Teacher Stories; Aubree Dellarocca

In this instalment of teacher stories, we hear from recent Say Kimchi recruit Aubree who is living and working in the awesome city of Busan!

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1. Please tell us a little more about yourself and how you came to teaching in South Korea?

Hello everyone, I’m Aubree from Southern California! I’ve worked in the HR field for many years and received my degree in Business Management a few years back. I originally saw the option of teaching abroad a few years ago but once I was back in the job market not seeing anything promising I decided to go for it and move to teach abroad for year. It is definitely a time-consuming process but worth it in the end. I chose South Korea because it seemed like a great environment for a newbie teacher to feel welcomed and I was right! I’ve been given loads of training and teaching advice already and I’ve been teaching two weeks so far. The kids are great, many are shy but still very intelligent and they make learning their priority.

2. How have you adapted to the culture?

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I would say I’ve adapted quite well so far. Busan is near the beach so being from California, it almost feels like home but with a twist. The subway system is very easy to navigate once you read the signs and to be honest the buses are scary to me so I would rather walk or ride the subway to my destination. The food choices are endless, even though I’ve eaten rice with almost every meal it’s still very satisfying because Korean restaurants always have 20 different side dishes with their meal. Not to mention, the cafe culture has blown up all around Korea so it’s heaven for a coffee lover like me. The night-life is very exciting, everyone loves to have a good time and seems to have a smile on their face wherever I go.

3. Have you been able to make some new friends?

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So far, I’ve made a few friends through my school and we’ve had dinner and went out lots of time to explore the town. Also, I’ve made a few Korean friends (who speak broken English) but nonetheless they are very nice and are excited to practice what English they know. I’d also love to eventually take some Korean language classes but I will have to find one that works with my schedule.

4. What was your relationship like with Say Kimchi Recruiting?

I would definitely recommend Say Kimchi to anyone that is currently looking for a teaching position overseas in Korea. Anne was incredibly helpful with any and all questions that came her way and her email correspondence was always thorough and detailed which made me happy to have chosen this specific recruitment agency in the end. I am very satisfied with my placement and everyone at my school has been friendly and welcoming so far.

5. Any advice for recruits wanting to go teach in South Korea?

If you’re still thinking about going, seriously stop thinking and start the process! The experience itself is very rewarding and not many people can say they’ve lived and worked in a completely different area and inspiring culture.

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Read more Teacher Stories to see how other people are adjusting to life in South Korea!

Teacher Stories; Tiffany Eakins

This is the second “Teacher Stories” we’ve done this week! It really is great hearing from our teachers in Korea and this time we hear from Tiffany who we placed in Naju – a small city just 20km south of Gwangju. Enjoy!

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1) Please tell us a little more about yourself and how you came to teaching in South Korea?

I first thought about teaching in South Korea after a friend of mine recommended I consider EFL teaching as a new career path. I graduated with an English degree and had always been interested in languages and culture, so I began exploring teaching English abroad. I soon discovered that South Korea had many entry level positions for new teachers or for those who wanted to switch professions.

At first, I was worried that I might be too old to teach English in South Korea. It seemed like something for fresh college graduates. But I discovered I was not the only one my age to use South Korea as a pathway for switching careers. In fact, Korea does have teachers groups and volunteer opportunities for those interested in strengthening and building their skills as an educator.  It’s always nice to be able to speak with teachers who have been teaching for a while. I have been able to get some good advice on what I do in the classroom and which avenues to consider for furthering my education.

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Teacher Stories; Brittany Simison

We love keeping in touch with Say Kimchi teachers across Korea and hearing their stories – both good and bad! We recently caught up with Brittany who we placed in Paju, Gyeonggi Province earlier this year. Here’s what she had to say:

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1. Please tell us a little more about yourself and how you came to teaching in South Korea?

