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. 


4 female English teachers posing for a picture in Seoul Korea

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!