Teaching Abroad in Seoul, South Korea

Arlette New home: Seoul, South Korea            Home city & country: McAllen, Texas, USA

Arlette

New home: Seoul, South Korea           

Home city & country: McAllen, Texas, USA

Why did you decide to move abroad?

My move to South Korea was my second job abroad as an English teacher. Previously, I taught for two years at a public high school in Spain. The concept of moving to another country was not new to me. On the contrary, it shaped my identity at a young age and explains why I’m drawn to exploring new territories. I grew up in Mexico until I was 8, and then my family moved to Texas. From a very young age, I learned to swim rather than sink in strange environments. During my time at university, I did a study abroad program in Sydney, Australia. This experience solidified the foundation I needed to move all by myself to a place like Seoul where the language barriers were going to be great.

How did you spend your First Month Abroad?

The first week in Korea, I clearly recall there was a lot self-doubt and internal questioning like “Why do I do this to myself?” I knew the stress would pass, and it did. My school housed all the international teachers in the same complex, so I was quickly embraced by a supporting community. When I wasn’t socializing with my coworkers, I was shopping for things I needed for my home and even a little shopping for one of the things Korea is best known for—beauty products!

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What has surprised you most about living in a foreign country?

Life is the same anywhere you live in the world. People wake up, do their morning routines, go to work, hit the gym, and go home. This may sound unromantic and disappointing, but this is good because it means you can find comfort anywhere you go. For anyone debating about moving abroad: the only question you should be asking is, "What is the fastest flight path I can find?"

Any cultural/language barrier funny moments?

I had only been in Seoul for a couple of weeks when I ended up nude in a public bathhouse with Korean women staring at me! It was supposed to be part of a relaxing sauna experience that is unique to Korea called jimjilbang, but there was a language barrier. My teacher friends loved these places called jimilbangs where you soak in hot tubs, sit in different saunas, and get massages. Friends raved that the cheap price of jimilbangs even included a change of clothes to enjoy the facilities. One Saturday morning, I ventured on my own to a jimilbang near my home, but my attempts to ask for clothes or a massage were met with blank stares from the cashier and weird looks from Korean women. Ultimately, I tried enjoying the saunas, but opted for streaming a movie in my pj’s for my future relaxation needs.

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What are your favorite activities in your new town?

My favorite food is tacos, and Korean BBQ is the tacos of the East for me! I love Korean BBQ not only because it’s delicious but because it’s a unique experience. Gas or charcoal grills are built into the dining table, so my friends and I grill the meat ourselves. The popular way of eating the meat is to wrap it in lettuce, add some seasoned veggies and condiments, and finally bite into it like a taco!  There isn’t any particular restaurant I prefer because they’re all equally fantastic.

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What advice would you give to tourists visiting your new home town?

1. Leave your worries at home because Korea is the one of the safest countries in the world. Three times people have chased after me with my wallet or debit card after I accidentally dropped it.  
2. Bring stretchy pants for all the Korean BBQ you will be eating.  

What do you miss most about home?

Plain and Simple: Family.

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What's next?

After Asia, there is a possibility that I may go teach in South Africa. The ultimate goal: world domination through travel!

Space of infinite possibilities

Through my job as a primary English teacher, I have lived abroad in 3 countries and traveled through 25 countries for some spectacular vacations. If you would like to know how to get started in teaching abroad, I would be happy to answer your questions and even Skype with you. Please feel free to message me via Instagram or Facebook.