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A Namibian in South Korea – Guest Post

I have asked my friend Annagret, who I’ve gone to school with and who is now teaching English in South Korea,  to share with us what the process is if one wants to go over to SK and what her experiences are so far….
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Annagret

What is the process in order for you to teach in SK?
If you hate paperwork, take a deep breath, and brace yourself!!  There is a lot of admin to attend to, before getting on a plane and setting off on your new adventure, The list looks more or less like this:
  • Get a CRC (Criminal Record Check)
  • Get your Degree and CRC Apostilled
  •  Write an essay
  • Draw up a lesson plan
  • Make a demo class video
  • Get a job
  • Get your visa ready
  • Fill in an application from
  • Send off about a hundred emails

You catch my drift?

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There are different work opportunities in South Korea, but most of them include teaching English. You rarely hear of a foreigner who does something other than teaching. Work can be found in a public school or at a “Hagwon”. Hagwons are private institutions that offer extra classes to students. Hagwons are extremely popular in South Korea. If you want to work at a public school, you can either work through the TALK Program or the Epic Program, depending on your qualifications.  If you are interested in working at a Hagwon there are a lot of recruiters available to help you. Just make sure the Hagwon isn’t blacklisted and that it has a good reputation. Your salary depends on where you work, what qualifications you have and how much experience you have in teaching (if you have any experience). But you can expect a salary of +/-  N$ 15,000 – N$ 25,000 (U$1500 – U$2500) per month.
Teaching in South Korea:
I work at a public school.  I have a mentor teacher and two co-teachers with me in the classroom. They assist me in preparing for classes, teach with me, and help out with things that require Korean proficiency. They are absolutely wonderful and have made me feel so comfortable in this very foreign country.
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I do love teaching here! Some of the children are adorable!! It’s very entertaining when the younger ones are trying to share a story with  you. They are so excited and animated, but you’ll have a hard time understanding what they are trying to say. You just have to learn when to ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ at the right time, and the stories will come rolling in!! Don’t get me wrong, some of the children are monsters! It can be chaos, but there is never a dull moment and that makes teaching here worth it 🙂
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How are you enjoying the Korean food?
I was expecting delicious stir fries, dumplings and spring rolls, that is the kind of Asian food that we are used to in Namibia; only to find out that in South Korea, they don’t eat any of those dishes.  Koreans love spicy food! Red pepper is used in absolutely everything! Kimchi (fermented cabbage with red pepper) is also VERY popular.  I’m not really fond of it, but other foreigners tend to like it.  Rice is also eaten at every meal. I tried most of the Korean dishes and the things I have come to like is the delicious fried chicken (I gained 8 kilos thanks to that), kimbap, jjimdak, Korean BBQ and of course the sushi.
You will have to say goodbye to your delicious, tasty, tender steak. Unfortunately, there are almost no red meat here, and if you crave some, you will have to pay an arm and a leg for it. Pork, chicken and fish are really popular here, though – so you’ll have to settle for that.
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What is your living arrangements and accommodations like?
When you come to South Korea, don’t expect houses like we are use to in Namibia. Most people here live in apartment blocks. South Korea has a population of 50 million people (North Korea = 25 million) and the country itself is only 100,210 km² big in size.  Can you imagine if everyone had to live in a house with a yard…. there won’t be space for anything else!!
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So, I live in a one bedroom apartment. It’s really tiny, but it has everything I need. Most apartments have an A/C which you absolutely need in the summer and underfloor heating for the icy winters.  I live in Andong which is considered a rural, traditional city. What they call rural are totally different from what we are use to in Namibia. When we think of “rural and traditional”, Ovahimba huts come to mind. But in Korea, our capital city of Windhoek would be pretty “rural” to them.
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Transport in the City:
The public transport in South Korea is excellent! You can go anywhere by bus or train and it is relatively cheap. Between cities you can take either a bus or a train, and making use of a taxi around town is the easiest way to get from A to B. One thing that makes public transport a bit difficult is that most of the signs are written in Korean. The subways usually have English signs, but as for the bus terminals, you’ll have to know where you are heading. The taxi drivers also don’t really speak any English. They always ask me where I am from and when I say Africa, they answer back with: ‘Ah, Nelson Mandela.’
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Activities and sightseeing in South Korea:
There are amazing places to see and a lot of things to do around South Korea like; visiting the Ingwangsan Guksadang (Seoul’s most famous shamanist shrine), Haein-sa (Unesco World Heritage temple), Jongmyo (house the spirit tablets of the Joseon kings and queens and some of their most loyal government officials), or you can visit a local spa, known as a Jimjilbang, and if you are into castles and palaces you’d love the Gyeongbokgung (originally built by King Taejo, the founder of the Joseon dynasty, in 1592 it was burnt down during the Japanese invasions), ice-skating and skiing is always a fun activity to do as well. These are of course only a view interesting sights that South Korea has to offer.  It’s also very easy and relatively cheap to travel to other Asian countries like Japan, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia etc.
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Tips for living abroad:
Obviously, as life has it, there are always some difficulties that you will face when living abroad. Homesickness is a reality. You have to really prepare yourself  and make sure you have a good support system behind you. It really helps if you are able to make friends in the city where you live. Having friends that are close and with whom you can share your feelings and ideas with is great. I’m very fortunate that there are a lot of South Africans in my city. They are awesome in supporting me, because they understand where I come from and are often going through the same issues.
The majority of people here don’t understand any English.  Try to learn a few basic phrases before you come, and make sure to carry a dictionary or Google translate with you while out and about. There are also a few of their mannerisms that can be frustrating, but over time you will get use to it, and learn to love it.
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All in all, South Korea is an excellent experience and the best learning school for any young person who wants to travel and work abroad.
If you’re up for a challenge and want to seek adventure, give South Korea a try!!
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Check out Gold Key Education  to find out more on work opportunities.
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