Moving to a new place across the world before ever having visited that country may seem like a crazy idea to some, but that’s exactly what Anna Martinson did when she packed her bags and moved to South Korea. Anna hails from the small town of LaBelle, Florida where the population barely reaches over 4,500, but she has never had the stereotypical “small town girl” mindset.
Fresh out of college and at the ripe age of 22, Anna knew that going to Korea was the right move for her after having spent so many years interested in the language and culture of the Korean people. Now, as she embarks on her second year away from her home in Florida, Anna is happy to report that she’s still enjoying her life as an English-teaching expat in South Korea.
What first sparked your interest in teaching abroad?
I always liked teaching other people and tutoring friends in English, and did a minor in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL). I enjoy other cultures and languages, so teaching abroad is an ideal situation for both of those things.
Why did you choose to teach in Korea?
I was really interested in Korean culture, and had never been to Asia. I really wanted to learn about the culture and the language while teaching at the same time.
What did your family and friends think when you left?
They thought I was either crazy or that I was going to North Korea, haha.
Describe the school where you worked and your position there.
I was at a private school, which taught kindergarten through middle school – I taught all the grades in between. It was a very stressful school to work at, but it was also the best English school in the area.
How did you get your job?
I found it through a recruiter in Korea, interviewed over Skype, and got hired. I found my recruiter through researching recruiting websites and looking at reviews from other foreign teachers.
What was your typical day like?
I taught about 10 classes a day, from 9 am to 7 pm. I taught kindergarten in the morning, elementary in the afternoon, and middle school in the evening. We served lunch to the kids around noon.
What was your favorite thing about living and working in Korea?
I loved meeting new people there, and just learning about other people’s experiences teaching and living abroad. There are so many people with interesting stories, and it’s cool to realize that there are so many opportunities to work/live abroad.
What was your least favorite?
My least favorite thing was probably the work schedule. The hours were crazy, and we often worked overtime for events. It was a really long work day, and quite stressful as well.
Did you experience culture shock? If so, what were some of the things that surprised you?
I did experience culture shock. People dressed a lot nicer than in the USA; people didn’t say “sorry” when they bumped into you; you couldn’t understand everything people were saying to you; sometimes you couldn’t find clothes in your size.
What was the thing you missed most about your home country?
I missed my family and friends the most, and Hispanic food.
Did you do any traveling around Korea or its neighboring countries? If so, which place was your favorite and why?
I went to Singapore, Japan, and Vietnam. They were all really cool, but I think Vietnam was my favorite. The vibe there is very relaxed. The food is wonderful there, and Vietnam is a beautiful country. I would actually love to teach there someday.
Do you plan on living and working in any other countries?
I would love to, but I don’t have any specific plans at the moment. I am currently living in South Korea for another year, though.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to teach in Korea?
Be careful when you look at your contract, and really make sure you talk to the foreign teacher at your potential school. Sometimes schools can screw you over in Korea, as in other places I’m sure. Other than that, learn some Korean, and be prepared to become more flexible