Life After Korea

Goodbye Korea

When I was living abroad I wasn’t sure what life would be like when I finished my contract and moved home. The plan was to live in South Korea for a year, but I ended up extending my contract and living in Busan for almost two years. I knew there would be some reverse culture shock when I moved home but was really surprised by what life after Korea was like.  

My boyfriend, Colin, and I packed up our apartment in Busan, had a goodbye party with all our friends, said some tearful goodbyes, and boarded the plane to leave Korea. It didn’t really dawn on me until the plane was in the air that I wouldn’t see those friends or live in Korea again for a long time, if ever. Although I was very sad to say goodbye to friends and to a city I absolutely loved living in. I was very excited to go home and see friends and family I hadn’t seen in almost 2 years! 

two women holding a drink on the beach in busan highlighting life in korea


Before returning home, Colin and I stopped in Hawaii for a week to relax and enjoy having some time off work. Honestly, taking a vacation in Hawaii was one of the best decisions we made! Although it was expensive, it was worth it and definitely helped with the reverse culture shock. It was nice to be in an English speaking country again, but still be on vacation. We got to go to restaurants, grocery stores, bars, gas stations, etc. and enjoy the simple pleasure of talking to people in English 24-7! We did feel a little overwhelmed hearing everyone else’s conversation (it was sort of nice not knowing what other people were saying in Korea sometimes). Not to mention we got to enjoy all the gorgeous sights and beautiful beaches that Hawaii has to offer. 


arial view of the ocean in hawaii

REVERSE Culture Shock

Once we returned home reverse culture shock hit with full swing. Shortly after we got off the plane in St. Louis, I started having wheezing and a tight feeling in my chest – something that has never happened to me before. I had to go to urgent care and was abruptly reintroduced to American healthcare and how expensive it is – Korean healthcare was fast and extremely cheap (with or without insurance). Luckily it wasn’t serious. It turns out my body just was shocked from all the allergens that I was suddenly being exposed to! 

It was great to see family and friends that I hadn’t seen in a long time, but also overwhelming trying to find time to see everyone. I felt a little guilty trying to juggle time with family and friends, and was very glad we’d been on vacation- because it really helped with the jet lag. Honestly if I could do it over again I’d say ask a friend or family member to host a “welcome-back” party for you when you return. That way you can see everyone at once, and won’t feel guilty if you need a few days to rest/recharge later on. 

(See below – a friend from Cinncinati drove down to see me after we got home!) 


two women posing in front of a fountain

Home Sweet Home

Some of the great things about life after Korea are that I realized how easy and convenient it was to do so many things in America. Signing up for a phone plan was pain free, and going car shopping wasn’t bad either. I’m big into rewards programs and coupons, and never really got to take advantage of that in Korea since I didn’t learn much Korean! I also really enjoy going to the gym, and gyms are much cheaper in the US. 

(See below – a Friendsgiving party with some friends we hadn’t seen in a long time!) 


family photo in a living room

Missing the Kids

One challenging part about life after Korea was the education culture in America, in Korea it’s very rigorous from an early age. Going from teaching Kindergarten in Korea to teaching Pre-School in America was a hard transition for me. Education culture for kids below 5 years old is much more laid back in America and focused on play and social skills. This was so different than what I experienced in Korea. I had a hard time adjusting at first but now I believe there is a happy medium between the two educational cultures. Kids should be able to play and have fun, but structure and high expectations aren’t a bad thing! 

Speaking of education, some of my old students from Korea wrote me really wonderful letters which I’m incredibly thankful for. It’s nice to hear from them and know that they are doing well, and I’m definitely excited to write back!  

(See below – an adorable letter from one of my past students.)

student letter to her English teacher from Korean student

Life After Korea

Moving abroad has changed my perspective on a lot of things. I now have a tremendous amount of respect for immigrants and refugees because it isn’t easy to move to another country, especially when you can’t speak the language or have no family to help you. I’m passionate about helping those that are less fortunate, and can understand a small part of the struggle that immigrants face. 

Moving abroad opened up many opportunities for me. I was able to save money, pay off all of my debt, and travel to four different countries! I am so thankful for all the amazing memories I have. Transitioning to life after Korea wasn’t easy, but now that I’m settled I’m very happy and love that I have so many stories to share with friends and family. I also can’t wait until I can see my friends from South Korea again! 

3 backpackers enjoying the view on top of a hill overlooking Busan beach highlighting life in korea
couple posing in front of a fountain in Korea


Monica Russo graduated from Texas A&M University with a Bachelors in Psychology and is from St. Louis, Missouri. After spending a couple years in social work she decided to move abroad to learn more about other cultures and to challenge herself to live outside her comfort zone. Monica lived in Busan, South Korea for a year and a half and loved her time there.  She loves new experiences, hiking, exploring other cities and helping others any way that she can. Her philosophy is work hard, play hard!

