My Journey to Teaching in South Korea

Programs for this blog post

Teach In South Korea Program

Authored By:

Connie W.

Hi, my name is Connie and I’ll be blogging for CIEE from South Korea! I teach in a hagwon in Anyang, close enough to Seoul to pop in for an evening but far enough away to be able to see mountains every day. This blog post is my way of saying hello and telling you how I made the decision to move to South Korea to teach.


A little about me…

I left the UK for South Korea at the end of August, so I’ve been here a little over a month, and I can’t believe how quickly it’s gone. It feels like I was only filling out my CIEE application last week but here I am, teaching and living in South Korea.

I did my Bachelor’s and Masters in Politics and International Relations at a university that was only an hour and a half down the road from my home. I’ve spent most of my life tucked down in the south of England where I was born, and where my family have lived for generations. So, when I told everyone that I was moving, and not just moving, but moving abroad to an entirely different country and continent, I got some mixed reactions. But it was something I’d been wanting to do for years, and I finally worked up the courage to do it. 


Getting TEFL certified and having a quarter-life crisis.

I originally got my TEFL certification in my final year at university with the plan that once I had graduated, I would apply for EPIK in Korea. However, just as my final year at university was coming towards a close, the pandemic reared its ugly head and there was no going anywhere. I moved back home and picked up my old retail job to make ends meet. Eventually, things in the UK started to get better and life reached a semblance of normality again. However, the rest of the world wasn’t quite there yet, and it wasn’t the time to be heading off to teach anywhere. Instead, I went back to my university to get my Masters. 

Whilst there, that mid-twenties quarter-life anxiety kicked in. I started thinking about my career and future and whether risking it all to teach English abroad was the ‘sensible’ thing to do. Wasn’t I getting a bit old to pick up my entire life and chase some dream? 

So, I got a job. And at first, I was proud of myself. I got through a competitive application process to get a coveted graduate scheme job in a field I thought I’d be happy in. I had what so many graduates dream of. I loved my co-workers. I loved only having to go into the office two days a week and working the rest from home. I liked my salary. I liked getting to use my brain and learn. For the first three months, I was happy. I had the kind of life I had always aspired to. The kind of life that school sets you up for. A career. A salary. Great prospects.

But I never stopped wondering ‘what if’. What if I did go? What if I was happier? What if teaching abroad opened other doors? And three months into my job, I realized I wasn’t happy there anymore. I didn’t enjoy the work. I was constantly stressed. It felt like something was missing. Moving halfway across the world to risk it all was starting to feel like the better option… So, I did it. I quit, and I started my CIEE application. And it was the best decision I ever made.


Anxieties and worries.

That’s not to say that I didn’t worry about it or do an awful lot of overthinking. When you have internet access, every horror story about any job or location is right at your fingertips, and I read plenty. Horror stories about living in South Korea. Horror stories about hagwons. You name it, and there’s a horror story on the internet about it somewhere. However, this did lead me to CIEE. 

After reading so many horror stories I decided that what I really needed was some help and reassurance. I needed a guiding hand. When I found CIEE I knew that I had found what I was looking for. The information they provided, and their constant support made the whole transition to South Korea far easier than any horror story said it could be.


Goals and dreams.

And now that I’m here, there’s so much I’ve already done and so much still left to do. I’ve sang at a karaoke room with creepy 3D bears sticking out of the walls. I’ve visited one soup shop so often with my colleagues that we consider ourselves regulars. I’ve tried food I never thought I’d like and ended up loving it. There are museums I want to visit and views from mountains I want to take in. 

The beautiful thing about moving abroad to teach is that you always have new goals. You start with the goal of moving. Then when you get there the goal is to settle in and see if this is what you were expecting. Then, everything else becomes a goal.

That’s the beauty of teaching abroad. Everything is new and there’s so much to do.

So, whether you’re thinking of moving abroad to teach or you’ve already arrived, what’s your goal right now?