I am half Korean, but my mom was adopted when she was about 3 years old. That being said, I had no idea what the culture was like. I have also always wanted to travel abroad either to volunteer or work, and I spoke to someone who had taught in Korea. She loved it, so I thought that teaching in Korea would be the perfect opportunity for me.

I had graduated college December of 2013. By the time March came, I still had not found a job (I am very impatient), so I decided to go for it and apply. I honestly thought that getting an interview was a long shot, but was hoping I would get the opportunity to come teach in Korea.

After interviewing for a school in Busan, I was not offered the position. I was crushed. Barely a week later, if that, Anne had another school wanting to interview me. It was in Munsan, which is VERY close to North Korea. I was nervous, but Anne assured me that North Korea was not a problem. I took the interview and got the job! I have been at Three Kings Education for about 1 month and love it!

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5 of the Best Smartphone Apps for Foreigners in Korea

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If you are anything like me you are probably glued to your smartphone more than you should be! The problem I have with it is that I use it for practically everything meaning it rarely ever leaves my side! However, I have good reason to carry it with me everywhere…

… you see, living in Korea used to be so much harder but now with the list of readily available smartphone apps designed for foreigners living in Korea and locals alike, getting around and finding things has become SO much easier. Thus, without my smartphone I am literally naked and feel I am justified for being on it more often than not.

Here is a list of the top 5 apps I use and think will help you too. Hopefully I can come back to this post and edit it to include even more as time goes on:

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5 Ways to Make Settling into Korean Life a Breeze!

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Passport – check! Money – check! Sense of adventure – check!

Moving to Korea for the first time is SUPER exciting but one of the things new teachers preparing to make the move don’t give enough thought to is the fact that life in Korea is drastically different from life in the West. It’s great to let your mind wander and dream of all the new places you’ll visit, friends you’ll meet and experiences you’ll have but it’s also important to understand that settling into Korean life is not as easy as you may think.

Follow these 5 tips on how to make settling into Korean life much easier and allow yourself to bypass many of the problems many others have as they fail to take them into consideration!

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5 Awesome Things You Can Only do in Korea!

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Korea is a mind blowing, fascinating, scintillating country where you’ll be bowled off your feet the minute you  arrive. Neon lit streets, skyscrapers that go for miles, technology, public transport. Contrasted by old ladies pushing cardboard carts along the side of the street, food tents that remind you of yesteryear and public toilets that still use squatters. It’s the ultimate mix of old and new and that means you are treated to the best of both worlds as you live out your adventure.

Here are 5 awesome things you can only do in Korea that will have your friends and family back home looking at you with envy;

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Korea Through The Lens: Haebyeongil (해변길) – From Yeongmok to Kkotji via Hwangpo-hang – 29KM

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Haebyeongil, which literally means the trail beside the coast, is a 100km long trail system situated in the Taean Shoreline National Park.

The trail system is divided into 7 sections; 3 in the north and 4 in the south. Today I’m going to introduce 2 trails from the southern section; 바람길 (Balamgil) which start from Yeongmok, a small fishing town at the most southern tip of Anmyeondo to Hwangpo-hang and 샛별길 (Saetbyeolgil), which starts at Hwangpo-hang to Kkotji, one of the most famous places to see the sun set into the west sea.

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Korea Through The Lens; Introducing Jackson Hung + Catching the Sunset at Baekhwasan

We love seeing pictures of Korea and we are sure you will love seeing pictures of Korea too! That’s why we’ve teamed up with the excellent photographer Jackson Hung who will be bringing Say Kimchi News readers bi-weekly “Korea Through The Lens” posts. These posts will feature awesome photographs of Korea from different perspectives and be coupled with a short summary of where, when and how they were taken. Jackson’s photographs are absolutely stunning so please sit back and enjoy the first series from Baekhwa Mountain!

korea through the lens with jackson chungA Few Words From Jackson

Hello everyone, my name is Jackson Hung and I am an English teacher at a middle school in Taean Gun, Chungcheongnam-do. Photography is one of the things that I am very passionate about and given that I live next to a National Park, I do try to go out and take photos when I get the chance. “Korea Through The Lens” will be a series about my photography adventures here in the land of the morning calm.

