March 27th 2014. The day I got an a train to London, kissed my mum goodbye and bid farewell to good old Glasgow. About 6 months previous to this, I had begun to flirt with the idea of teaching in a foreign country. I had been living in Edinburgh for over a year working in my first graduate role. My life was nice, it was comfortable. But I was so bored of Edinburgh. Most people that know me know that I love Glasgow… I love everything about it. It’s not the prettiest city but I think that it has so much substance for such a small place. Edinburgh- you are so pretty, but you taught me that looks aren’t everything and what seems good on paper ins’t always the best for me. Your castle is so beautiful, I love your old town but you’re the handsome stranger I just couldn’t fall in love with. Sorry Edinburgh, “It’s not you, it’s me.”
I signed up for an online TEFL course and began to send my C.V around to recruiters. I wanted to get out of Edinburgh! My original plan was to head off to Japan …. Studio Ghibli, sushi, sake! Sounded ideal to me! But start up costs for moving to Japan are high so that put me off. Then, I found out about Korea. Free airfare, free apartment, high salary, good bonuses. It also sounded good. I didn’t know anything about Korea. I didn’t even know about kimchi. The only thing I knew about Kim Jong Un and he lives in the other Korea. But anyway, it was in Asia. I had never been to Asia. It seemed verrry different to Edinburgh. And different to Edinburgh was exactly what I was looking for. After a lot of frustrating job interviews, “I’m sorry, you can only teach in Korea if English is your first language” (thank you lovely sexy Scottish accent) I got offered a job teaching at a hagwon (private language academy- more about that later) on the South coast of Korea.
When I told my family and friends I was moving to South Korea, most had the same reaction- “Why are you going there?”, “Will they have electricity?”, “Is it safe?”, “What about North Korea?” I knew that they had electricity, I knew that it was safe and I was pretty sure that the North wouldn’t attack. Korea was an easy option and moving meant less time to get cosy and make excuses! So, despite everyone’s confusion (and my own) I got on the plane and came to Korea!
Korea is a bit of a gold mine for English teachers. I get paid a fairly decent salary and manage to save AT LEAST half of it each month. What am I saving that money for? A mortgage? A car? Further education? Naaaah! Every penny I make goes towards my little travel piggy bank. There are so many places I want to see, so many different dishes I want to try, so many experiences I want to have. So I’m going to spend my pennies on that. Last year, along with traveling around Korea, I also managed to squeeze 3 trips to Japan and 1 trip to China in to my 1 year contract. Pretty impressive considering I only got 10 vacation days plus bank holidays. Then at the end of my trip, I threw all the things I would need into a day pack and jumped on a plane to Malaysia and spent 7 weeks backpacking around India and Sri Lanka, finished up, went home to catch up with family and friends, got sick of the rain, went to Sonar festival in Barcelona with my fave girls and came back to Korea to do it all again!
This year, what’s the plan? Keep saving my pennies. I’m 99.9% sure this is my last year in Korea so I need a buffer for when I head to a less *ahem* lucrative country! Korea has been an amazing stepping stone for me. Some days I don’t feel too much love for the country itself, but then I think about all the amazing opportunities it’s given me. The girl with just one stamp in her passport now has pages full. I could never have managed that in the UK unless I started table dancing or married a banker!
I’m currently planning a huge trip with my boyfriend for when we finish our contracts in September. I’ll be going to a new continent where neither of us have been before. We need to learn a new language too. Can you guess where we are going? If you know, I’m sure you’ll agree that it’ll be very different from Korea 🙂
Have you decided to live a life overseas? Are you an ESL teacher? How did your decision to teach ESL benefit you? Leave me a comment below 🙂