Teaching in South Korea vs Teaching Back Home: What’s the Difference?

Pros and Cons

In comparing one job to another, there is a lot to consider. Obviously, there are pros and cons and it can be difficult to sift through them objectively. There’s also a lot of personal subjectivity. I’ve loved every teaching job I’ve had, but I hope to shed some light on some the cons you can eliminate by teaching in Korea, specifically with Chungdahm Learning and the Aclipse program. I’ve boiled this down to a set of key points: the students, the environment, salary/livability, and Requirements/Expectations of the Job. 

girl sitting on temple steps in Korea

The Students

In my experience, Korean students feel a deep desire to learn and are always putting forth their very best efforts. Of course, there is the occasional student that wants to try your patience more than others! But the difference is that is is not the norm, but the exception. I have never seen such a large number of children so well behaved and dedicated in all my life. Rarely, if ever, do I need to repeat myself more than once. Students work hard and go above and beyond in every task given to them, and at every age. This blows me away. 

On the other hand, American students are often not as motivated or passionate about learning. Motivating them is often more than half the battle. Again, this is not every situation. That would be a gross overgeneralization and would not be fair or accurate. However, a majority of students I’ve personally worked with in the States are not driven in the same way, which I attribute to the difference in parenting styles and culture. We tend to ensure more gradual development in America, whereas Korean students are trying to be the best from day 1.

colorful lanterns in korea during buggha's birthday

The Environment

An obvious appeal of teaching in Korea is that you are in Korea. It is such a beautiful country with so much to offer in regards to food, sights, and culture. There seems to be no end to all of the old temples, cafes, and amazing art to be found around the corner of every street! On top of all of these incentives, my commute to work is no more than a 5 minute walk. The people in the school are kind with great dispositions and students are very respectful as well. 

ALL teaching materials ARE PROVIDED FOR YOU, by the way. I just felt the need to say that, and to say it loudly. The United States is a beautiful place to live, of course, with a a lot of creature comforts. However, it is very large and everything is miles apart. Everything is extremely expensive to even get to. I’ve always wanted to see new places and try new things, but that just wasn’t on the table for me. 

a bridge over a stream in korea

The Pay

While I won’t go into too much detail of my salary, of course, I can say it is enough to cover my expenses and more. This is especially true since rent, utilities and other bills are very cheap and housing is often provided by the school. I’ve been paying off school loans and saving up money while being able to take trips around South Korea on the weekends. Teacher salaries are pretty low in the States, which is makes it difficult with the high cost of living. Between rent, utilities, phone bills, car insurance, health insurance, and groceries, gas,  there just isn’t enough left over to really do much of anything. Eating out, traveling, or saving just isn’t a reality on a teacher salary in America. 


The Requirements

Lastly, the teaching requirements are both very similar and so very different at the same time. Lesson planning for Chungdahm Learning consists of looking over the provided materials and making sure you are familiar with the topics to be discussed for the day. I often plan games, classroom procedures, behavioral incentives, and extra activities as well. This doesn’t take more than an hour or two a day the way that the curriculum is set up. 

Grading is mostly done automatically for you, except for the occasional writing or speaking assignment. A portion of the grading may even be shared with the Korean staff depending on your branch. You don’t get a ton of time off, but the time that you do have is actually off! Its not being used to grade or lesson plan or play catch up or take courses for extra certifications. 

In America, lesson planning used to take up most of my days, weekends, and nights. Of course after a while you get the hang of it, but I’ve always been a bit of a perfectionist. On top of this, the grading seemed endless. Considering how large each class is, and the amount of feedback, grading, and filing required seemed endless. 

close up point of view of ginko leaves on a sidewalk

Love for Teaching

At the end of the day, I love to teach in any capacity that I can. Every job will have its ups and its downs. That being said teaching in Korea at Chungdahm Learning has been the best teaching experience I’ve had so far. It is much more freeing, while providing you opportunities for growth at the same time. I am able to earn a living AND enjoy my life. I am surrounded by students that love learning and by people that are helpful, kind and always strive for excellence. As much as I loved my previous positions, it’s going to be tempting to never leave Korea at all. 

Alecia Alford is a secondary English education major with a taste for traveling, languages and ‘eating all the foods.’ She graduated from Northwestern State University and spent some time abroad in South America where she learned Spanish and discovered her true love: seeing and tasting all that the world has to offer. Alecia has dreamt of teaching all her life, but was surprised at how inexplicably inhospitable the living conditions were for a teacher in the states. Things weren’t necessarily impossible, but they certainly were not exactly easy, nor were they travel friendly back home. Looking into ways to teach abroad, she was pleasantly surprised at the number of options and opportunities out there that combined her two great passions. She now teaches with Chungdahm Learning in Pohang, South Korea and intends to continue the pursuit of traveling and teaching for as long as she can. 