Please stay tuned for updates and check out my website at http://www.jacksonhung.ca  

Catching the Sunset at Baekhwasan

JKH_5104 Baekhwasan is a small mountain located right next to downtown Taean. It is one of the few places in town where you can get the panoramic view of the downtown area, and if you arrive in time, you’ll also be able to watch the sun slowly set into the yellow sea. It takes roughly around 40 minutes to an hour to hike up the mountain depending on which trail you take. I took the rocky trail which started east of the mountain near Taean High School and made my way up. This trail goes along the ridge of the mountain and there are several areas where you will need to climb ropes to continue. Although it might be a tough hike for beginners, the view from the top is defiantly worth it; JKH_5085 JKH_5089 JKH_5092 JKH_5098 JKH_5102

Buddah’s Birthday Trip – Exploring the Gorgeous Pyochungsa Temple

— Written by Hilary Mitchell.
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There are many random national holidays in Korea but for me the most interesting has to be Buddha’s birthday! It fell on May 6th this year, a Tuesday which meant we got the day off work to do as we pleased… so our close group of friends decided to explore the country and head to Pyochungsa Temple just outside of Miryang City (in Gyeongsannam Do.)

The temple itself sits high in the mountains and is quite hard to reach. Firstly you need to get to Miryang itself which is easily enough done with the great inter city bus network in Korea. Once in Miryang, you need to take the local bus up the mountains to the temple itself which proved to be quite challenging. In my research, I found there were 12 daily buses starting at 7.30am with the last one back down being around 8pm.

Before heading up the mountains, we decided to eat at a local Korean BBQ restaurant where we were treated to the usual array of meat and side dishes you come to expect from these establishments. Delicious – even though we had to sit on the floor…
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With our stomachs full of meat and lined with a mixture of soju and beer, we merrily headed off for the bus terminal to embark on the trip to Pyochungsa temple. The trip itself took only around 25 minutes with a bus packed full of people paying homage to the great Buddha himself!

We quickly made our way through the specially erected lantern lined entrance and into the temple itself which was simply mind blowing in it’s beauty.

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These intimidating warrior type figures greeted us on entrance. I heard they are there to guard off any bad spirits…

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And then we were greeted with some fantastic views of inside the temple grounds surrounded by gorgeous mountains and clear blue skies…

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After an hour of so of wandering around and taking in all the sights and people praying to Buddha, we decided to take part in what was described as the “traditional Korean culture” of preparing and eating a bowl of Bibimbap (mixed rice and vegetables.) We were led to a section of the temple grounds where all the ingredients were waiting for us and with the help of some locals, dived right into to creating our delicious meal…

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After eating our bibimbap, we were told that it was customary to fill your bowl with water and drink from your bowl before finally cleaning your bowl for the next person to use. So it was off to the cleaning stations…

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After our meal we just aimlessly meandered through the temple gardens taking in the wonderful views and people watching the families all out celebrating this special day. I had a “moment” where everything in the world fell into it’s place, where everything just seemed right with the world. It was tranquil and peaceful and a million miles away from life in a Korean city.

I’ll leave you with one final image that will hopefully result in you getting out about more in Korea on special holiday days off…

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3 Things To Know Before Teaching English in Korea

Teaching English in Korea

Teaching English in Korea is an amazing opportunity that will change your life and future outlook on life drastically – in fact, I’d comfortably say it will be the best thing you will ever do! All of us here at Say Kimchi! have worked in Korea (some for 1 year and others for over 5) and we all agree that we just couldn’t imagine what our lives would be like had we never took the leap of faith and embarked upon an adventure that took us to the other side of the world!

Having so much experience with living and working in the country, we thought it would be cool to put together a list of 3 things you need to know before teaching English in Korea. We resisted focusing on the usual “bow when you meet someone” or “accept things with both hands” that you’ve likely heard before… instead we have focused on more intricate details of the culture that we feel are very important in helping people have a positive year in Korea.

