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!

TiffanyEakins

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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5 of the Best Smartphone Apps for Foreigners in Korea

smartphone apps for foreigners living in korea

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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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.

Cost of Living in Korea: How to Save $16,000 a Year!

With the poor economy and lack of opportunity at home, there is an increasing number of people with a desire to save money to pay down student debt, save for a round the world trip or even for a down payment on a first house who are heading for the land of kimchi, neon and Buddha. With free flights, free housing, subsidized health care, end of contract bonus and a more than generous monthly salary on offer, Korea is a great place to build a nice little nest egg with yearly savings of $16,000 possible for those with the desire to do so!

One of the top questions we get from those interested in teaching in Korea is “How much can I really save?!” In this post, I want to give you an idea of the cost of living in Korea and a general idea of how much you can really save from your monthly pay check – a post aimed at the budget conscious for sure!

what is the cost of living in korea and how much can I save?

The cost of living in Korea is relatively cheap compared to the West – meaning you can save over 50% of your salary quite easily!

So… what’s the cost of living in Korea and how much can I really save? Well, compared to Western countries Korea is relatively much cheaper for the essential things like food and monthly commitments. However, if you like to live a more lavish lifestyle of fancy restaurants, nights on the town more than once or twice a week and trips to far off places every chance you get, you’ll find Korea can quite easily eat up your pay check just as fast as home!

Saving upwards of $15,000 a year is entirely possible depending on your lifestyle choices. Let’s assume you are on an average salary of 2.2 million won or around $2000 per month, your typical monthly outgoings will look like this:

Income Tax, National Pension & Health Insurance: 200,000 won.
Internet & Cable TV: 30,000 won.
Gas & Electricity: 70,000 won.
Groceries: 300,000 won.
Entertainment: 400,000 won.
Bus / Taxi Fares: 50,000 won.
Random: 50,000 won,

That totals up as around 1.1 million won and subtracted from your monthly 2.2 million pay check, leaves you with around 1.1 million won saved. Or around $1,000. Multiply that by 12 and you’ve got $12,000 in the bank. Now, for the last $3000…

When you finish a 12 month contract you will receive “severance pay” which is equal to one month’s salary. That’s $2,000.

And when you leave Korea you can claim back your national pension contributions which work out to be around $100 a month. Your employer matches these contributions and you can claim those back too. So make that $200 a month and let’s make that a conservative $2000 a year.

So, $12,000 in monthly savings + $2000 severance payment + $2000 national pension contributions = $16,000

And remember, your last month’s pay check of $2000 will be yours to keep with no outgoings because you’ll be leaving so you can save the entire lot!

I’ve lived in Korea for a year and I didn’t save anything close to $16,000!

Yes, that’s quite possible too. As I said, it totally depends on your lifestyle choices. The above outgoings will give you a comfortable life… eating in nice restaurants once a week, a night out once a week, food on your table and clothes on your back. However, if you don’t keep a close eye on spending, the following things can eat into your savings very easily:

Alcohol: If you enjoy a drink or ten more than once a week you can add an extra $400 – $500 a month in expenses.
Coffee: If you hit up Starbucks every morning on your way to work you can add an extra $100 a month in expenses.
Restaurants: If you eat out in foreign restaurants like Outback Steakhouse more than once a week you can easily add $2-300 in expenses.
Taxis: Taking a cab everywhere, whilst cheaper than home, could easily see an extra $1-200 a month in expenses.

Conclusion

The cost of living in Korea – for the essential things like local food and entertainment – is much cheaper than the West. But if you excessively indulge in home comforts, you can expect to see your savings dwindle rapidly. If your goal is to save, then you can save $16,000 a year and still have a great time with friends at the bar, in nice restaurants and so on… you just need to do it in moderation.

However, if your goal is to travel and hit the town every night then you won’t save anything close to $16,000 a year.

But that’s all good too!

Relaxing Vacation Ideas From South Korea

Korea has many awesome tourist attractions that are considered “must visit” when you are there. However, most of them can be done during the weekend since Korea is such a small country with an efficient transport network that can whisk you from one end to the other in 4 hours. No matter where you live in Korea you are never more than a quick bus or train journey to one of the countries top sights; whether it be Haeundae beach in Busan or Haeinsa temple nestled in the beautiful mountains of South Gyeongsan province.

But sometimes one just needs to get away from the bustling streets of Korea, the incessant traffic, the neon signs… one just needs a break and thankfully there are many great vacation spots on Korea’s doorstep! In this blog post, I want to share some relaxing vacation ideas from South Korea;

1. The Land of Smiles: Thailand

Koh Phi Phi in Thailand is a great spot to truly get away from it all!

Koh Phi Phi in Thailand is a great spot to truly get away from it all!

Thailand. Known as “The Land of Smiles” Thailand offers a real escape from the stresses of every day life. Walking around the streets you can see why it gets that title – the locals are so laid back they are almost horizontal!

Whilst Bangkok is a great city for a day or two, for those seeking true relaxation, a trip further south is in order. Flights to Koh Samui are cheap ($100 return) and from there you can either relax in one of the many spas or head to Koh Pangan which is a real paradise island.

A very well hidden gem in Thailand is Sam Roi Yot national park – around a 3 hour drive from Bangkok. Blue Beach Resort is the place to stay with some of the best food in the country coupled with miles of empty beaches, a national park to explore on rental motorbikes and massage huts a plenty!

Getting There: Thai Airways from Incheon (around 6 hours) and then domestic flight to islands.
Flight Cost: $400 – $600 return.
Best Time of Year: Winter
Where to Stay: Blue Beach Resort
Must Visit: Bangkok, Koh Samui, Chiang Mai, Sam Roi Yot National Park

2. Bali – Where Everyone Knows Your Name!

Bali is perhaps the number one "relaxing vacation" spot in the world!