ATV Adventure in Taean

The summers in Korea can be rather hot and humid. While I was born and raised in sunny California, the difference is the humidity. Korea is hot and humid while California is hot and dry. As the humidity is finally coming in at full strength, I quickly planned a weekend trip to the coast. Follow me on my ATV adventure in Taean!


Once you arrive to the Express Bus Terminal, there are two bus options for going to Anmyeon Bus Terminal. Both bus options, but one is more expensive than the other. The more expensive bus is 20,000won, while the more economical option is 11,000won. The difference between the two buses is the spaciousness of the seats. Obviously, the pricier option has more spacious seats, reclinable chairs and additional leg space. I took a 20,000 won bus for my trip to Taean and an 11,000won bus for the trip back. In my humble opinion, it is well worth the extra charge for the comfort! 


Korea has great mudflats! Once the tide is low, the waters recede very far back. This is the perfect time to grab a bucket, shovel, and SALT! Many people dig in the mudflats to collect clams and other shellfish. Why the salt? Many sea creatures leave little holes on the surface of the mud. If you pour salt into the holes, they pop out on their own! You can simply pluck them out and throw them into your bucket. There are so many crabs, too! My friend had to fight two of them that were trying to fight him off. It was hilarious! You can steam, grill, or sautee your harvest for dinner. It’s all a part of the mudflat experience. 


ATV Adventures

The region of Taean has many gorgeous forests and beaches. One of the major activities in the area is to take an A.T.V tour. I bought a 50-minute tour that cost 25,000 won. There were different experiences to pick from that ranged in time. I picked the shortest option, but I was not disappointed! I got to go through some rough forest terrain and across the beach. There was a portion where I got to go over several small sand dunes. For me, the forest terrain was muddy and there were many puddles, since it had rained during the night. I loved it! At first, I was worried about my shoes, but by the end of it, I was purposely riding through puddles to maximize splash! 



One can never go to the coast and not enjoy the fresh seafood! After arriving to Anmyeon, the first thing to cross off my ‘to do’ list was eat some marinated crabs! They are called ganjang-gejang and they are raw crabs marinated in soy sauce. There is also a style where it is marinated in a semi-sweet red sauce – both are equally delicious in my opinion. In Seoul, this dish is expensive. However, whenever one visits the coast, there are huge set menus that get one so much seafood, side dishes and always a fish stew. The set I purchased was 70,000won for two people at a restaurant called 딴뚝통나무집. I’ll add the address below. 

Restaurant Details

There are two more dishes that I really enjoy eating when visiting the coast. The first is like a seafood bibimbap called hwe-deopbap (회덮밥). The other dish is like a seafood cold noodle dish called mul-hwe (물회). These are individual dishes. They both only cost 10,000won each. I found it to be an even better deal where I had it, because I had a great beachfront view. The restaurant is called 밧개횟집. I’ll add the address below. 


딴뚝통나무집 (crab restaurant) 

60-42 Seungeon-ri, Anmyeon-eup, Taean-gun, Chungcheongnam-do 


밧개횟집 (beachfront restaurant) 

765-81 Jungjang-ri, Anmyeon-eup, Taean-gun, Chungcheongnam-do


안면도수산시장 (fish market)

1249-1 Seungeon-ri, Anmyeon-eup, Taean-gun, Chungcheongnam-do 

Apply now to start your teach abroad journey in South Korea today! 


Giselle Moreno is from California, USA where she attended the University of California, Riverside. While a student, she always worked with international students and she decided to teach English abroad upon graduating during her third year of university. It was through the experiences of being an English tutor for international students that she felt really fulfilled. She found it particularly easy to get along with Korean students which is why she decided to pursue a teaching opportunity in Korea. She even attended Yonsei University in Seoul for a semester as a study abroad student and fell in love with the city. She is currently working at ChungDahm Learning’s April Daechi branch located in Gangnam, Seoul.

Classroom Management Tips

Not Your Average Kindergarten

When I started teaching over a year ago, I didn’t know very much about the work and educational culture in Korea. When I first started at iGarten, I was really surprised by the amount of workbooks and worksheets kindergarten students had to complete every month. In my experience, Kindergarten in Korea is very different than kindergarten in America. I remember having naptime, lots of toys and games in the classroom, and many days where we had extra recess time. In Korea, there are high expectations from a very young age. The school I teach at has no naps (we teach kids international age 3-8), no toys, and has a very structured schedule There are pros and cons to any educational culture, but I’ve been really impressed with how quickly my students learn and how motivated they are to do well! That being said, there are some days when students are tired, don’t feel well, or just have a hard time focusing. Here are some classroom management tips for working at a private Kindergarten in Korea!

