I always wanted to travel abroad, but didn't know anyone else doing it, nor did I have the resources to research until the Internet became a huge tool for the masses.
Why did you choose Teaching House CELTA?
I chose the program I earned my CELTA with based upon reputation, cost and convenience; I chose the Education and school I taught at based on how comfortable the recruiters made me feel and kept in touch.
How did local staff support you throughout your program?
I'm pretty independent, but my recruiter was always available and the staff at the school I was placed paired me with someone who was available to assist me at all times via telephone or in person.
What surprised you most about South Korea?
Everything was surprising to me in South Korea. I did not know anything about the country before deciding to live there and only went based on the recommendation of others who had already been. I guess what surprised me the most was the variety of different experiences you could get in one country. For example, Seoul sort of felt like a typical major city in the US with large crowds, mass transit, restaurants and retail everywhere. On the other hand, where I lived in and worked was located in a small countryside village with a small town atmosphere. Things were less busy and sometimes felt a bit remote. This didn't bother me since I enjoy peace and quiet where I live.
What was your favorite part about South Korea?
I lived in a small village located in Incheon, South Korea. I loved the richness of the culture, the food, and the vibe of the town overall.
What made your experience abroad unique?
My experience was unique because I was one of the few teachers who was over the age of 35 and in a career before I left.
Describe a typical day in the life of your program.
Everyday I reported to school around 8AM. I did prep work in an office along with another teachers, then I went off to classes. The weekdays were pretty routine, but no two days were alike. You have to experience it for yourself.
What did you enjoy doing in your free time?
I was into music so I finished up an album I started in the states and sold it online. I went to open mic nights, the club, did a lot of reading, watched documentaries, and hung out with friends. I especially enjoyed traveling off to different parts of South Korea. Every excursion was a new adventure.
What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?
I stayed in what was called a "villa" in South Korea, which was pretty much what they call an efficiency in the states. I had a tiny kitchen, a living area, bathroom, and a back balcony that was enclosed and served as my washroom. The best thing about it is I learned to live in a small space. You realize how much "junk" and space you don't need once you return to the West.
Do you have any packing tips for individuals headed to South Korea?
You don't have to try and pack everything-especially appliances. Things such as blow dryers, curling/flat irons, etc., can be found in most Korean chain stores and malls. Also, depending on the length of your stay, bring good quality clothing you can get as much wear out of as possible. If your size is considered large by Western standards, consider bringing the clothes you need because large size clothing in Western sizes is expensive. Some Korean owned women clothing stores carry "free size" and should accommodate up to a size 14 misses, but I wouldn't try anything over that. If you have a favorite brand of soap/cream that is sold by a small company that you know you can't get anywhere else, by all means stock up before you leave. Other than that enjoy the adventure of hunting for your favorite brands or finding new ones in your new home.
How difficult was it to communicate with locals?
It really depended on the day. When you're in a foreign country and can't speak the language you learn to be creative. I probably became an expert at gesturing. The most difficult thing to communicate is when you're lost. A few times strangers who wanted to practice their English were kind enough to help me locate a street or building. I also used my technology to help me. Installing a notepad my cell phone with directions to my apartment and the street address helped when I had to take a taxi and could not speak the language.
What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?
Research, research, research. Research the people, culture, food, how the native people will react to foreigners and everything else you can. A couple of people went home because the culture shock was unbearable. Remember, you are not going to another state or a neighboring state of the USA where every other person understands American English. You have to be ready for that challenge.
Now that you're home, how has your program abroad impacted your life?
always reflect on my time in South Korea. It was one of the biggest
accomplishments in my life. I love the fact that I have more stories and
experiences that I can tell my family, friends, and colleagues. I have
more compassion for foreigners living in my home country because I know
what it's like to feel out of place and away from home. I feel a
richness that money can't buy.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
I should have renewed my contract for a 2nd year and moved to a different city. Two years went by so fast and I would have saved so much money.
Would you recommend Teach House CELTA to others? Why?
Yes. I would recommend Teaching House to get your CELTA, and the GEPIK/EPIK programs of South Korea to do your teaching. They were both top notch and I have no other experiences to compare them to.
If you could go abroad again, where would you go?
If I could go abroad again, I would go to Spain or a country where Spanish is the first language so that I could work on my Spanish speaking skills.
Natosha is a professional who has been able to parlay her ESL Teaching experience into corporate training. She has always wanted to travel abroad, but because she was underpaid and had no idea how she was going to pull it off, she did not pursue her dream until many years later in her mid 30s. Natosha’s life is so much more rich because of that experience.