Category: Lifestyle

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Teaching And Living In Ilsan

Where I'm From

I’m a beach girl who spent the last few years in big cities—from NYC to Madrid back to NYC. The moment I decided to pick up my life and move across the world to Korea, I knew I did not want to be in the big city anymore. I missed waking up to the sounds of nature, but I was also wise enough to know I had become accustomed to access. Access to variation and choices, which I wasn’t necessarily willing to give up. I held my breath. With little research and a lot of trust in my amazing recruiter, I ended up in a place that more than met my desires and even exceeded them! Here’s what it’s like living in Ilsan!

 

High view of Madrid, Spain streets

Where I'm At!

A few months before my departure from New York City, I was informed I would be placed in a city called Ilsan, or ‘a mountain’. Ilsan is about an hour northwest of Seoul in Goyang. I figured, in the worst-case scenario, I could always commute to Seoul on the weekends. However, it turned out that Ilsan is its own vibrant haven. Home to the biggest man-made lake in Asia, there is so much to do outside and many unique places to eat. You can rent bikes and coast for miles or have a picnic in the massive space that is Ilsan Lake Park during cherry blossom season. There are even multiple water parks in Ilsan

 

Endless Access

Ilsan is easy to walk, but it is also connected by endless bus lines and subways. I never feel isolated. The variety of things to do is something I least expected. Some days I get off late, and some days I’m off completely, so it’s nice to have activities that meet those time differences. There are dance studios, two huge open-street shopping malls (Western Dom and Lafesta), endless pochas, 24-hour spas in basements, movie theaters, and endless opportunities to do karaoke. 

While I am still exploring my new home and becoming accustomed to my surroundings, I am thankful to be in a place that feels extremely local and quaint yet well connected and accessible. I highly recommend considering teaching and working in Ilsan if you want to be in the center of nature, with full accessibility to the benefits of city life!

Jasmine Phillips is a wanderlust explorer currently living and teaching English in Ilsan, South Korea. Jasmine is originally from Virginia Beach, VA but has lived in many places, such as Berlin, Madrid and New York City. Her undergrad is in Cultural Anthropology with a minor in international social justice. Her hopes are to eventually continue her studies in Ethnomusicology in South Africa. When Jasmine isn’t working she is curled up with a heart-wrenching memoir, spending time with strangers or painting giant canvases.

Making The Most Of Summer In Korea

Summer has always been one of my favorite seasons for obvious reasons–sunshine, warm nights, beach trips, endless ice cream, and more. Once I moved to Korea to teach English, I realized that navigating the summer season was going to be a little different from what I was used to back home. With the right planning, you can make the most of the summer and enjoy all the unique experiences Korea has to offer.

 

Public fountain show at Banpo bridge in the summer in Korea

Escape To Nature

Summer is a great time to enjoy all of the beautiful nature that Korea has to offer. My favorite summertime destination is Yangyang beach. Yangyang is perfect for water sports enthusiasts like me because they offer surfboard and kayak rentals. I took a surfing lesson there last summer and it was a blast! Yangyang also has a skatepark and some really fun beach clubs and bars, so it’s an ideal place to spend the weekend.

 

If you’re into hiking, then you should check out Seoraksan National Park. This is one of the most beautiful views in all of Korea and features stunning waterfalls and rock formations along the way. We caught the most amazing sunset there which made the hike a core memory of my time in Korea. Seoraksan is a couple hours drive from Seoul, so if you’re looking for something local I recommend you try one of these other hikes.

 

An English teacher hiking Seoraksan Mountain in the Summer in Korea

Events and Festivals

One of the biggest events of the summer is the Boryeong Mud Festival. This festival happens every July and is a great chance to see the Korean coast while enjoying DJ sets, mudslides, and a chance to make new friends. Another great summer event is Waterbomb. Waterbomb is aptly named because it’s a music festival where festival goers have water fights while dancing under the sun. The 2024 lineup is featuring amazing artists like Jay Park, Jessi, Taemin, and more.

