Through high school and university I had the opportunity to travel to countries in Europe and Africa. These first experiences with travel and new cultures were exhilarating and far too short. After graduating university, I wanted to pursue travelling and felt drawn to living abroad over short-term travel. I felt the need to branch out of my comfort zone and experience a new way of life.
Why did you choose teach English abroad with XploreAsia?
I chose to teach English as a second language abroad because I have always been interested in being a teacher. I always loved school and respected the roles that the teachers in my life played. I knew being a teacher would be a rewarding experience.
XploreAsia helped me choose a teaching program in South Korea. I chose the EPIK program because I liked the idea of being integrated into the student's normal school day (the EPIK program employs English teachers for their public schools). The EPIK program was highly regarded in how they treat their foreign teachers and the strength of the structure of the program.
What was your favorite part about South Korea?
What I love most about South Korea is how hospitable the people are. Everyone that I have met, my co-teachers, the school staff, service workers, and even strangers, are all extremely kind and welcoming. Even with the language barrier, they are accepting and do their best to help you. Because of their hospitality and comfort with foreigners, I always felt safe. Travelling around my city and the country, I was always somewhere new, never knowing anyone around me, but I always felt safe. I knew I could ask strangers for help and that I could never get too lost.
What made your experience abroad unique?
I think what has made my experience special is the people I have met. Never before have I met such a diverse group of people from so many different countries. Through them I have learned a great deal about myself and the world. Relationships with them have opened my eyes to new cultures and ways of doing things. I know my experience would not have been the same without them.
How did local staff support you throughout your program?
XploreAsia’s staff provided the most support prior to my program starting. They facilitated my online TESOL course instruction and were always available for questions I had regarding my future role as a teacher. Once I arrived to South Korea, XploreAsia coordinated multiple orientation weekends that involved language classes and cultural excursions. The staff did a wonderful job of showing us around, answering any questions we had, and introducing us to other teachers in Korea.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
I wish I would have made more time to attend language classes and practice the language. I came away from the experience with some basic listening and speaking skills, but I wish I had committed to learning more. I know this would have changed my experience because I would have been able to have simple conversations or express my needs more efficiently.
Describe a typical day in the life of your program.
I worked Monday to Friday, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Each day I would leave for school by 7:45 a.m. to catch a bus to school, because I lived in a different town than the one I taught in. I typically had five, 45 minute classes a day. The free periods between those would include preparing for the next class or making the lesson plans for the next weeks. I usually arrived home by 6:00 p.m. and would make dinner, do cleaning if I had any, and then would read, watch T.V., and relax. Some nights I went for dinner with friends.
What did you enjoy doing in your free time?
The free time I had during the week I mostly read, watched T.V., exercised, or went out for dinner with friends. On the weekends and during holidays, I was able to travel to other cities and explore a great deal of Seoul. A typical weekend I would spend in Seoul with friends included: going to temples, cafes, festivals, events, or out at night.
What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?
I lived in a larger city near Seoul and my apartment building was an office tower. The first four floors were used for businesses and even a university, because of this, my housing was quite nice. It was a bachelor suite with high ceilings and plenty of space. What I liked best about my apartment was the large window that looked out over the city; it was great for natural light during the day and made the apartment feel spacious.
What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?
Have an open mind. Not every situation is the same for teachers in this program, so be open minded to varied living conditions, teaching situations, proximity to necessities, and just everything being different than you are used to, because you can’t know what your situation will be like until you arrive. At first it will be difficult, but you will always figure it out. There are supports in place, and you will make friends who are going through the same thing who will be a great help.
How has your time abroad impacted your life?
I am leaving at the end of February, but this experience has impacted my life in a big way. It has taught me how to rely on myself in difficult times, which has made me happier and more confident. This experience has also impacted my relationships; it has clarified the important relationships in my life. For my friends back home, it has strengthened our ability to stay in touch long distance. Being here has also taught me how to make new friends and the importance that shared experience has on a friendship.
Would you recommend XploreAsia to others? Why?
I would recommend this program to anyone who is interested in teaching and wants to live abroad. The teaching is a challenging and rewarding experience, and the opportunity to travel a new part of the world and within a new country is amazing.
You learn a great deal about yourself while you are overcoming obstacles and learn about the world through the friends you meet and the new experiences you have.
Erin is from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She graduated from MacEwan University with a bachelor’s of commerce degree in management. Erin participated in school trips to Spain, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Egypt during her undergraduate studies. In February 2016, she moved to South Korea to teach English, but she hopes to one day move into editing and publishing.