Since 2011, I have been teaching in Korea at ChungDahm's GangDong branch and have enjoyed everything about it. One of reasons why I ended up staying in Korea for so long is because of the people I've met. I have built relationships that will last me a lifetime, so when my colleague Erin Stuebben told me she was leaving I was really saddened. As she was packing for her move, I asked her if she could answer some questions for me She was great about it and on her last working day on Friday at 5AM in the morning, I got her email response. I was really touched that she did this for me. Below are her thoughts and experiences, from the beginning to end, of her time working for ChungDahm and living in Korea:
Please introduce yourself to our readers:
Hi! I'm Erin. I'm from a small town in Michigan. I've been working at Gangdong ChungDahm for 3 years now, and I'll be leaving shortly to start a new adventure. I started out teaching in Spain before I came to Korea, but after only a year there, I decided to check out Korea. I had high school friends that had lived/were living there and they loved it. So, I did some research and found out Korea is one of the higher paying Asian countries with a fairly low cost of living. I went through a recruiter, Aclipse, and they placed me with ChungDahm. It was my first offer and I really needed a job (and money), so I accepted and moved halfway around the world.
What made you decide to work for ChungDahm?
One of the main reasons I decided to work with ChungDahm was because it is one of the higher paying academies. Also, they provide you with thorough training and support before and during your time working. This was extremely helpful since I had very little teaching experience. Having this training prepared me for the classroom, and while it was still nerve wracking, at least I had my notes and coworkers to lean on.
What are some of the toughest parts about teaching abroad?
Growing up, my family and I would spend the holidays with each other. Being far away, the closest thing that we can do is Skype one another throughout the season. Sometimes this can be difficult and rather lonely. However during the holiday season, I would spend time with coworkers and students because they were like family to me. When requesting for vacation, I’ve been able to take a term break and go back home and see my loved ones. Afterwards, I felt refreshed to start another year of teaching.
What are some of your favorite memories of working for ChungDahm and living in Korea?
My favorite memories of ChungDahm are the people. The kids, the teachers and the staff. When the little kids run up to you arms outstretched shouting "Erin Teacher!" It gives you a warm feeling inside. I also love when they share their lives with you like when they tell you all about an award they received or a trip they went on. It makes you feel closer to them. That's why I always try to ask them questions about what they did or what they like. It connects us and helps me tailor my lessons to their interests.
My favorite memories of Korea are traveling and experiencing a new culture. I didn't make it out of Korea much, but I got to travel a lot within the country. Luckily, I was able to go to Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo, Japan earlier this year. Also, I got to explore Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and New Zealand. There are plenty of Meetup and Facebook groups to help you plan. These groups helped me hike different mountains, visit the DMZ, and experience different Korean cuisine. I've learned so much living here and feel like it has helped shape the person I am today.
What is it like getting ready for your new adventure?
Now that I'm finally leaving, the most daunting task is packing! I accumulated so much stuff over the last 3 years from other teachers (and buying things myself). It's a little scary. On the plus side however I started planning and packing early and that has helped tremendously. I gave stuff away to friends and coworkers bit by bit. In the end there was still a lot to do, but support from my friends really got me through it all. Also I shipped a large box home with 25 pounds worth of stuff. It's a little scary leaving a place that has been a happy home for 3 years, but the idea of new adventures has given me motivation.
It was a difficult decision to leave, but in the end it was best for me. Gangdong Chungdahm has been a wonderful family and I will miss them deeply. At least until I come back to visit!
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.