English teachers attending the water bomb festival in the summer in Korea

Beating the Heat

If you want to enjoy all the summer events, you’ve got to find ways to stay cool. I grew up with the dry heat of the Canadian summer, so the humidity in Korea took me by surprise. Fortunately, I have found reliable ways to beat the heat. My top tip is to invest in a hand-held rechargeable fan. This will be your best friend during the summer months! My fan also doubles as a phone charging bank which is super convenient. Fans like this are usually sold in subway stations or stores like Daiso.

 

You should also be sure to carry a light-weight umbrella. Not only will this be useful during the rainy season, but Koreans also use umbrellas to block the sun’s rays. We all know it’s much cooler in the shade, so this trick has saved my life while walking to work. My last tip is to invest in a summer wardrobe with moisture-wicking fabrics. I bought myself some shirts and dresses at Lotte department store that were either linen or polyester and it has made a huge difference keeping cool in the summer.

 

People using umbrellas to block the sun in the summer in Korea

Once you’re set with the right clothes and accessories, you can beat the heat by indulging in traditional summer treats like bingsu. Bingsu is a shaved ice dessert that features a ton of delicious flavors. My favorite are mango and green tea. I also suggest you get a pass to the public pool closest to your neighborhood. My friends and I spend nearly every weekend at the pool so we can enjoy the outdoors and stay refreshed by hopping in and out of the water. If you’re not outdoorsy, I recommend you spend your summer enjoying all of the air-conditioned cafes in Korea. Cafe culture here is next level and they never skimp on AC!

 

Shaved ice dessert called Bingsu at a cafe in summer in Korea

Summer Memories

Whether you’re a seasoned expat or a new teacher, summer in Korea is truly special and I hope that you can make the most of every moment. There is no shortage of things to do, so slap on that sunscreen and get out there and enjoy!

 

An English teacher holding sparklers on the beach in the summer in Korea

Michelle Duquette is from Toronto, Canada and moved to South Korea in 2015. She has a Bachelors in English literature and a Masters in ESL Education. Michelle has taught at Creverse campuses in Gangneung, Songpa, and Mokdong and currently works as a CDI and April Trainer. Michelle never set out to be a teacher but fell in love with Korean culture and the excitement of being in the classroom. Michelle lives in Seoul with her partner and two cats, Cherry and Frost. 

Safety In South Korea

A Stark Difference

When my friend from America visited me, we were walking down an unfamiliar street one night on our way to dinner when she said, “You know, I would never do this in America. I’d be too scared.” Thanks to CCTV coverage and good legislation, I find myself almost taking for granted the safety I experience in Korea. My friend’s comment was a reality check and a reminder of why I’m so grateful I moved to Korea in the first place. Random acts of violence in Korea are extremely rare, which is why I feel so safe when walking around Seoul at night time, even as a woman alone!

 

Low Theft

One of my favorite parts of living in Korea is that I can leave my stuff virtually anywhere and no one will take it. I once left a suitcase next to Suseong Lake for an hour-long boat ride and returned to find it exactly where I left it. I frequently leave my phone or laptop out at cafes when I need to use the restroom or grab my order. Not only is this a very common occurrence in Korea, but I also feel genuinely comfortable leaving my stuff out. In the time it’s taken me to write this blog post at a cafe in Seoul, I’ve left my laptop, phone, and wallet unattended twice. Does it sound too good to be true? Check out this video that tests the theory that theft really isn’t an issue in Korea.

 

(Disclaimer: I am not recommending you make it a habit of leaving belongings unattended for long periods of time! Of course, you always want to proceed with caution, but many will reiterate the same experiences.)  

It’s not just personal items that aren’t being stolen. In Korea, there are self-service stores, meaning you can walk into the store where there are no employees! Given the language barrier, this is really great for those days when you want to pick up a snack after work, but you don’t want to speak with anyone! Plus, I think it really shows just how trusting Koreans are! 

 

No Gun Violence

In my opinion, the only thing better than the low theft rate is the lack of gun violence in Korea. South Korea has strict gun laws, which means no one lives in fear of mass shootings. Every time I step into my classroom, I feel unbelievably grateful to live in a place where the children I teach can get their education in peace. Moreover, I feel such comfort knowing I can do the job I love without fearing for my own safety.