Green, Yellow, Red

This is a really simple system which is easy to make and use – kids understand it even if they don’t know much English. If a student isn’t listening well or isn’t following directions, I first give them a warning and a chance to stop what they are doing. If this doesn’t work I’ll change them from green to yellow (I use velcro stickers on the back of the faces). If the behavior persists, I’ll change them from yellow to red, and give a final warning. When they are on yellow or red, I encourage them to do well for the rest of the class so I can change them back to green. This method works well especially in the first few months I taught my class. Now students know expectations, and it’s very rare for a student to change from green! 

(Pictured below – you can see examples of my green smiley faces and brag tags!)

Brag Tags

My kids really love these! On one wall in my classroom I have a list of my students names with a Velcro sticker. I have brag tags for several different things – you can find lots of printables online! For my class I use 5 different brag tags: Best Handwriting, Super Speller, Super Reader, Kind to Others, and I’m Responsible. If theres a lesson where the kids are struggling to focus or listen I pull out the brag tags and draw attention to the students that are doing well. This motivates the whole class because everyone wants something positive next to their name! This has especially helped my kids improve their handwriting and listening skills! 

Reward Boards & Sticker Charts

I know many teachers use sticker charts, and I used to but I found it to be time consuming handing out stickers to each individual kid, and usually it only motivated students that were already doing well. Sticker charts work well with some students but I prefer to use a reward board that represents the whole class – instead of each individual child. That way the kids help motivate each other and are accountable for each other. The kids in my class all have expressed how much they love ice cream, so I created a reward board with the end goal of an ice cream party! My kids have to earn 50 rainbow stars for us to have an ice cream party. There isn’t a limit on how many stars they can earn in a day, but the stars are given sparingly – only when they are on their best behavior. Stars are given when they all participate, listen well, and work well together! My kids constantly talk about how many stars we have and how many we need. It’s a great visual reminder for them that hard work pays off and something for them to look forward to! 

(Pictured below – the chart is quite big so that it is easy for the kids to see and be reminded of.)

Classroom Jobs

Another way I motivate my kids is by assigning classroom “jobs” each day. Jobs such as line up leader and paper passer (for worksheets) are coveted positions in my class. Sometimes if we play a game, the winner will get to pick their job for the next day. Sometimes, if we have a tricky vocab word (one time it was protruding – a pretty difficult word for 6 year olds!) whoever can read it/sound it out correctly gets to pick their job. Other times, I’ll assign the jobs based on who was ready for class first thing in the morning. I make sure each kid gets to participate every week and my kids enjoy any added responsibility that sets them apart from their classmates. 

(See below – a couple of examples of classroom jobs.) 



Countdown From Ten

The last thing I use, which may not work with every class, is writing the numbers 1-10 on the board. If my kids won’t calm down, or are wasting classtime, I’ll slowly start to erase numbers on the board. This works well to get their attention and the kids will usually say things like, “Oh no! Now we only have eight numbers!” To tell their friends to pay attention. There’s no reward if no numbers are erased and no consequence if all the numbers are erased… but for some reason my kids really respond to this method and it’s a point of pride for them – we’ve never had a day where all ten numbers were erased!

I hope these classroom management methods work for you and your students! It’s so important to have reward systems in place other than instant gratification like candy. From teaching, I’ve learned that kids thrive in structured environments where they know what to expect. It’s always good to have things handy to motivate your students and show them you appreciate their hard work! I hope these classroom management tips have been helpful!


Monica Russo graduated from Texas A&M University with a Bachelors in Psychology and is from St. Louis, Missouri. After spending a couple years in social work she decided to move abroad to learn more about other cultures and to challenge herself to live outside her comfort zone. Moving abroad hasn’t always been easy, but it has always been worth it and Monica loves living in Busan, South Korea. She loves new experiences, hiking, exploring other cities and helping others any way that she can. Her philosophy with her students is work hard, play hard! 

Bungee Jumping Adventure in Gapyeong

It’s summer! I really enjoy outdoor activities, trips out of Seoul, and extreme activities. I’ve already explored three caves, rode three bike rails, taken a scenic cable car, river rafted, climbed a few mountains, paraglided and more in Korea’s countryside. On my most recent one day trip, I only had only one activity in mind!  I wanted to cross bungee jumping off my bucket list! Join me on my bungee jumping adventure in Gapeyeong! 


After doing some research, I found the place where I could do both – Gapyeong! Gapyeong is only a 40 minute ITX ride away from Cheongryangri Station. The ticket was only 4,800 won one way, so the roundtrip was under 10,000won! Gapyeong is a famous destination for university students or just any group of friends taking a trip out of Seoul to enjoy a variety of outdoor activities during the summer. The area offers quad rides, a rail bike, bungee jumping, ziplining, and various water activities. 

