Tia taught English abroad during part of her time in the Air Force and now works for a nonprofit along with running a travel blog! Read about her time in South Korea:
1. Where are you from?
I’m a military brat, born and raised. I’m from Augusta, Georgia but I call the world my home! I currently live in Charlotte, NC where I work as Business Development Manager for a nonprofit.
2. What made you want to teach abroad?
I was approached by a program director in need of teachers when I was stationed in S. Korea with the Air Force. I had done lots of work with the local orphanages in town, so I had done good work building report with children.
3. Which program did you work/volunteer with?
It was an unofficial outreach humanitarian program with the Department of Defense to build relationships with the locals. We spent weekends in various schools giving conversational English lessons.
4. What country were you placed in?
Gunsan in South Korea.
5. Was teaching abroad your first experience in South Korea?
I was stationed in Korea as a medic in the military, but it was the program that got me out and about amongst the natives.
6. What grades did you teach?
3rd through 7th grade.
7. Had you worked with children in education before teaching abroad?
I’d never really had an interest in being an educator before but I had spent a lot of time as a camp counselor with the Girl Scouts of America. I had past experiences working with orphanage children in Turkey but it was far less personal than the time spent in Korea.
8. What surprised you most about the education system in Korea?
I always knew they were incredibly bright and heavily education oriented but I wasn’t expecting full days of Saturday classes and no winter/summer break. The children were so well behaved and full of questions. They were also little busy bodies, lol
9. What were your favorite/least favorite parts of the job?
I wasn’t their daily teacher so I got them for all the fun stuff. We played fun English games and since we’re less formal in the US they got a kick out of asking me personal questions. They loved stories of life in the military and US. They also thought it was weird I was old (25), single and had 3 jobs. ( I didn’t consider the military, medicine and part time teaching to be separate jobs, lol)
10. What was your favorite word or phrase your students used?
예쁘다 (yeppeuda) means pretty in Korean. I heard it often from students and girls on the street. It was a nice, positive sentiment that meant a lot since there aren’t many African Americans around and they were able to find beauty in someone they consider to be different. Light skin is really important in Korean culture so it was a really heartwarming experience and opposite of what some would expect.
11. What was your favorite part of living in Korea?
The food!! The street food is so amazing and even ramen noodles are delicious. Not like our packaged bland noodles. I love being around kind people who were close to my height and the fun energy of life near the city.
12. How has teaching abroad helped you in what you’re doing now?
I currently work for a nonprofit, so I think that working with people to help them without expectation of pay has really made me more selfless and empathetic. Its been eye opening to learn how much we have in common with people who at first glance seem incredible from ourselves. In the end we all have the same basic values, wants and needs. It also helped fuel the traveler in me.
13. What advice would you give a prospective teacher abroad?
Do your research, learn about the culture and then go forward with an open mind. Get out at view the city and go were the locals go. Remember why you have chosen to do this and know that there are things outside your control. You are an ambassador of your country and maybe the first contact they have with your nationality, so set a good example. Take things in stride and don’t be defensive of behaviors you don’t understand. Its common for some countries to be blunt in a way that seems borderline offensive, but being gracious and tactful is a lesson in adulthood. We have different communication style.
Thank you, Tia!
Tia runs a travel blog called, Just Her Carryon
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