 

A Native English teacher in a classroom with Korean middle school students in South Korea
Seoul city streets at night

Safety For Women

In comparison to other foreign cities, Korea is extremely safe for women. My friends and I have never experienced cat-calling, and I frequently walk alone at night without worrying about the men around me. In America, I honestly never walked around alone at night without pepper spray or another method of defense close at hand. No matter where you are, it’s important to remain cautious. However, as a woman in Korea, I find I’m able to enjoy myself when out far more than I ever did in the U.S.

 

Diana Richtman is a writer and ESL teacher living in Seoul, South Korea. Originally from Savannah, Georgia in the United States, Diana holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia in English & Women’s Studies. After receiving her TEFL certification, Diana moved to South Korea where she works at one of Creverse’s April Institutes. When Diana isn’t working, she loves exploring Korea, drinking warm cups of tea, and scaring away her friends with her karaoke performances. 

How To Take A Weekend Trip To Busan

One of my absolute favorite parts of living in South Korea is how safe, affordable, and fun weekend trips can be within the country. Here are some of my best tips and recommendations for visiting Busan!

 

Getting There

You can get to Busan by plane, train, or bus. I opted for the train. After work, I took a taxi to Seoul Station for about 16,000 won, which is only about $11 USD! Taking public transportation is totally feasible, but I decided to splurge to get there a little faster. The train stations are extremely easy to navigate in Korea. Once I was there, I grabbed some snacks for the journey and boarded the high-speed KTX bullet train. Two and a half hours later, I was in Busan! (One-way tickets can be as cheap as $25 USD for a regular train and $37 USD for a high speed train.)

 

Where To Stay

Korea has all the accommodation options you would expect to see in the U.S. from AirBnB to hotels and hostels! There’s something for everyone regardless of budget. I actually met up with some family from back home, and we splurged on a nice AirBnB overlooking Gwangalli Beach. However, budget travelers don’t need to worry. We saw many inexpensive accommodations along the coast. While Haeundae Beach is another popular area in Busan, I loved staying near Gwangalli Beach!

 

What To Do

Now that you’ve gotten yourself to Busan and have somewhere to stay, the fun part begins: Exploring the city! Here are a few recommendations I have from my recent trip!

  • Mereumereu: With a balcony view and a cute puppy to greet customers, this little cafe is a great brunch spot for anyone taking a weekend trip to Busan! If you’re staying near Gwangalli Beach, this cafe is on the way to Haedong Yonggung Temple! I recommend the souffle pancakes!
  • Haedong Yonggung Temple: A temple by the sea! Haedong Yonggung Temple is a must see for anyone wanting to see what a Buddhist temple is like and enjoy the beautiful South Korean coast!
  • Yungkangjjie: We stumbled upon this Taiwanese restaurant completely by accident, but it turned out to be a Michelin star restaurant! Casual, delicious, and quick, this restaurant is a must visit while in Busan. I especially recommend the mapo tofu and fried eggplant!
 

Be Spontaneous

Korea has taught me to be spontaneous and look off the beaten path when it comes to travel. Whether you’re hoping to move to Korea or already live here, I encourage you to book the train, plane, or bus ticket and start exploring this beautiful country on the weekends!

Diana Richtman is a writer and ESL teacher living in Seoul, South Korea. Originally from Savannah, Georgia in the United States, Diana holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia in English & Women’s Studies. After receiving her TEFL certification, Diana moved to South Korea where she works at one of Creverse’s April Institutes. When Diana isn’t working, she loves exploring Korea, drinking warm cups of tea, and scaring away her friends with her karaoke performances. 

My First Weeks Teaching In Korea

Moving to a new country always comes with a mix of excitement and challenges. Teaching in Korea has brought on a whirlwind of new experiences and surprises that has made this one of the best choices I have ever made! Here’s what it’s been like so far living in Korea and teaching at April English in Cheonan, South Korea. 

 

Convenience Is King

One of the things that I noticed within my first week of living and teaching in Korea is the proximity of everything. Hailing from the Toronto area, I’m accustomed to relying on a car for even the most basic errands. Here in Korea, you will be surprised to find that most things (if not everything) you could possibly need is within walking distance. Before I moved to Korea I was really stressed out because I needed a haircut before my flight,  but it was too late to book one. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to find a good salon close by, since I knew I wouldn’t have a car in Korea. 

