CIEE Korea Spotlight: Aric P.

Programs for this blog post

Teach In South Korea Program

Authored By:

CIEE Teach Abroad

Aric is a CIEE alum who has taught in CIEE’s Teach in South Korea and Teach in Thailand programs. Read about Aric’s experience in South Korea:

Where were you placed? What was it like?

I was placed in a pretty large city called Daegu. I didn't want to be in Seoul, but I did want to be in a city this time. So Daegu seemed like the best of both, a big city with a foreigner community, subway system, diverse foods, but not too big or too popular.

How many students did you have in total? How many per classroom?

The amount of total students I had changed with every semester, I taught in two kindergarten classes, each with 12 students max, and then I taught a handful of elementary classes in the afternoon with 12 students max per class as well. Easily less than 100 students total.

How long was your commute to work? What kind of transportation did you use? 

I lived in an apartment close to the school, it took about 5-7 minutes to walk to work. I usually use subway, bus, or taxi to get around the city.

What was your housing like?

I was placed in a studio apartment near the school, fully furnished with a bed, kitchen, bathroom. Nothing fancy but it got the job done and I enjoyed my time there!

How was it navigating the language barrier?

Depending on where you are, a lot of Koreans speak English, the ones that don't will typically use a translator when they don't know what to say or they can understand you.

Were you able to make friends?

I first became friends with my co-workers, from there I slowly began to meet other foreigners around the town and through people meet other foreigners and Korean friends. The foreign community is strong, so making Korean friends was the hard part.

Any major program differences between Thailand and South Korea?

In the South Korea program you can choose between the EPIK public school program or working at a private kindergarten or academy (Hagwon). I choose the academy route because it gives a little more freedom in pay and location. Instead of being placed, they set you up with interviews with potential schools and you can choose where you want to go if you get multiple offers and you can decline offers as well. 

What were the major cultural differences you experienced? 

There is a very mixed feeling about foreigners in the area I am in. Some are very friendly, and some can be quite the opposite. There is also a very heavy fashion, drinking, and dating culture here that I wasn't used to either. The biggest difference was the safety. It is so safe here that many people can leave their stuff and it does not get stolen and very little crime happens. 

How has teaching abroad shaped you as a person and/or your career goals?

I think it has really made me more of a flexible person. If a scheduling error occurs, then I’ll change it. Thailand taught me a lot of that. It has also inspired me to be a better teacher and explore more of the world. I have another year left in South Korea, but I don’t plan on stopping here! After saving up here to get a proper teaching license I plan on continuing to travel and teach abroad for the next long while! Teaching abroad was supposed to just be a year in Thailand, now I’m on year 3 of being abroad in Asia. 

Any advice for future teachers thinking about teaching abroad in South Korea?

It is a very fast paced culture and coming here is not a vacation. There are times to travel and have fun but when its working season be prepared to put in the work.