There are so many wonderful places in the world to teach English, as well as so many options with CIEE. I spent a while perusing and comparing each program until ultimately deciding on South Korea with CIEE. There are many reasons why this program is fabulous (and each person probably has different reasons), but here are a few of my feelings:
Students: The kids here are the BEST. If you’re interested in teaching abroad, you probably already love working with children. But I have to say, students here are fantastic. They are driven, energetic, polite, and excited to see you every single time you walk past them. I can’t tell you the number of times I hear “HELLO TEACHER!” in the halls or walking around town. It’s a simple thing, but it brightens my day. Oftentimes, you are one of the only foreigners these kids have ever seen or interacted with, so you become somewhat of a celebrity! They will ask you a ton of questions, and will tell you anything you want to know about their lives and living in Korea. Plus, English class has a little less pressure than other classes, so you can get creative with activities and lessons you plan--which the students love. I guarantee that no matter what type of day you’re having, the students are sure to make it better.
Co-teaching: A big advantage of teaching in Korea (in a public school, which I am doing), is co-teaching. Many people who teach abroad do not have a teaching background, so it can be intimidating to be thrown into a classroom full of expectant children! A main reason I chose Korea and the EPIK program was to work with experienced Korean teachers. I learn so much from my co-teachers every day, and they make the job much more enjoyable and meaningful. Of course, every person’s experience with coworkers is different, but it’s good to know that no matter what, you have allies in and out of the classroom. Your co-teachers will also help you with everything from getting a phone, a bank account, sheets for your apartment, etc. when you arrive, which is very comforting.
Food: No matter where you go, food will be a huge part of the adjustment you have when moving somewhere! The food in Korea is incredible, flavorful, cheap, and generally pretty healthy. You will spend a lot of time sharing meals with new coworkers and friends, as a lot of Korean food is made to be shared (or family style, as we call it at home). I LOVE this aspect of Korean culture, and some of my favorite moments here have been sharing delicious food with some wonderful people.
Travel: Okay this might be a given, but Korea is in a great location to travel, and then travel some more! So far, I’ve been to Thailand and Taiwan, and will be going to Japan next month. Public transportation in Korea is great, so I’ve also traveled to many cities around the country on the weekends. This is definitely the best way to experience Korean culture, and it’s cheap and easy to do so. Public transit in Korea will blow your mind, and you’ll become used to frequently traveling very quickly. Living here has reinvigorated my love for exploration more than I could have imagined.
Safety: As a woman preparing to travel alone around the world, I had to consider the safety of the country I would move to. South Korea is the safest country I’ve ever been to, and I always feel like someone is looking out for me wherever I go. I can walk home at night by myself, and if I drop money on the ground there is a 100% chance that someone will pick it up and run after me to return it! It’s freeing to walk around and be able to fully enjoy every aspect of where I am without worrying about my safety, no matter where in the country I travel.
Logistics before leaving: When I was in the (long) application process to come here, I also had a full-time job. I didn’t have a ton of extra time or mental energy to devote to making sure I had every detail right, and this is where working with CIEE was so helpful. While you can apply directly to most programs around the world, I was so grateful to have someone helping me along every step of the process, making sure I don’t miss anything and to answer any questions (which I had a lot of). There are a lot of steps involved in applying to teach in South Korea, and working with CIEE made it a lot easier.