 

I quickly realized it was a complete non-issue! There’s probably 5 hair salons within a 15-minute walk from my apartment. Everywhere I walk I see cozy cafes, and endless restaurants. There is also a convenience store on every corner of my street. So anytime I’m relaxing and watching some Netflix, I can just quickly run down to the convenience store to grab something if I need a snack or a drink. 

 

Easing In To My Apartment

My apartment came fully furnished, but I still needed to get plates, utensils, cups, bathroom essentials, cleaning supplies etc. Daiso is one of my favorite stores for that. Daiso is the Korean version of the dollar store. It has basically everything you could ever need or want for less than $5. On top of that, everything is so stylish and trendy, and the quality is amazing. You would never even guess that everything in my apartment is from the equivalent of a dollar store! 

 

Teaching And Training

Preparing to teach in a foreign country can be daunting, but the training week was a game changer and helped me to seamlessly transition into the classroom with confidence. When I landed in Korea my training started about 2 days after. The training was for one week. The training covered everything from the lesson plans, classroom management, expectations, and more. My trainer was super friendly and very helpful to me throughout my training week. 

 

The Little Things

One of the first things I tried when I got to Korea was pizza at a Korean chain called “Mr. Pizza.” It is definitely a new experience as Korean-style pizza as it is both a little sweet and extremely cheesy. I was also surprised to see you could order toppings like shrimp and sweet potato! While most people don’t move half way around the world to try Korean-style pizza, it was really fun to just experience something I never knew even existed! I definitely recommend trying it at least once. You can also find popular western chains such as Dominos or Papa Johns if Korean-style pizza isn’t your forte!

 

Moving to Korea was one of the decisions I ever made. From my bustling neighborhood to the convenience of everything, and the invaluable insights gained through training. Each experience has been a stepping stone towards embracing this new chapter of my life. 

Here’s to a year of exploration, learning, and laughter as I navigate the joys of teaching in Korea. I can’t wait to see where my adventure takes me!

 

Aisha Khan is from Brompton, Ontatio, Canada, and earned her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from York University. She held roles in Account Management and Administration at companies like the the Bank of Montreal, TD Canada Trust,  and Air Canada but was looking for a new adventure. She found Aclipse, and decided to take the leap of faith and teach English abroad.

Being A Vegetarian In Korea

Being a Vegetarian in Korea

If there is one thing I’ve realized about Korean food culture, it’s that they love their meat. When I moved to Korea, I was nervous about finding vegetarian friendly restaurants. But never fear! There are actually a lot of vegetarian and vegan options if you know where to look. Here are some tips for ordering as a vegetarian and some of my go-to restaurants!

 

Ordering as a Vegetarian

Most Korean restaurants specialize in one dish and it is typically something like raw fish, pork, beef, or meat barbeque. Almost all Korean dishes include some kind of meat or fish, so I had a hard time finding where to eat at first. My coworkers were all meat-eaters and I didn’t want to miss out on group meals just because of my dietary restrictions. I quickly learned that all restaurants will serve rice with the meal as well as some kind of side dishes, which are 90% vegetables. If there’s nothing you can order straight off the menu, just ask the server for a bowl of rice and then use the side dishes and gochujang sauce to create some bibimbap! Another option you should look out for at meat based restaurants is soft tofu soup. Just keep in mind that other soups like kimchi jjigae and doenjang jjigae will tend to have a meat or fish based broth. I keep a list of veggie options in my phone that I can show to a server in a pinch which includes:

Bibimbap 비빔밥 – A rice dish with an assortment of veggies, seaweed, and egg. 

Gimbap 김밥 – Korean “sushi” rolls, traditionally made with veggies.

Kimchi 김치 – fermented, spicy cabbage.

Banchan 반찬 – side dishes often served alongside entrees, especially at BBQ restaurants. 

Vegetable Dumplings 야채만두 – Korean dumplings filled with veggies and tofu.

 

While getting resourceful at a meat-based restaurant is a great strategy, I also love to eat at restaurants that cater to a vegan and vegetarian diet. Here are some of my all time favorite spots where you don’t need to compromise taste or choice just because of your lifestyle.

