Hi! My name is Helen and I’m from Dublin, Ireland. Upon completing my degree in Social Science in 2014 and after a short time working in New York City I decided to make an even bigger move and I set my sights on teaching in Korea. Teaching with Chungdahm was an easy decision for me as they are a large company with many openings and offer different levels of teaching to suit everyone's needs. After applying through Aclipse I was selected to work in Seocho Banpo i-Garten starting in February 2015.
After one year of teaching in this branch and living in Gangnam, a district directly South of the river in Seoul. I knew I had made the right decision to teach with ChungDahm and as I result I recently committed to teach for one more year. This blog will focus on the many reasons I decide to stay.
One of the main reasons I chose to stay for one more year is that I really enjoy my job here! I teach in the new i-Garten program which has been running for almost a year now. As part of the i-Garten program I teach the absolute lowest level that Chungdahm offers – i5. My i5 class is made up of six 5 year old students. Bear in mind, that’s Korean age 5, so international age 4 (one of my students was 3 years and 5 months old when I began teaching him). It’s a completely different world from teaching older students – instead of teaching the difference between a noun and an adjective I’m teaching names of colors and trying to explain what an anteater is when they’ve never even heard of it in Korean. I tackle the difficult questions in life like ‘are pirates good or bad?’ and ‘why do astronauts wear helmets?’ Every day is fun and job satisfaction is really easy to get when students are excited, curious and full of wonder every day.
Traveling is definitely one of the top reasons people come to teach in South Korea. Luckily in my first year I had so much opportunity to travel – I have been to Tokyo and crossed the famous Shibuya crossing, I’ve almost missed a shaky ferry to Fukuoka and visited the biggest bronze Buddha in the world. I’ve also accidentally booked a flight on the Hello Kitty airplane to Taiwan. Despite all this traveling just in the past year, I still feel there’s so much more to see on this side of the world. Within Korea itself I still want to see the green tea fields and make kimchi. Also,one of my life dreams is to go to Beijing and learn about the history of China. Luckily as a teacher for Chungdahm we’re given enough vacation time to experience so many things that only Asia has to offer.
Many people say that Korea is the best place to be in you 20s and as for social life, that is definitely true! There’s always something to do on the weekends, whether it be visiting a historical site or partaking in one of the many festivals Korea has (seriously, there’s a festival for everything here). Then as day turns into night we generally meet up with friends in one of the three major areas in Seoul –Hongdae, Itaewon and Gangnam. When I first came to Korea one of my biggest worries was that I’d have no friends here. This shouldn’t have been a concern as all the people I have met in Korea are kind and very welcoming. In fact I doubt I’ve ever been alone for more than 12 hours here! This fun lifestyle is something I’m not ready to leave behind and is a major reason why I have decided to stay for one more year.
Ease of Life
Korean people may be the nicest people I have ever met. From my Korean co-teacher to random ajummas working in kimbap restaurants, every Korean person I have met is interested in talking to me (even if sometimes it’s in Korean and I have no idea what they’re saying). After visiting other countries in Asia I can confirm that South Korea is one of the easiest places to live for foreign people. If I want to eat Mexican food for instance, there are 4 places I can walk to 10 minutes from my house. If I want to find books there are bookstores with huge English sections in Gangnam and Itaewon. Korean people also have a great knowledge of English and whenever I have had any problems, like banking or finding directions, there have been many people ready and waiting to help me.
Even though in the past year I really have not lived frugally, as you could probably tell by my travel experiences, I’ve still had a great opportunity to save money while being here Korea. Korea is one of the best countries in Asia to work in if saving money is your goal! If you’re more like me and enjoy eating out and buying into Korean skincare, money can still be saved even though you’re enjoying the finer things in life. Luckily Chungdahm also offer full severance payment (AKA: one month’s extra pay after the contract is fully completed). Now that I have re-signed for one more year with Chungdahm I will get double the severance pay (2 months extra pay) at the end of the contract. This along with the pension reimbursement and taxes means that by the time I head home in March 2018 I will have a nice payment package (that is, if I don’t spend it all on travel).
My life in Korea is very comfortable and enjoyable now and I’m learning almost as much as I’m teaching every day. I am so confident that my next year teaching in Korea will be as great (or maybe even better) than my first. If you have any questions about teaching with Chungdahm feel free to contact me, I’d be happy to help you. Further, if you want to follow me as I begin my second year of living and teach in Korea feel free to check me out on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/helensweeney13 and on Instagram, @helensweeney13.