26 Reasons to Teach in South Korea

South Korea is an exciting country, and teaching there can be one of the best decisions you ever make.

Here are 26 reasons why –

1 – Live Abroad

Living abroad has limitless benefits on both yourself and your CV.

2 – Teaching Experience

Whether you want to become a teacher in the future or whether you’re deciding if teaching would be right for you. What a excellent way to get some experience!

3 – Save Money

In comparison to the cost of living, the salary in Korea is quite high. It isn’t difficult to live well and send home around $1000 a month.

4 – Learn a language

Who doesn’t want to learn a new language? Spoken Korean might take some time and effort to master, but the alphabet system; Hangul is very easy!

5 – Make friends for life

This is cheesy but true. Whether you live, work or party with your friends, you’ll create a unique bond that’ll last for life.

6 – Technology

Technology in Korea is super advanced. The WiFi is one of the fastest in the world.

7 – Dating

Don’t come to teach English in Korea for this reason alone, but the different dating cultures can be quite fun to experience.

8 – Transportation

Korea’s transportation system is nothing short of brilliant. It’s effective and very cheap.

9 – Develop your teaching skills

Whether you teach in a public or private school, it’s sure to open your mind to different teaching methods and help you develop your teaching skills.

10 – Islands

Korea isn’t Thailand, but it does possess numerous stunning islands! Jeju, Geoje and Namhae to name a few.

11 – Mountains

One of my favorite things about Korea are the mountains. They are plentiful and dramatic. Seoraksan, Bukhansan and Taebaeksan are among some of the best.

12 – Beaches

It may surprise you, but South Korea isn’t short of beautiful sands.

13 – Food

I could write a post alone on this! One of the best things about living in South Korea is having countless delicious food easily at your fingertips.

14 – K Pop

I’m not going to pretend to know what I’m talking about here, but I heard it’s huge!

15 – Jimjilbang (찜질방)

Don’t be shy, get naked in a Jimjilbang and give it a try!

16 – Noraebang (노래방)

I’ve never been much of a singer, but these private Karaoke rooms can be barrels of fun.

17 – Seoul

Seoul is a vast concrete jungle surrounded by mountains. It has a variety of different areas that suit all types of people. The city also boasts a pretty impressive subway system that will get you to anywhere you need to go!

18 – Palaces

Korea may not be the first country that comes to mind when you think of palaces & pagodas, but they have some good’uns!

19 – Culture

Experiencing a new culture should always make your list when deciding to live abroad.

20 – Paid accommodation

All teaching jobs in Korea provide free accommodation.

21 – Paid flights

Most teaching jobs in Korea pay for at least a flight to the country. Many pay for a round trip.

22 -Travel Around South Korea

On your weekend or during vacation, travel around South Korea, there are many things to see and do!

23 – Travel Outside of Korea

Geographically, South Korea is positioned in a fantastic location. Take advantage of this and travel to nearby countries in your spare time. China and Japan are both only one hour away!

24 – North Korea

Many people view this as a reason not to go, but on the contrary, go visit the DMZ and learn about the sad, but fascinating, North and South divide.

25 – Safety

South Korea is one of the safest countries in the world.

26 – Nightlife

Drinking culture is massive in Korea. After a hard weeks work, grab some soju, unwind with your friends and hit some of the numerous party spots. In Seoul; Gangnam, Hongdae and Itaewon are 3 of the top locations.

I hope you enjoyed my list.  If there is anything you think I’ve missed,  please comment let me know below!

I tried (and failed) to learn Korean. However, I do recommend this book. Maybe you’ll do better than I did?

Teaching in Thailand vs. Teaching in Japan

Teaching in Thailand vs. Japan

by Rachael Hornsby

Having started my TEFL adventures in Thailand, I have now spent a year teaching there, and another 6 months teaching in Japan (with a year back in the UK in between). If you might be considering either of these countries to teach English in, or are deciding between East and South East Asia in general, here’s my brief take on how these countries have compared so far for me. Enjoy!

The dosh

It’s of course not all about the money, but, in terms of bare numbers, in Thailand my teaching wage was 30,000 baht per month (around £ 700), whereas in Japan I earn 250,000 yen (~£2000). In both cases it is pretty much the standard amount for an inexperienced teacher.

My Thai wage obviously wasn’t a lot in UK terms, but the cost of living is so low in Thailand that it’s PLENTY to live on. My rent was about £80 (although my friends’ were cheaper!), and I could eat out every night for as little as 25 baht for a Pad Thai (about 50p!). Thailand and S.E. Asia as a whole is SO cheap that my Thai wage managed to take me on tonnes of adventures, such as tripping around Vietnam in my school holidays, and numerous weekends around Thailand, to Chiang Mai, Bangkok etc.