 

Plant Cafe

Plant Cafe is a vegan restaurant that has two locations in Seoul: their namesake restaurant and full size bakery in Itaewon and their newest location in Yeonnamdong. Plant’s menu features delicious items like a mushroom burger, macaroni and cheese, cauliflower wings, and even chili cheese fries. They also have lighter options like veggies and hummus, peanut soba noodles, and smoothies. I recently ordered a birthday cake for my friend’s party and the flavors were unreal. Nobody could believe that the banana salted caramel cake was vegan! Plant Cafe is also a great place to enjoy a soy milk latte, a glass of wine, or my favorite, kombucha!

 

Osegyehyang

This might be the best veggie friendly restaurant I’ve been to! Osegyhyang is located in Jongno amidst the winding alleyways. The restaurant is inside a Hanok style building and has a lovely atmosphere where you can sit on the heated floors and enjoy your meal. I love that they offer traditional Korean dishes that are entirely vegan so you don’t have to miss out on enjoying the culture. It is also very easy to order in English which makes the dining experience that much more convenient.

 

Buddha's Belly

Buddha’s Belly is a Thai restaurant that is vegan and vegetarian friendly. Located in Itaewon, this spot is tucked away on top of a hill which means their patio has an incredible view over the city at night. The servers are very friendly and attentive and provide a comfortable dining experience. Last time I ate here, I ordered the green curry and the Thai fried rice with pineapple, which were both incredible. I went with a non-veggie friend and she was pleased that they served meat options too. Buddha’s Belly is a great place when you’re dining with a big group as they offer all types of options.

While navigating vegetarianism in Korea may seem daunting at first, there are plenty of delicious options to enjoy. I recommend you download the app Happy Cow which will recommend other great vegetarian places to enjoy. As you start living and teaching in Korea, rest assured that you can savor the local cuisine while staying true to your dietary preferences. Bon appétit!

Michelle Duquette is from Toronto, Canada and moved to South Korea in 2015. She has a Bachelors in English literature and a Masters in ESL Education. Michelle has taught at Creverse campuses in Gangneung, Songpa, and Mokdong and currently works as a CDI and April Trainer. Michelle never set out to be a teacher but fell in love with Korean culture and the excitement of being in the classroom. Michelle lives in Seoul with her partner and two cats, Cherry and Frost. 

Why I Loved Teaching English In Korea

Applying To Teach On a Whim

My best friend in college is from Seoul, so I decided to visit her the summer before my senior year of College. I was only there for four days, and had no expectations, except to go to a Hello Kitty cafe and to eat a lot of beef. I had close to zero context for Korea, so what I experienced was a sort of reverse Paris Syndrome. Everything took me by surprise, and just felt nice. The crisp cold, the subway jingles, the pace, and the view of a mountain anywhere you looked. 

 

When it was time to look for jobs, I saw a posting on the university job board and applied to teach in Korea on a whim. The idea of finding a cushy corporate job in a big city in the states didn’t sound appealing. Moving abroad and starting over felt ideal. So without giving it much thought, I just did it. I moved in August and so many little things made sense. Having my own apartment with a view of the skyline, walking alone at midnight without worrying about safety, trying foods that not even LA Korean food could live up to. It’s so culturally, historically, aesthetically rich, and there’s such an eye to craft and care that you don’t see in the states. 

 

Moving To Korea

My homesickness dissipated very quickly. Just within training week, I met other teachers who became my best friends. It was surprisingly a lot easier to make friends than I anticipated. I was part of a lot of Facebook groups, but more often I was able to meet people just by being out and about at cafes or at clubs. I also met more and more teachers from other branches, which helped, as we were able to share anecdotes of the hilarious, sweet, and ridiculous things our students would say and do. I’ve maintained these friendships to this day. One just had a baby, another I just had dinner with in Seoul, and one who I video call every month, often to just reminisce about our years together teaching English in Korea. 

 

English teachers acting silly at a restaurant in Korea

My First Year

Within that first year, I traveled to Mongolia and the Philippines, got lasik eye surgery, tried live octopus, and was tour guide to my family and multiple friends from home. I quickly realized that it was very easy to save money, even with shopping, traveling, and eating out a bunch. Because of severance pay and receiving my pension contributions, I was able to save about 18,000 USD within the year, which let me travel abroad for two years after that. I went through so many places in Asia, Europe, and even lived in South Africa for a while. When I ran out of money, it was a no brainer, so I applied to teach in Korea again.

