So you’ve probably heard by now of the great financial benefits teaching English in South Korea brings. You’ve probably also heard that you don’t need any prior teaching experience to sign up. With high pay, an exciting range of financial benefits and the opportunity to work in one of the world’s most high tech and highly connected countries, it’s no wonder our Teach English in South Korea program is so popular!
We recently sat down and chatted to Reanne Miller from the UK, about her experience so far, as an English teacher in South Korea.
Interested in teaching English in South Korea? We’ll send you more info!
Tell us a bit about where you’re from?
I’m a 24-year-old lass from Sheffield, England, where I graduated in 2016 from Sheffield Hallam University with a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Media. Whilst I was studying for my degree, I gained my love for content creation from 2013 and I create a YouTube channel where I document my life, travel, and beauty in my free time. This led me to pursue a career into social media marketing, where I have worked for MTV as Digital Correspondent, a Social Media Assistant at my local international documentary festival and a Marketing Assistant at my university.
What made you leave your Job in the UK?
The reason I left was that I wanted to have a break from my job and seek out a new opportunity where I can travel/work in different cultures and meet new people.
Why did you choose South Korea as your new home?
I was introduced to the culture when I studied abroad in Australia back in 2015, where I met a variety of cultures which was a first for me as it was my first time traveling alone to the other side of the world. There I met one of my closest friends who is Korean. We got on so well and I was introduced to many Korean people and we exchanged our culture and customs and it was very interesting to see the differences. Later I decided to take up learning the language (4 years down the line, I can only read Hangul…) but I thought why not place yourself in the country to further yourself and develop your understanding. So here I am as an English teacher!
See where you could be placed while teaching English in South Korea.
What were you most nervous about before you left home?
I think the only thing I was nervous about was meeting new people, I always feel I will not be able to make friends (relatable much?). But I always remember that I need to put myself out there and it helps A LOT, especially in this situation.
Could you let us in on your best parts of the TESOL course?
It was definitely learning together with my other fellow teachers, it was nice to have that support from each other. We bonded throughout the course and it was really nice to see us work together through different projects that we were set.
What did you dread the most during the TESOL?
Teaching. I realized that we had to do an English camp where we would actually teach Korean students, which made me feel so overwhelmed. So many thoughts were going through my head as I worried they would not understand me or not cooperate. But it really wasn’t that bad when we did it, we got to work with 3-12-year-olds which I really enjoyed and it made me feel more prepared for teaching at my school.
Looking at your Youtube vlogs, it seems you’ve made a lot of friends, was that an easy process?
In my hometown, it is a friendly city so you can go up to anyone and start chatting away about your business so I felt confident in meeting new people during the course. But I am an ambivert person so I do have moments where I don’t feel comfortable going up to people. Though when looking at the situation I realized we are all here for the same reason and that helped me make many friends here.
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Tell us about the biggest culture shock you’ve experienced since being in SK?
You may think it’s the language barrier, but it’s definitely the driving here for sure! People driving around here, they don’t care about anything. You can be walking down a small street and there’ll be cars going through both sides. Also, if you tell your taxi driver you need to be somewhere asap, they will swerve traffic, almost cause accidents for you, it’s crazy!
As a person of color in South Korea, can you let us in on the cultural sensitivity in the country?
I’m sure if any person of color has researched online, they know that Korea celebrates paler skin and ‘caucasian’ features due to being more exposed to Western Hollywood and other western stereotypes (white = beautiful). So you’re going to find it hard to find certain things catered to you (makeup, hair products) but I came prepared for that by stocking up on my favs. Not to say you won’t be able to get them, you can order online if it is needed.
Honestly, I thought my features would be brought up in every conversation but no, my co-teachers don’t ever comment on my skin color, merely the fact that I’m a foreigner. Yes, you do have the stares but I feel I have more stares from the foreigners than Korean people…which is strange. But I’m that type of person who doesn’t let things like that affect me because I know why I am here. I am here to teach English and to explore the Korean culture and I want to make my presence a positive one in the country.