Top Land

It took only a five minute taxi ride from Gapyeong Station to Gapyeong Top Land! That is the name of the bungee jumping location. For anyone who purchases a jump while at Top Land, the cost is 40,000won. However, my friend got us a discount online. Thus, my jump was just 23,000won! I would give instructions on how to get this discount, but it is just on a Korean site, so you’ll need the assistance of a Korean friend. Sorry. Anyway, the jump is from a 55 meter tower. The tower is located next to Bukhan River. Their weight range is from 35kg-95kg. They strap you in from the waist. 


After paying, one is escorted into a room where one places all their belongings. Have a friend on the ground when you jump! Top Land doesn’t record your jump and sell the footage to you either. Anyway, after dropping off all one’s belongings, one goes to the second floor. There is where everyone signs waivers. Also, they take your weight and give you the appropriate strap gear for your weight. An employee explains how to properly jump. Worth noting! They give you two attempts to jump. If you fail to jump on your two attempts, then you lose your ability to jump and you won’t be refunded! All these details are explained at this time. Next, one takes an elevator up to the jumping platform. There is a line for men and another for women. One by one, people take turns jumping. 


Here is my list of jumping advice!

  1. Don’t eat anything at least 2 hours before jumping. 
  2. Wear comfortable, casual clothing. 
  3. Never look down! Look straight ahead.
  4. Jump on ‘1’, don’t wait for ‘Jump’!! They count down from 5 (5, 4, 3, 2, 1, JUMP).

The experiencing was all about overcoming my own fear and beating that internal, mental battle. The jump itself feels like nothing more than the feeling of going down the first dive of a rollercoaster ride. You feel it in your stomach. It makes you scream. The scream relieves the pressure in your stomach. Suddenly, the experience is over and you have officially joined the bungee jumping adrenaline junkee team! 

There are a few places to bungee jump in Korea. The highest one is located in Jecheon’s Cheongpung Land. The height there is 62 meters. Also, the have a ‘Big Swing’ attraction. I’m adding this location to my must visit list. 

Wherever you decide to jump, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you make it out to one of the locations and take bungee jumping off your bucket list while living and teaching in Korea!

Gapyeong Top Land

Address: Gyeonggi-do, Gapyeong-gun, Gapyeong-eup, Bukhangangbyeon-ro, 1044-15 KR

Hours: 9AM – 6PM

Phone Number: 031-582-5372


Giselle Moreno is from California, USA where she attended the University of California, Riverside. While a student, she always worked with international students and she decided to teach English abroad upon graduating during her third year of university. It was through the experiences of being an English tutor for international students that she felt really fulfilled. She found it particularly easy to get along with Korean students which is why she decided to pursue a teaching opportunity in Korea. She even attended Yonsei University in Seoul for a semester as a study abroad student and fell in love with the city. She is currently working at ChungDahm Learning’s April Daechi branch located in Gangnam, Seoul.

Teaching as a Couple in Korea

Setting the Stage

About 6 months after my boyfriend Colin and I started dating I asked him if he’d be interested in teaching abroad. I’d always wanted to live abroad and I knew he wanted to travel as well – I was so excited when he said he was open to the idea of teaching in Korea! Almost a year later we moved to Busan. I’m so thankful to Aclipse for making this all possible and finding a school where we could both teach and work the same hours. Moving overseas as a couple has a lot of perks, and I have been so thankful for this experience! Having lived in Busan for over a year, I’ve met lots of single people, people who started new relationships while abroad, and other couples who moved abroad together. Regardless of your relationship status, living abroad is an unforgettable experience. I’m especially grateful I was able to share these memories with Colin. Let me show you what it’s like getting recruited and teaching as a couple in Korea!

(Below – a picture of us when we visited the colorful Gamcheon Culture Village in Busan)


Partner In Crime

Life overseas has been emotional at times, and I was sad to say goodbye to friends and family knowing that I wouldn’t see them for at least a year or even longer. But having a built in support system is amazing – despite everything else changing it was nice to have someone from back home who was going through the exact same experiences. We navigated the language barrier, culture shock, trying new foods, and starting new jobs together. Neither of us had been teachers before and it’s been really nice working together and sharing ideas for our classes! 

(Below, us visiting Beomeosa Temple with some coworkers/friends and some cute cookies we got at school!)

Couple posing in front of a mountain in Korea

Making Connections

Aside from the cultural differences and adjusting to working a new job, we also had to furnish an apartment. Having two people to share the cost of bills, groceries, and household necessities has allowed us to save more money than we would have if we came here alone! Also our apartment is bigger than a single person’s apartment, which has made it easy for us to host holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving – holidays away from family are difficult but much better when you can celebrate friends! (see below – some of our friends joined us to celebrate American Thanksgiving!)