 

Round 2!

This time, I got even more from the experience. I taught with CDI, with the older students, which I loved because we were able to really engage with each other. I got asked to be a marketing assistant, which was so fun and easy, sharing details about my experience with prospective candidates. Shortly after, I also got recruited to be a trainer at the Training Center, showing the incoming teachers the ropes. Training was honestly just as fun as teaching, giving me extra income and a chance to meet even more new people. These opportunities came so seamlessly, and the jobs were so easy and enjoyable that I didn’t have to think too much about them. 

 

Korean middle school students acting silly in their English class at CDI.

Life After Korea

After that year, I felt a little bit antsy to travel elsewhere, so I ended up moving back to South Africa for a while. I had saved a lot that I didn’t have to worry about working, and delved into learning how to tattoo, and pursuing other creative interests. I wouldn’t have been able to do that without all the savings I had from teaching. I’ve since moved to New York, but I’m always fantasizing about what would’ve happened if I stayed. As silly as it sounds, I feel like making that decision to move to Korea really remedied any chances of me having a mid-life crisis. I spent my 20s doing exactly what I wanted, with a low-stress, fulfilling job, safe home environment, and ample time for hobbies. I experienced so many things that I wouldn’t have imagined I’d do throughout a lifetime. I bonded with my students, and still email with them to this day. I visited so many countries, met some of my best friends, and basically let my curiosity lead me wherever. Teaching in Korea allowed me to explore all my desires, and I have no regrets about how I’ve spent my time up to this point. 

 

When Aclipse reached out to me last fall about becoming a recruiter, it was an even easier decision. It feels like such a full circle moment, being on the opposite end of the process that I started all those years ago. Whenever candidates ask me for my honest opinion, I say just go. You really never know what is out there for you, and it will probably exceed what you can even imagine. 

 

Nico Salvador is from Los Angeles, California and graduated from Brown University with a degree in English. She planned to stay in Korea for one year after graduation, but ended up teaching on and off for five years. After travelling the world, Nico now lives in New York and works as a Recruiter for Aclipse while pursuing other new ventures. She has held several key roles at Creverse throughout her time teaching in Korea, and we can’t wait to see where her journey takes her next! 

Staying At a Buddhist Temple In Korea

Stepping Into Another World

When I first walked up the steep incline from the bus station to the entrance of Guinsa Temple, I felt a little like I was stepping into another world. A quieter, more tranquil one. Nestled between the mountains, Guinsa Temple’s beauty is both unexpected and awe-inspiring. I knew immediately my weekend at the temple would be unforgettable.

This is one of the many reasons why I love living in South Korea. While I live and work in Seoul, the nation’s capital, it’s easy for me to hop on a bus or train on the weekends and explore different parts of the country. Buddhist temples in South Korea offer temple stays, a unique experience where you can spend the night at a temple and live like a monk. If you choose to move to South Korea, this is an absolute bucket list item. I’m already planning my next temple stay!

 

Roofline of a Buddhist temple in Korea

Food For Thought

The first thing I did upon arrival was change into the clothes the temple provided for me, a simple set of pants and a vest that I wore over my own shirt. Next, I went over to the cafeteria for lunch before the experience officially began. Guinsa has a public cafeteria, where they loaded me up with delicious vegetarian food. Rice, soup, green beans, tofu, cantaloupe, and, of course, kimchi were just a few of the things I ate while there.

 

A traditional Buddhist meal at a temple in Korea

Next, I went over to the meeting hall to make mala beads with the rest of the temple stay participants (about 15 people from all over the world). Afterwards, we went to have afternoon tea with a monk. This by far was one of the most rewarding aspects of the entire experience for me. Guinsa Temple actually has more female monks than male monks, and we got the chance to speak with a female one. Although she spoke Korean and I only know English, our guide for the temple stay was a wonderful interpreter, so I never felt like I was missing out!

