classes on a Saturday. My group was pretty much okay with it because we would get that many days off. It is a rarity however!
Getting Ready for Work
I’m pretty rare because not only am I a manager, but I am also a teacher for ChungDahm and April. This can be a lot to juggle. Also, I scheduled my recent vacation to go back home to America for Week 9 which is Test Prep week. Week 10 is when our students take their level-up test to see if they can go to the next ChungDahm grade. I didn’t realize how stressed I would be leaving for vacation! The best thing I could suggest for you is to make a to do list. I went through a page of tasks I had to do before I went on vacation. Here are some things that you should consider:
- Ask your co-teachers and team leader to follow up with your substitute to make sure your kids are doing okay
- Write a quick lesson plan for you substitute and tell them what parts you focus more on and what he or she can skip
- If need be, prep the lesson on the tablet with media cards, questions, and YouTube videos
- Print out all handouts (vocab sheets, quizzes, coloring cut-outs for props, answer keys) for your substitute and mark them with the class name, date, and time
- For April, make sure you grade all of your writing notebooks and speaking homework assignments
- Enter all of your grades for ChungDahm and April; don’t leave it up to your substitute since they don’t know your students
I understand if some people think that I may have done too much for a substitute teacher. They are only covering a few of my classes right? Yes I want my substitute to do well, but this is more for my students since they expect the consistency that I have set in my class. If there is no set structure, the students tend to get lost and disengaged. I definitely couldn’t have that especially when they are about to take their level-up exam and I want my them to succeed.
So there you have it! This is my advice for you so that you can feel more confident leaving the branch for a vacation. If you feel this way, you will undoubtedly enjoy your vacation more.
Marc Gonzales has been living in Seoul working at the ChungDahm's Gangdong Branch for 5 years now. During those 5 years, he worked his way up from being a teacher and is now a faculty manager for that location. He majored in Finance and Marketing at the University of Nevada Las Vegas while working as a manager for a national bank. In his spare time, he enjoys outdoor activities like hiking the numerous mountains around Seoul and biking along the massive Han River. To know more about him and his adventures living in Korea, follow Marc on Twitter @geonmakku and on Instagram @geonmakku.