Group of friends and a couple posting at a get together in Korea

Yin and Yang

Another great thing about moving abroad with Colin is that we both have different strengths. He’s amazing at navigating public transit (I have no sense of direction and had barely used public transit before living abroad). He’s also a great cook and has found lots of yummy restaurants for us to try in Busan. I’m good at budgeting, organizing, and planning. Together we’ve made a great team! We’ve been able to visit some amazing places together while teaching in Korea! 

(Below – we love hiking together, there’s lots of great places to hike in Busan and we live at the base of Jangsan Mountain.)


a couple looking off into the view on top of a mountain trail in korea
Couple posing with a view off a cliff in the background in Korea


Support System

Lastly, life as an expat can be lonely at first. It’s easy to meet foreigners in Korea – they stick out in a crowd! But for the first few weeks after we arrived I was jet lagged and spending most of my time adjusting to a new job and unpacking. From my experience, it seems like the most stressful time is the first month after you move abroad. Many of my friends agree with this as well – it can feel a little overwhelming moving your whole life abroad and starting a new job at the same time, all while feeling homesick. Luckily for me, Colin was always there for me and I never felt lonely!


Couple posing in front of a lit heart in Korea


Just Do It!

I would highly encourage anyone who has the chance to move abroad to do it! You’ll learn so much about yourself and other cultures, and have more appreciation for simple things lots of us take for granted. If you are lucky enough to be teaching as a couple in Korea, you’ll be even more lucky – I know I am! 


Couple posing in front of a neon sign with a hand making the heart gesture in Korea


Monica Russo graduated from Texas A&M University with a Bachelors in Psychology and is from St. Louis, Missouri. After spending a couple years in social work she decided to move abroad to learn more about other cultures and to challenge herself to live outside her comfort zone. Moving abroad hasn’t always been easy, but it has always been worth it and Monica loves living in Busan, South Korea. She loves new experiences, hiking, exploring other cities and helping others any way that she can. Her philosophy with her students is work hard, play hard! 

Discovering My Heritage

The Question

“Where are you from?” the nail salon owner asks. She tilts her head when I say, “America.” “Oh, but you look Korean,” she says confused. “I am,” I try to clarify. “I’m here teaching English.” It’s a conversation I’ve had a few times since I arrived in Korea five months ago, armed with little more than a few Korean words and phrases and scared absolutely stiff. I was born in Busan but adopted to the United States by an American family when I was a baby. I’ve had very little experience with Korean culture, and I was very anxious about it. Little did I know, just how much I would be discovering my heritage om this journey as an English teacher. 

Getting Adjusted

In fact, for the first week before teaching training, I said almost nothing to anyone. Looking into so many faces that looked like my own, I was overcome with an odd sense of guilt and nerves. Feeling disappointed in myself for not speaking the language, I was panicked inside that I didn’t learn more about my culture before coming here. Thankfully, a lot of those worries gradually dissipated over time. One step at a time, I achieved some small goals. Ordering at a restaurant — pointing at the menu and all — purchasing something by myself (without the helpful presence of my non-Asian husband), and practicing the little Korean I do know in daily life. 

Taking the Plunge

It’s scary to come to a new country certainly — I almost talked myself out of it so many times. But every day, I’m so grateful I took the plunge. For the first time, I fully pushed myself out of my comfort zone. I’ve made new friends, some of whom I feel like I could have for the rest of my life. I’ve traveled. I’ve confronted my social anxiety. I’m learning little bits about where I come from and practicing a language that was actually the first sound I heard after birth. Discovering my heritage has been extraordinary.


College To Korea

I first decided to teach English in Korea during my senior year of college, many years ago. It was just a pipe dream then. When my mom got sick, I put things off indefinitely. It was a good decision, since I was home when she eventually passed away. Life got in the way then, and I struggled to put that dream to rest. I tried to shake it off — and failed. It remained, a cloying reminder of things I lost and dreams unrealized.

One day, I decided I’d had enough. It was time to make it happen. And I did. I talked to some friends, one of whom had a friend who’d worked for Chungdahm, and she put me in touch with Aclipse. She gave me the real talk of the things that were great and the things that could be difficult. Pay was good, but they were strict, she explained. The curriculum was set, and there was CCTV at all times in the classroom. It protects you, she said. But it can also make you feel nervous. Thankfully, I’ve never had an issue with it, and I mostly forget about it during class.