1. “Saving Face” Is The MOST Important Thing For Korean People.

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If there is one thing you absolutely must know about Korea it’s this notion of “saving face.” It all boils down to this: you should never put someone in a position where you make them appear to be wrong or embarrassed.

Results of causing someone to lose face are usually carried out passive aggressively – you won’t know you’ve done it at the time until you realize the person you’ve offended no longer treats you the same as before.  If you unwittingly cause someone to “lose face” then it could take a long time to repair the damage such is the affect it has on people in Korea. The good news is that many Koreans allow us foreigners lots of leeway with things like this, especially the more traveled ones. However, most people expect you to abide by their rules so knowing about this is extremely important.

Here’s a good example;

You are in class with a Korean co teacher and you realize she makes a mistake with her English grammar. You automatically correct her and say something like “actually, we don’t quite say it like that. Here’s how to do it _________” She smiles and you get on with your class. In the coming days and weeks you realize that the small chocolate cookie that used to appear on your desk is no longer there. The invites out for coffee after work have stopped. Your co teacher isn’t being quite as friendly as they once were.  You want to renew your contract? There might suddenly be a few students who no longer like you. You have caused your co teacher to lose face in front of her students who now think she doesn’t know what she is doing…

Be conscious of making people lose face or of embarrassing people in Korea. It’s probably the worst thing you could do.

2. Korea is NOT Home. You CANNOT Change Their Culture.

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There. I said it! It’s really difficult to move to the other side of the world and away from everything you are used to and familiar with. However, if you aren’t ready for some seriously different ways of doing things, some serious adventure and some serious times where you’ll be wondering what the heck is going on around you then this may not be the right choice for you.

Lots of people come to Korea and underestimate just how different it is from Western countries. The biggest frustration is always the “last minute” surprises; where nothing seems planned and you don’t know what is going on until 5 minutes after it has supposed to happen! Rest assured you aren’t being kept in the dark and no one else knows what’s going on either. You’ll notice large periods of time where nothing is happening and then a period of time where everyone is running around like headless chickens trying to get things done that should have been well planned out in advance. To us, we just can’t fathom why they don’t plan in advance. To Koreans, it’s just the way they’ve always done things.

If you try and change the way Koreans think or show your frustration at the way they do things, the locals may become offended that you are “looking down your nose at them” and you’ll get off on the wrong foot. Just go with the flow. SAP. Smile And Proceed. You’ll get used to it real quick.

3. A Band of Brothers / Sisters. (Try To Break Into It.)

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Korea might just be the most homogeneous country in the world; the people see themselves as one entity. “Hanguk Saram” or “Korean People” are like one big “Band of Brothers.” More interestingly, within that big band of brothers exists smaller bands; same age, same university, same surname, same favorite sports team, same hometown. Some people refer to these bands as herds!

As a result of this, you may find people in Korea to be very stand offish at first. This is because they have their “band of brothers” and are quite reluctant to let outsiders into it. You also may experience Korean people who ask you very personal questions on the first time of meeting; are you married? children? do you like beer? how much money do you earn? how much was your watch?

They ask this to see if you are part of their band or not. If you aren’t don’t be surprised if the person isn’t interested in you. If you are, welcome to the party! These so called bands of brothers look after each other extremely well. Need money? No problem! Want to eat out tonight? Sure, your band will meet you and the oldest will undoubtedly foot the bill. Need help to translate a website so you can book train tickets? Consider the tickets booked and paid for by one of your brothers.

The worst thing you can do if you move to Korea is to focus solely on your Western friends. As interesting as they are, making friends with Koreans is the only way you will experience the culture for real and it would be a great shame if you missed out being part of a “band” as it makes the time in Korea much more enjoyable. You’ll need to put much more effort into your friendships with Korean people but trust me, it’s more than worth it.