 

Buddhist beads that were made by a visitor on a temple stay in Korea

Witnessing The Ceremony

After a tour of the entire temple grounds, we attended an early evening ceremony. It was fascinating to participate in a religious tradition so different from the one I was raised in. I thought I might feel uncomfortable or out of place, but I never did. While I have no plans to convert to Buddhism any time soon, having this experience at all has challenged and expanded my worldview for the better.

 

Finally, after dinner in the monks’ private dining hall, I went back to my room for bedtime. I shared the room with strangers, three women from around the world. I’d like to say we all went to bed early, but that’s not what happened. We spent hours, in typical sleepover fashion, oversharing everything on our minds: Travel, dreams, politics, inside jokes created just a few hours earlier.

 

This Is Why I Did This!

One of my favorite parts of living abroad is all the opportunities I’ve had to meet people with different experiences and nationalities from my own. These are the types of memories I know I’ll cherish for the rest of my life, whether it’s connecting with a 72-year-old Buddhist monk or laughing until midnight with a fellow American who grew up on the other side of the country from me. 

 

People taking a walk inside the grounds at a Buddhist temple in Kora
A view of the Guinsa Temples nestled in the mountains in Korea

Life-long Memories

Eventually, we went to sleep but not for long. My alarm went off at 3 a.m. I rolled out of my bed—a sleeping pad on the floor—and made the trek back up to the main temple. Huddled in the cold, we waited outside for the 3:30 a.m. ceremony to start. This time, it involved meandering the grounds with the monks before making our way back to the temple, where the ceremony continued. The mountains in the middle of the night are quiet, reverent things. I won’t forget the chill in the air, the sound of the monks singing, or the feeling that I was a part of something special any time soon.

 

Check out templestay.com to check out all the different temples and locations you can visit!

Diana Richtman is a writer and ESL teacher living in Seoul, South Korea. Originally from Savannah, Georgia in the United States, Diana holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia in English & Women’s Studies. After receiving her TEFL certification, Diana moved to South Korea where she works at one of Creverse’s April Institutes. When Diana isn’t working, she loves exploring Korea, drinking warm cups of tea, and scaring away her friends with her karaoke performances. 

Achieving Work-Life Balance While Teaching In Korea

Tips For Work-Life Balance In Korea

Many people struggle to keep a work-life balance. This is especially true for people who are newer to the teaching field than more experienced teachers. Add on top of that experiencing a new country for the first time, and it can be easy to get overwhelmed. Here are some tips I’ve learned for how to create a peaceful work-life balance, so you can enjoy your time in Korea to the fullest! 

Ask For Help

Initially, my move to Korea was challenging because I didn’t have the same support system I had back home in the States. I knew it would be really important that I made friends and bonded with my coworkers early into my time here. I’m so glad I did because now I have an amazing community to lean on. When I feel overwhelmed with work or in my personal life, asking for help from one of my friends here in Seoul always helps lift the burden. It’s just as rewarding as when I get to return the favor. As someone who is new to teaching, this has been especially true when it comes to asking for help at work.

 

Set Boundaries

I have really strict boundaries for myself when it comes to work. For example, even if there are still papers to be graded, I never stay late. I also consciously try not to worry about my students or how well I’m teaching them when I’m off the clock. It’s really easy in such a people-oriented job to dwell on these things, but I’ve found having a work-life balance has made me a better teacher. When I’m away from work, I focus on enjoying Korea. When I’m at work, I am focused on my students.

 

Build A Routine

Without a doubt, the best thing I’ve done for my work-life balance is build a routine. When you live abroad, you experience something new and different nearly every day. Even eight months into living abroad, this holds true. Building healthy, easy habits into my daily life has eliminated a lot of stress and has made it possible for me to enjoy Korea and teaching even more. During the day before work, I always take a walk around my neighborhood and stop into my local coffee shop. The lady working knows my order and starts making it before I’ve even reached the counter. 

 

Whether it’s hitting the gym or becoming a regular at a late night food stall, familiar faces, places, and healthy habits will make it so much easier for you to feel connected to Korea and ready for work.