Living expenses obviously all cost so much more in Japan. My rent is 45,000 yen per month (over £ 350), (although I know in big cities like Tokyo it can be MUCH higher), and bills and food add much more on to that. Again, I seem to have spent a lot of spare cash so far in Japan travelling, and unfortunately just exploring mainland Japan can be really pricey- a bullet train to Tokyo from my island of Kyushu is about £170 (as opposed to a train I took to Laos from Southern Thailand for £15!).

In short, the main difference is, if you are strict with your money, and don’t go off travelling every spare minute (it’s just so tempting!!), your savings in Japan will stretch much further if you take them elsewhere, especially to other economically rich countries, like if you wanted to pay off debts in the UK (with the pound plunging, at this rate you could go home with a small fortune!). My friends have also taken extra tutoring jobs on the side if they really wanted to fill up their wallet, although this might not be allowed in your contract. And if you’re really looking for the big bucks, jobs where the company actually pay for your flights or accommodation, like ones in South Korea, might be an even better bet.

(*WRITTEN OCTOBER 2016! The pound is changing so much these days, so god knows how long these currency conversions will be accurate. A couple of days!?*)

Culture

If you’re not hoping for a culture shock, then you’re in the wrong game! There are obviously hundreds of wonderful/fascinating/infuriating sides of Thai and Japanese culture, but here’s a few:

Although there are reasons not to get on the wrong side of Thailand (in a rare case some people I knew had a pretty rough time being deported…), the country generally really does live up to its reputation as the “land of smiles”. From the random people I’d find to help me when my moped got a flat tire (more than once!), to the chatty monks on the train (let them talk to you first, don’t just go barging up to one!), it’s a great place for restoring faith in humanity. It’s also VERY laid back. The famously slow pace of pretty much anything there can drive many people absolutely up the wall- a train that should take 2 hours, ends up taking 5 hours, etc.-, but you will start to adopt the local “mai pen rai”, care-free attitude, and pretty much all of my friends left Thailand a less uptight person than when they arrived (who couldn’t do with giving themselves that gift?).

Japan is in some ways the opposite of Thailand’s laid back attitude. From the notoriously prompt trains, to the meticulous dividing of household recycling, everything is fantastically organised and reliable. I’m constantly amazed at how efficient things are and by the different things Japan has come up with to get stuff done! As in Thailand, people in Japan are exceptionally polite and friendly, and the hospitality in Japan is second to none, to the extent that I admittedly found myself feeling a bit aggrieved without it in on a recent trip to Hong Kong, making me appreciate Japan even more. The level of politeness did at first it come off as a bit oppressive (train carriages are often silent, etc.), making it seem hard to ‘break in’ or really socialise, but of course with a little more patience you get to meet more people, and make amazing new friends. I think you could say Japan is more like the UK in that way!

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“mai pen rai” life on Koh Samet vs. ingenious conveyor belt sushi

The job



As far as the job goes, each school can differ widely depending on the age you’re teaching, whether it’s private or government, etc. etc., but there are a few general trends, which seem to be mainly extensions of Thailand’s “mai pen rai” culture vs. the super efficient Japan.

Although I had textbooks for some of my classes at my Thai school, this wasn’t that common, and it tends to be a “do it yourself” kind of attitude to the curriculum/ teaching in general. This can obviously be a bit scary if it’s your first time teaching, and can be frustrating if you feel like you’re not getting the help or direction you’d like, but it’s also great as it gives you freedom in what you want to teach, allows you to experiment with your teaching style, and is a great challenge to get you tuck into the job. You also pretty much never know what’s going on- most weeks I’d turn up to work with all my lessons planned, only to find out at least 1 was cancelled for some random reason I didn’t know of, like the day we found ourselves ushered onto a school bus first thing, with kids all prepared wearing traditional outfits, and we spent the morning sitting in front of monks in a temple listening to them chant!

Japan, on the other hand, is a lot more organised in its approach. In my job teaching at a private kindergarten, I have tonnes more support, like a curriculum, weekly meetings, many of my lessons already planned for me etc. In comparison to Thailand, my job feels so much more coherent, although I’ve heard that other jobs for the larger companies can be even more structured. In a way this means you can’t use as much creativity in your teaching, and aren’t being pushed quite as hard. And I do sometimes miss the manic spontaneity of Thailand (in my first month here, I was actually thrown into presenting an assembly without notice, and secretly loved it!). I also have to work evenings this time, like many other language schools, but I do have a lot more free time in the day that I don’t have to spend planning lessons, and generally feel a lot less ‘at sea’.