Bali is perhaps the number one “relaxing vacation” spot in the world!

Bali is a volcanic island in Indonesia and attracts tourists looking for complete rest and relaxation as well as those who are looking for a more adventurous vacation. I’ve found the best beaches for “recuperating” on are in the South – notably Kuta “Halfway” beach where one can savor the local food whilst getting some peace and quiet away from the main Kuta beach where pushy vendors are a plenty!

Getting There: Multiple Airlines from Incheon (around 9 hours)
Flight Cost: $800 – $1000 return.
Best Time of Year: September (Anytime is fine though, it’s Bali!)
Where to Stay: Big Pineapple Backpackers Hostel
Must Visit: Uluwatu Temple, Pura Ulun Danu Bratan (Bali’s temple by the lake), Ubud

3. Diver’s Paradise: Sipadan, Malaysia

Sipidan has been voted as "Asia's Best Dive Site" and it's easy to see why!

Sipidan has been voted as “Asia’s Best Dive Site” and it’s easy to see why!

For those who like scuba diving there is no better place in Asia than Sipidan in Malaysia! With huge green turtle populations and a super healthy marine eco system divers from around the world head to Sipidan for some spectacular dives and relaxing days on the beach! Only 120 permits are given out each day to preserve the eco system so be sure to get in early to book your spot!

Getting There: Multiple Airlines from Incheon and then domestic flight to Sipidan.
Flight Cost: $700 – $1000 return.
Best Time of Year: April – September
Where to Stay: Beach Huts and hostels are a plenty!
Must Visit: The nearest Dive Shop!

Teacher stories: Erin Heath

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Say Kimchi Recruiting friend Erin Heath has been living and teaching in South Korea for 3 years. She took the time to tell us about her experience in South Korea and her relationship with SKR.

Please tell us how you decided to come live and teach in South Korea.

Funny story actually. I would say that I’m a bit older than the typical recruit, in my mid-thirties. But my sister, who is 10 years younger than me, got an email from Say Kimchi Recruiting. She was just graduating from college and the decision was pretty easy for her. When I found out that people could actually do this, I immediately started to plan how to escape my desk job as a Human Resource Manager. It took a lot of thought and planning, and guts really, to take this huge leap. But I can now say without a doubt, it was the best decision I ever made.

Mississippi and South Korean culture..

I’m from Mississippi and, being from a conservative background, I felt a lot of affinity to the underlying values of the Korean culture. There are of course a lot of differences as well, but I feel that I’ve adapted pretty well. There are some things that I will never understand, but I’ve found that most Koreans never expect you to fully understand or totally conform to their culture anyway. Navigating every-day life took some getting used to. At first it was difficult to get around town, order at restaurants and do simple things like grocery shopping. But after a few months I grew used to it. Now I feel like a seasoned pro, although my Korean is still very limited. As far as teaching goes, the only problems I experienced were simple growing pains of how to become a teacher first, and then how to become a good teacher once I settled in. Of course, there’s always that first day when you’re staring at a sea of eyes trained on you, and you think to yourself, “What have I done?”. But it didn’t take long to learn the ropes.

Making friends in South Korea..

Since I came to Korea with my youngest sister I had a built in best friend. But soon I was able to make a strong group of friends from drinking buddies to travel buddies. It’s really not hard to meet a lot of great people from all kinds of backgrounds and countries. And there are plenty of activities to join in. You just have to make yourself available and open.

General likes and dislikes..

I dislike some of the superficial things about Korea. For example, there is an obsession for beauty and money that I don’t understand. And in general, Gwangju is like any other big city. Not everyone is going to be friendly. But for any negatives, there are many more positives. The country is beautiful, traveling inside and outside the country is easy, and the lifestyle in general is unbeatable. Before I came here, I worked at a boring desk job from 8:00 to 5:00. I often thank my lucky stars to have had this opportunity. I think back on my old life and wonder about the sad person who had to take over my job. But seriously, if you open yourself up to new experiences, your life can change so much for the better.

Erin and Say Kimchi Recruiting..

Say Kimchi is a very organized and helpful recruiter. Why? Because they lived through all the same experiences that I had, and therefore knew all the hang-ups and pitfalls that could occur along the way. For someone like me, it’s very important to have reliable information, security in knowing what to expect and to be prepared. Of course, nothing can entirely prepare you for a whole new culture, but being organized and knowledgeable is half the battle. In addition, the Say Kimchi newsletters and blogs went far beyond simple recruitment and offered a wide range of topics for discussion and thought from travel, to culture and food, all from a personal perspective.

Advice for future teachers in South Korea..

Take the leap! But also take the leap with the right recruiter. There are some bad English schools out there just as there are bad employers anywhere in the world. However, if you have a recruiter with connections and knowledge then it will make your time here much more enjoyable.

– Erin Heath

 

Indoor Rock Climbing Gym

–ShayM

Gwangju Indoor Rock Climbing Gym is a great way to get a great workout. Their room is small but adequate. The ceiling is small but challenging.

Each wall consists of different levels containing a wide array of different grips. There are even grips on the ceilings and tilted walls that makes for a more challenging climb. I personally went to this gym over the last week and enjoyed my time.

The owner of the gym and his family are very inviting. Even the other climbers offered advice and were friendly as well.

If you want to try your hand the address of the gym is: 광주광역시 북구 운암2동 1597번지 (운암동 공구의 거리 171 2층/ 3층)