What is it like working teaching jobs in Korea... outside of Seoul? Read on to hear Roxie's experience!
“Korea is also a rapidly expanding country and new neighbourhoods are being built all the time. This means there are lots of opportunities and options in where you can live. There aren’t many chances in life to dive straight into the unknown, but people who travel get this all the time; don’t stick to places like Seoul that have lots of things that are familiar. Push yourself our of your comfort zone, as it’s the only way you can grow.”
In this recent series on our blog, we’re hearing from our teachers who have accepted jobs away from the hustle and bustle of tourist destinations. This time, Roxie, one of our former Marketing Coordinators shares their experience of teaching in Gimpo, South Korea.
Did you have a first choice of placement?
I was hoping to be in the capital, Seoul, or in another big city such as Busan or Daegu. However, I know that teaching jobs in Korea are highly competitive and it is very difficult to get your first position in these locations.
When you found out where you were going to be teaching, how did you feel about it?
I was happy to be in Gyeonggi-do as it’s so close to Incheon and Seoul, which are both great cities. I had only heard of the airport before, so I had no idea of what the place was like. I didn’t do too much research and went in with fresh eyes.
It wasn’t too challenging adjusting to life there. Having lived in different countries, I would say South Korea- unless you are right in the countryside- has quite a western-influenced lifestyle and it isn’t hard to find all the creature comforts of home. Gimpo perhaps isn’t the most exciting place, but it has all the shops and restaurants (and even a few bars) you need for weekly life. The location is great, so you can use your weekends to travel to different parts of the country.
What connections have you made in the local community?
It was difficult to make close friendships with Korean people due to the language barrier, but I did make friends through the other teachers at my school. One of my Korean co-workers even took me hiking one weekend. I also became familiar with staff at my favourite restaurants and cafes who remembered my orders and stuff. Little things like that can make you feel noticed in a country where it is easy to feel lost in a crowd.
What challenges did you face living in this location?
To be honest, the location wasn’t a hindrance. There were lots of challenges related to teaching in a new country that I would’ve faced even if I’d lived in the centre of Seoul.
A common issue everywhere is that often teachers in Korea are placed into tiny studio apartments or offictels (tiny office spaces that are rented out as apartments) and it can be quite hard to make essentially a bedroom feel like an entire home. However, a few trips to the nearby Daiso can work wonders.
What’s your favourite thing about your placement town now?
Although I’ve now left Korea, I think I was lucky to live in such a comfortable place like Gimpo, and I wonder if the hecticness of Seoul might have got too much after a while. Sometimes it’s nice to have a simpler, more quiet place to call home than a large city. There were also lots of places to take a walk and you could easily get to the airport shopping mall which also has a big garden area. I’ve also heard tey also added a subway link fairly recently- thanks for waiting until I left, guys!- which means no more wobbling around on overpacked buses for Gimpo dwellers!
What would you tell people about the place you were living?
I would tell other people not to be too disappointed living outside of Seoul. Seoul is not the only place in South Korea, and neither is Busan. There are many places such as Suwon in Gyeonggi-do that are known for being cultural hubs and many smaller satellites of Seoul that offer lots of interesting things to do. As a new foreigner, you will likely find even the smallest details interesting and you can experience the culture everywhere, not only in the capital. Korea is also a rapidly expanding country and new neighbourhoods are being built all the time. This means there are lots of opportunities and options in where you can live. There aren’t many chances in life to dive straight into the unknown, but people who travel get this all the time; don’t stick to places like Seoul that have lots of things that are familiar. Push yourself our of your comfort zone, as it’s the only way you can grow.
What advice would you give to a teacher going to a town where there aren’t many foreigners?
I would recommend trying to bond with the teachers at your school- both foreign and native. I also joined a free language class (many Korean universities offer these for free as it’s good experience for their trainee teachers) and also a social group I found on Facebook. Social media and networking apps such as Bumble BFF can also be a good way to figure out who is in your area. Many people set off to teaching jobs in Korea without having previous experience living in the country, so there are lots of foreigners looking for friends. If you put yourself out there, you will find friends and connections wherever in the world you go!
Want to start your own journey teaching in South Korea? Check out our TESOL course that will give you all the skills you need to start your new chapter with confidence! For alumni and TESOL qualified teachers, we also offer placement support services in Korea, so contact us to find out more about teaching jobs in Korea- in big cities and otherwise. Catch up with our teachers across our network here:
And if you want to check out Roxie’s adventures, you can find her here.
Blog by Roxie Wong