 

Set Priorities

As someone who wants to be doing everything all at once, this tip hurts a little bit, which probably means it’s the most important one. Everyone decides to teach in Korea for slightly different reasons. For me, I really wanted to experience a new culture and travel the world, so in my spare time, I’ve prioritized taking language classes and taking day trips from Seoul. Others might move to Korea because they’re passionate about teaching and K-pop. For those people, they might prioritize concerts and take extra work opportunities when they arise to build up their teaching skills. Once you figure out what’s important to you, balancing life in Korea becomes so much easier.

 

English teachers in Korea laughing in front of a pagoda
K-pop music festival in Korea

Remember This Is A Once In A Lifetime Opportunity

Another way of saying this is simple: Don’t stress it! It’s hard to explain just how surreal it feels to live and teach in Korea after years of dreading going to work at my desk jobs and secretly dreaming of living abroad. I know one day I’ll likely move on from Korea, but in the meantime, I try to make every second count. That doesn’t always mean going out on an adventure. More often than not, it involves sitting back and feeling grateful for the life I’ve built for myself here in Korea with close friends. If you can manage to do that every once in a while, I promise everything else with work-life balance will fall into place with time!

 

Diana Richtman is a writer and ESL teacher living in Seoul, South Korea. Originally from Savannah, Georgia in the United States, Diana holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia in English & Women’s Studies. After receiving her TEFL certification, Diana moved to South Korea where she works at one of Creverse’s April Institutes. When Diana isn’t working, she loves exploring Korea, drinking warm cups of tea, and scaring away her friends with her karaoke performances. 

Visiting Japan While Teaching English In Korea

Teach English And Travel!

Perhaps my favorite thing about teaching English in Korea is how easily accessible travel is. In just six  months of living in South Korea, I’ve traveled to 4 bucket list cities in the country and spent countless weekends exploring Seoul itself. From Jeju Island and its clear blue water to Jeonju and its beautiful architecture, South Korea truly has so many epic places to explore. Join me on my latest excursion visiting Japan!

 

Native English Language teacher taking a picture in front of cherry blossoms in Japan

Popular East Asian Destinations

When I decided to take my first international trip (yes, it’s financially and logistically possible to travel internationally while teaching English in Korea), I wasn’t sure what to expect. However, I was so delighted to realize that traveling internationally from Korea is just as easy as traveling domestically. Some popular international destinations from Korea include Japan, Vietnam, China, and Thailand.

 

Tokyo Travel Costs

For my first trip, I flew to Tokyo, Japan for a week.  Gimpo Airport and the flight (2 hours and 20 minutes) were a breeze. When I lived in the United States and would travel internationally, I always suffered from horrible jet lag. This time, I got to have a once-in-a-lifetime vacation while never switching time zones from Korea or dealing with the fatigue and brain fog that accompanies jet lag. I ended up staying in a hostel for my week in Tokyo, which only cost me about $160 USD in total. Plus, I got to meet people from all over the world!  Airfare from Seoul to Tokyo is extremely affordable in my opinion. Depending on when you decide to go, it can cost as little as $170 USD! 

 

The first time I set foot in Asia was when I moved to Korea to teach English. The most rewarding part of vacationing in Japan was getting to see a different side of Asia than what I’ve been exposed to in Korea. It gave me a deeper appreciation for Korean culture, particularly the food and the language. A few of the highlights were learning to make gyoza and visiting Sensoji Temple. It brought back memories of visiting Guinsa Temple in Korea last fall, and it inspired me to sign up for a kimchi making class here in Seoul!

 

Residency Pays Off!

When I returned to the airport in Korea, I got the best surprise. Because I am an ARC holder (the residency card you receive while teaching English in Korea), I got to go through the line with Korean passport holders and skip customs with the other citizens. Not only did this feel a little like having a super power because the line was faster, but it also made me feel like I belong in Korea in a way I’ve never experienced before! It was the perfect homecoming after a week of international travel visiting Japan!

Diana Richtman is a writer and ESL teacher living in Seoul, South Korea. Originally from Savannah, Georgia in the United States, Diana holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia in English & Women’s Studies. After receiving her TEFL certification, Diana moved to South Korea where she works at one of Creverse’s April Institutes. When Diana isn’t working, she loves exploring Korea, drinking warm cups of tea, and scaring away her friends with her karaoke performances.