Allison Essue - 2016 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad?

I really wanted to teach in South Korea, so I wanted to use this experience to help me fully decide if that was something I wanted to commit to doing.

International volunteers at the South Korean Lotus Festival
With my cousin at the Lotus Festival

Why did you choose Cultural Homestay International?

I chose the World Explorers program because it incorporated teaching. I was able to use my skills as a teacher to teach English, as well as be able to experience and understand the daily life of a Korean family.

What was your favorite part about South Korea?

My favourite part about my host country and city was that I was able to see my friends and also easily meet new people. Also people were very friendly.

What made your experience abroad unique?

What made my experience unique was being able to see my cousin, who was also doing a summer program, and being able to spend time with her when I could.

Volunteer wearing traditional Korean Hanbok
Wearing a traditional Korean Hanbok

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

I wish I could have been able to teach or impact my host family more than I did.

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

The family would be up and eating breakfast by 7:30 a.m. They would leave and the kids would go to school while the parents would go to work. Sometimes the grandma would stay for a while after they left, to help with their laundry and make sure I ate breakfast. After she would leave I would also either go out, do some work, meet friends, or clean up the house.

I would come home by 3:00 p.m., so that I could shower and clean up before the kids came home from school at 5:00 p.m. We would have dinner around 6:00 p.m. and then they would shower. We would begin tutoring class around 7:00 p.m. and finish at 9:00 p.m. Then the kids would go to bed. The host dad came home from work around 10:00 p.m.

What did you enjoy doing in your free time? 

I enjoyed meeting my friends, meeting my cousin, watching movies, shopping, and just relaxing during my free time. I would also read books and go to church.

What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?

I was given a private room with a bed, desk, and clothes cabinet. I also had a fan because we didn't use the AC much. I liked that I was able to have my own space.

What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program? 

One thing you should know is that you should be flexible and independent. There were many times when I had to cook or get food for myself, because the family was really busy. If you can do it yourself, then do it.

Volunteers on an island in South Korea.
Trip to one of South Korea’s many islands

What was the hardest part about volunteering abroad?

The hardest part about volunteering abroad was adjusting to my host family's schedule. Most of the time they had late nights and early mornings, so it was hard to fit in teaching hours in between.

What surprised you most about Seoul?

What surprised me the most about Seoul was how hot the summer was. I have been there before in the summer but it wasn't as hot or as humid as it was this summer.

How difficult was it to communicate with locals?

It wasn't difficult for me to communicate with the locals because I studied Korean for two years and I had visited Korea once before.

What is one thing you wish you would have known before volunteering abroad in South Korea?

One thing I wish I had known before was the English level of my students. It would have been nice to have a little more information on my host family as well.

Do you have any packing tips for individuals headed to Seoul?

Any tips I could give would be: if you are going to Seoul in the winter, it's really cold so bring heavy winter clothes. In the summer, pack a lot of open-toed shoes. Especially when it rains, it's easier to dry your feet than to dry your socks.

Now that you're home, how has your program abroad impacted your life?

It has impacted me in allowing me to truly realize what I want to do in terms of a career. I really want to become an English teacher in South Korea.

International volunteers at the annual Mud Festival in South Korea
Annual Mud Festival

Would you recommend Cultural Homestay International to others? Why?

Yes I would recommend my program. Even though it is volunteering, it is a great way to experience a different culture and different way of life.

If you could volunteer abroad again, where would you go?

If I could volunteer abroad again I would really like to go to Taiwan. It's a beautiful place as well and I've always wanted to go.