Finding the Groove

All in all, I’m really lucky that I found such a good home with my school. I was placed in Daejeon, roughly the middle of the country, in a kindergarten program called i-Garten. Every day, I come to school smiling. Partially for the kids and partially because I’m proud of myself for taking the leap. I get to make a difference in the kids’ lives every day and get to know a part of myself I never got to. At 30, I’m having the time of my life, meeting new people, traveling the world, and learning more about myself. Everyone’s experience is different, but I wouldn’t trade mine for the world.


Three women overlooking a traditional Korean village

Rebekah Alcalde: Born in Busan, South Korea, Rebekah was adopted to the United States when she was five months old. She was an avid reader and writer, pursuing a degree in English from the Catholic University of America. Originally interested in teaching secondary education English literature, she served as a private tutor and substitute teacher before switching careers. She served as an assistant editor for a local newspaper and as a freelance marketing, communications and social media associate for several years before realizing her dream of teaching English abroad in South Korea. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, spending time with her husband and new friends, exploring Korea, and saying “yes” to everything in Korea she can.

Small City Living in Korea

A New Beginning

Coming to Korea was the best decision to learn about who I am and what I like. Not only has Korea allowed me to travel to a new country but it has allowed me to live a life I never knew I would have let alone enjoy. I have always had a dream to travel the world, especially experiencing the sensations of Asian countries. Korea has allowed me to start that dream by starting a new life doing something I wasn’t sure I would enjoy – but being pleasantly surprised to enjoy it thoroughly.

Couple posing in front of a mountain in Korea

Bright Lights, Big City

I arrived in Korea with my boyfriend holding my hand to brave this new adventure we sought out together. Back home in South Africa, we lived in one of the biggest cities, Johannesburg, but arriving in Seoul we felt completely overwhelmed by the tall buildings and bustling roads. Seoul was so big and bright when we arrived in the night that we weren’t quite sure where to look or what to do with ourselves at first. Don’t get me wrong, Seoul is a beautiful city now that I’ve had the chance to explore it in a less stressful setting now that I have a phone that works with Korean networks. In addition, I feel a little more comfortable hearing a language that I can pick up and understand the odd word here and there. Having a group of friends wanting to explore Seoul on the odd occasion when the chance permits has also helped to feel a little less overwhelmed too. But after one of these weekends of enjoying a shopping spree, the nightlife or a simple coffee, it is always terrific to journey home to our city in the countryside, according to the locals.


Finding Your Center

Traveling from our quaint residence is one of the best things about our new life. We came to Korea searching for excitement and adventure. Having the opportunity to travel and experience Korean culture was a main contender in our efforts to move to Korea and find a perfect fit for a home. Gumi has provided us with a central position in the country where it is easy for us to travel to different areas and be able to party at festivals, let off fireworks on the beach and make and drink traditional green tea. Being in a city that doesn’t have the wide range of activities that other cities do has provided us with enough reason for us to travel as often as time permits. It is a wonder that we can spend between two and four hours to reach the east coast – and the same goes for the west coast. We have had the opportunity to see and experience far more than was planned for our initial pleasure while still being able to enjoy some of the commonalities we became accustomed to back home.


Bigger Ain’t Always Better

We live in a small suburb of Gumi that requires us to travel in order to engage in various activities downtown. Catching a taxi is only a 15-minute drive to wherever it is that we desire to go. This is one of the wonders of living in a small city. Not only is the driving time short lived but the ease of catching up with friends is well lived. Gumi may not be able to brag the various assortment of restaurants that larger cities can, but the restaurants Gumi has on offer satisfies the need to fulfill hunger and quench thirst. Don’t worry if you ever come to Gumi you will definitely be able to eat traditional Kimbap, Bulgogi and my personal favorite Korean barbeque. The arrangement of restaurants we do have to enjoy allow for time for friends and colleagues to become well acquainted and catch up on the days gone by. Making friends in Gumi is incredibly easy as we have one of the best foreigner bars in my opinion, albeit a biased one at that. Meeting people at Corona is an odd delight. Exchanging different stories of our history and background  and where in Gumi we are based allows us to make connections that are easy to keep intact. Living in a smaller city has allowed us to meet a good majority of the other foreigners also situated in Gumi. It is incredibly interesting to be able to chat with a teacher who teaches your students in their public school classroom compared to that of your academy classroom.


Michelle Cloete: Born and raised in Johannessburg, South Africa. Michelle followed her love of history from high school in pursuing a degree in Archaeology at the University of the Witwatersrand. Once she completed her Honors degree in Bioarchaeology, Michelle furthered her education by completing a Masters of Science in Medicine with a focus in Forensic Anthropology. While Michelle was completing her degrees she was fortunate enough to be able to work with children through outreach projects in Archaeology and through her own pursuits too. Michelle realised her enjoyment of working with children and so she pursued completing a Postgraduate Certificate of Education. Michelle ended up teaching for 6 months at a school as apart time teacher in History and Geography before pursuing a teaching career in South Korea. Michelle has tried to immerse herself in all that Gumi, her now residence, has to offer by engaging with other foreigners and locals, trying out new experiences and enjoying all that South Korea has to offer.