Still not convincedCheck outut the 10 Reasons why you should teach abroad.
On a less heavy note, Tell us a bit about the school you teach at?
I’m in the GOE program (Gyeongnam Office Of Education) which is similar to EPIK but you only get placed in the southern Gyeongsang province of Korea. I am placed in 2 elementary schools which are close to each other (10-minute walk between them). I’m at my main school for 4 days, where I teach 4th and 5th grade and then I’m at my travel school for 1 day where I teach from 3rd to 6th grade. I teach around 270 students at my main school and 120 students in my travel school so that equals 390 students I teach a week. In my classes, I have noticed that there are quite varied levels of English proficiency.
I asked my students how do you know English so well, they answer ‘Teacher I go to Hagwon after school.’ Sometimes I’m surprised by how easy they are finding my classes with their English skills. My co-teachers are really nice, we talked about our dynamic in the classroom – my main school co-teacher helped me set up everything, bank account, Alien Registration and many more. I only see my travel school co-teacher once a week so it is hard to plan, therefore I only plan a game/song/activity. Whereas at my main school, we both work together for the lesson as I plan all the lesson from the warm up to the wrap-up and we review together what will work and what won’t.
Could you let us in on what your average teaching day looks like?
I’ll talk about my day at my main school – I’ll arrive there at 8:35 am where I would gather my materials for the classes that day, then I would set up the classroom for my students to come in at 9:00 am. I teach 2 40 minutes classes before I have a 30 minutes break where I’ll grab a snack or a drink before heading to teach another 2 more classes before I have lunch. I have my last class at 1:20 pm so I’ll teach one more time before finishing all my classes at 2:00 pm.
I don’t finish work till 4:40 pm so, at this time, I plan for my lessons from the textbook given to me. Or I review the upcoming lessons that I’ve already planned to make any changes. Once it hits 4:40 pm, I walk home to either eat and rest or head out to hang out with my friends for dinner.
What’s your accommodation like?
My apartment building isn’t modern so it is an old building, meaning I have an old apartment but it is quite big and spacious. It is a 1 room apartment, meaning my bed is in the same room as my kitchen and surprisingly I have lots of storage space which is handy too. My bathroom is nice, I have my shower separated so none of my stuff gets wet as I’ve heard it is very annoying for people. I’m close to my schools which is nice and if I need to go grab a few bits from the supermarket. There are a few local markets and supermarkets only a walk away (if I don’t feel like walking, I can get the bus).
Have you done any traveling since you’ve been in South Korea?
Not yet, but I plan to travel to a different city each weekend to explore and to meet new people. Also, I have friends scattered around Korea from the course and who I personally know too so I can go arrange to hang with them!
Do you have any future travel plans while you’re teaching in South Korea?
I am planning to travel nearby here so more of Japan as I want to go to Tokyo with one of my closest friends from back home so we can explore the city together. We have so much planned but I want to go to China, Thailand and many more!
And the most important question, BTS, Blackpink or Big Bang?
Just of the variety of sounds they make, it has to be BTS and if you ask my bias, well I’m Your Hope, Your My Hope, it’s J-HOPE!
What advice would give anyone thinking of starting this journey but is a little on the nervous side?
Honestly just do it, I’m always the one that kicks myself if I miss an opportunity like this. But you can head home if you don’t like it, but just know that there are people in the same situation as you whilst you’re out here! Feeling the same thing as you and there is a huge foreigner community here that will help you, even if it is advice or just trying to find something for your apartment. You know that there is someone here that can help you, whether it’s your first time working/traveling abroad, it’s a journey you can’t miss!
Interested in teaching English in South Korea? We’ll send you more info!
To keep up to date with Reanne and her journey of teaching English in South Korea, you can follow her on her social media platforms:
Instagram – @reanne.miller
YouTube – Reanne
Facebook – www.facebook.com/itsreanne
Blog – www.reanne.net