My Black Women Abroad series continues with Angelica, who is currently living and teaching English in Seoul, South Korea. Read on to discover how she found her program and the inspiring gift her principal gave her.
What inspired you to teach English abroad?
I was inspired in college to have an international experience, but I wasn’t sure in what capacity.
WHICH PROGRAM DID YOU SELECT AND HOW DID YOU FIND IT? DID YOU HAVE ANY TEACHING EXPERIENCE?
I actually stumbled across an opportunity through an Instagram ad with EPIK (English Program in Korea) to teach abroad. At that time, I had six months experience teaching English online, primarily to adults, but I hadn’t had any real classroom experience. I had prior tutoring experience and I worked as a summer camp counselor and after school teacher, but that was it. Once I found the opportunity through EPIK, I immediately started researching all I had to do to qualify for the program.
Of course there were costs associated with being accepted into EPIK, but they were minimal considering I was reimbursed for my flight and my apartment was already paid for. Thankfully, I had a lot of help from family and friends to make sure I had what I initially needed when starting out.
Did you find it difficult to adjust to your new city?
It was difficult leaving my apartment for the first couple of weeks because I did not know what to expect. Suddenly, I was stared at all of the time and I had to really struggle to communicate the simplest things in a foreign language. I learned the basics of Korean before moving, but once I arrived in my new city, I realized I didn’t know much of anything. Eventually, I was able to feel more comfortable and I adjusted well to my surroundings.
How do you stay on budget while living abroad?
Staying on budget…that is still a work in progress! I think overall it is easy to stay on a budget, but it can be hard developing that discipline here for the first time (like me). Budgeting for life in Korea is simple. Most things are reasonably priced (except groceries!) and since you aren’t responsible for rent through a teaching program, you have more money at your disposal. This can be a great time to pay off any student loans or save money, depending on what your financial goals are. Halfway into my third year in South Korea, I think this is one of the most important things I’ve learned.
What is one of your favorite memories from this experience? What surprised you?
One of my favorite memories so far has been the time I was actually ready to leave Korea. I wanted to quit my teaching job and just go home. I ended up having a heart-to-heart with my principal at the time who encouraged me more than he ever could know. He painted a fan for me and in Korean and English he wrote, “Happiness is a habit. I’m cheering for you.” Even though I moved cities and changed schools since then, I still have that fan hanging proudly on my wall.
Do you envision yourself living abroad permanently?
At the moment, I don’t see myself living abroad permanently, though I am open to staying semi-long term (5-10 years). Do I think I’ll still be teaching by that time? Absolutely not. Lol. Teaching is a great way to experience life abroad, but unless it is your ultimate passion, it is not something many continue to do once abroad for a considerable amount of time.
What advice would you give you to people considering teaching abroad?
If you’re considering teaching English abroad, I encourage you to go for it! Try it out for at least one year and do your best to take in all that country has to offer. I don’t regret moving one bit.