Day Trip to Semiwon Garden

While Seoul so much to do and explore, someone who enjoys exploring the countryside and taking the vast, lush and enchanting nature of South Korea, needs the occasional trip away from the hustle and bustle. My most recent adventure lead me to Yangsu in Gyeongi. My objective was to explore Semiwon Garden and Dumulmeori. It was such a rewarding trip. I hope you’ll add it to your list of places to see while you teach in South Korea.

Semiwon Garden

From my knowledge, this botanical garden is the only garden in the world that is solely dedicated to the lotus flower. It is open year around. However, it is most beautiful and worth the trip in the summer when the lotus flowers are in full bloom. There are a total of six ponds in the garden, and plenty of sculptures and areas to relax and enjoy the unique atmosphere the lotus flower ponds offer. The kimchi pot fountain towards the main entrance of the garden is great for photos! Also, for any Avatar: The Last Air Bender fans, if you time the fountain correctly, you can get a fun video of yourself ‘water bending’. Also, there is a green house on the grounds that is worth stopping by if it is too hot outside. Make sure to take a good camera with you!


Dumulmeori Park

Dumulmeori is an absolutely gorgeous park. The name refers to where two waters meet, which fits it perfectly. It is located where Bukhangang River and Namhangang River meet. There are beautiful lake views, and a very large lotus flower pond, too. Many people ride bikes through the park and stop for picnics. Vendors sell many delicious street foods. Also, you can buy cute animal-shaped cotton candy. It’s a great spot for a summer date!


Giselle Moreno is from California, USA where she attended the University of California, Riverside. While a student, she always worked with international students and she decided to teach English abroad upon graduating during her third year of university. It was through the experiences of being an English tutor for international students that she felt really fulfilled. She found it particularly easy to get along with Korean students which is why she decided to pursue a teaching opportunity in Korea. She even attended Yonsei University in Seoul for a semester as a study abroad student and fell in love with the city. She is currently working at ChungDahm Learning’s April Daechi branch located in Gangnam, Seoul.

Why I Recommended Aclipse to My Friend

Crazy Idea

I lived and taught in Seoul, South Korea for a year from August 2016-September 2017 and it is definitely the best decision I’ve ever made. My first thought when I first had the crazy idea to move abroad was to, of course, talk to friends and family for advice! In these conversations, I actually learned that a friend of a friend had lived in Korea and loved it so much that he stayed for 3 years. Obviously, my next move was to talk to this person. He had the same goals as me: teach, travel and explore! He had enjoyed his time in Seoul and found it to be a very fun, interesting and safe place to live. Little did I know this is exactly why I would be recommending Aclipse to MY friend!

English language teachers posing in front at their school with Christmas hats

The Reference

He let me know that he had worked with Colette at Aclipse and how easy she made the whole process. In my first conversation with Colette, she told me about her experience living and working in Japan and how that led to her career path in recruiting for English teachers. She made it a very easy, step by step process and it never felt overwhelming. I interviewed with her, created my “intro” video, got steps on how to apply for my visa and everything else I could possibly need. Within weeks, I was placed at ChungDahm April in Jamsil, Seoul which was exactly what I wanted since I wanted to teach younger kids.


A group or Chungdahm learning English students posing at their school
A foreign English language teacher posing with selfie stick with her students in a Chungdahm Learning classroom in Korea


All in all, it was a great experience and I have Aclipse and CDI to thank! I will always look back at that time on my life positively and really appreciate the opportunity that I was given. I recently had a friend reach out to me because she is wanting to teach abroad and I recommended Aclipse and CDI for her to teach through. It not only allowed me to fund my travels (which included Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand), but I really enjoyed my job and the students that I taught.


Two foreign English language teachers posing at a baseball game in Korea
Two English language teachers in a canoe on a river in Korea
Foreign English language teacher posing with a Korean staff member at a Chungdahm Learning institute in Korea
Two native English language teachers posing on a mountain in Korea
A few native English language teachers posing in Halloween costumes at a Chungdahm Learning location in Korea


Emily is from Chicago, IL and attended the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana for her undergrad degree. After finishing college, she spent 5 years working in student advising for a university and while she enjoyed and felt fulfilled in this role, she craved an opportunity to live, teach and travel abroad. She had never been to Asia, and after much research decided that the lifestyle and culture in South Korea would be the best fit. Coming from Chicago, she knew she’d want the big city feel of Seoul and taught at ChungDahm Learning’s April Jamsil branch located in Jamsil, Seoul.