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Thai assembly 

Things to see and do



You obviously can’t spend all your time gallivanting around if you have a teaching job, but you can pack plenty of sightseeing into your free weekends and holidays if you fancy (and why ever not?!). In Thailand you’ll find more elephants, street markets, and idyllic beaches, and it can be more of a wild party scene if you land a job near a tourist area (I’ve had more ‘buckets’ of cocktails than I’d care to remember…). Japan has more impressive mountains and hiking  (being made up of volcanic islands), there are hot spring baths and karaoke bars everywhere, and you can go skiing in winter (which I’m 99% sure you can’t do in Thailand!). It also has its share of good nightlife (especially in the big cities), and even has gorgeous beaches and great scuba diving spots down in balmy Okinawa. Basically, Japan and Thailand are both popular tourist destinations for good reason- they both have beautiful scenery, endless temples, fascinating festivals etc. etc. So, unless there’s something you’re absolutely itching to do, like climb Mount Fuji or rave at a full moon party, you’ll find plenty of weird and wonderful ways to keep you occupied in both!

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Beach in Koh Chang vs.  Hike in Nagasaki

Getting down and dirty

Thailand is by no means a third world country, but Japan is miles ahead of it when it comes to things like infrastructure and sanitation, and feels even more developed than the UK in some ways. Japan is probably the cleanest place I’ve ever been, and they have technology for everything, from heated toilet seats to shoe vending machines (probably the name for it!) at the bowling alley. Thailand, on the other hand, can take a little getting used to for a Westerner. Rather than having heated toilets, we had to flush the loo using a bucket in our Thai school, and if you’re doing things on the cheap (which you might as well!), then you’ll find yourself, for example, sitting on plastic chairs at a food stall in street, with stray dogs wandering around you whilst you eat your dinner. There are also more critters around in Thailand- I often found cute baby geckos living in my shoes, I was never without at least 1 mosquito bite (although I am especially attractive to the buggers!), and my town happened to be overrun with mafia-like monkeys.

The things in Thailand that seem so alien at first really don’t take long to feel normal, and to be honest I’m grateful for the experience of living with a tiny bit less luxury, for helping me appreciate how lucky we are at home, and showing me what I can actually live without. So if you want this type of challenge, I’d have to recommend Thailand, but if you want a more easy transition (dealing with a brand new Asian culture can be enough in itself!), then go for Japan. I myself am glad I did both in the order that I have, since I can appreciate the wonders of Japan even more!

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Critter friends in Thailand vs. Super sleek Shibuya 

The language

Both Thai and Japanese are a world away from English, and I can’t profess to be much of an expert at either, but here goes. The Thai language has 1 ‘alphabet’ (or set of characters,) and uses lots of different tones. These can be seriously hard to pick up (“ma” can have a whole host of meanings depending on your tone), but luckily Thais often understand what a farang (foreigner) is getting at without them. They often drop unnecessary words from sentences (as in Japan!), so I wasn’t too paranoid about having bad grammar either. The little Thai I learnt came in very handy and was really appreciated, especially in tourist spots (I was all but given applause just ordering pineapple in Krabi!). To be honest you can get by with very little Thai if you wish, and it’s surprising how many Thais speak some English anyway, even in remote parts of the country.

Japanese seems harder to me. This may just be because I’ve put more effort into learning it, and so have realised what a mountain it is to really learn a language. Thailand’s “alphabet”, once learnt, can get you reading any Thai for good (I’ve been told!). Japan, however, has 3 sets of characters, and I can read the 2 basic ones (very handy for things like Western food menus), but the 3rd set of Chinese characters feels like it may take me an age to tackle (I’m sure Japanese people can’t even read them all!), and I still can’t read that much when I’m out and about. Unlike Thai, Japanese isn’t tonal, so once you’ve learnt words or phrases, it’s pretty easy to catch them and pronounce them, but Japan also seem to have many more ways of saying one thing, depending on different situations or who you’re speaking to. This can make it more daunting when trying to use it yourself, or frustrating when you don’t understand something you thought you knew! Basic English also seems less widespread here, so there are certain things I’ve simply had to drag a Japanese speaker along to help me do, like buying a phone contract, but you manage!

I’ve been frustrated at times by my lack of skill at both languages, but really learning either can take years, and many TEFL teachers get by fine speaking very little, if any. It will of course enhance your experience whatever amount you manage to learn, so you might as well give it a bash, and if you really want to get the hang of it, just get yourself a local boy/girlfriend (seems to work every time!)

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Japanese vs. Thai (Jibberish vs. nonsense??) 

“Konichiwa, Japan!” or “Sawadee Ka, Thailand!”??

The beauty of a TEFL job is you get to spend months in a country that many people only spend a fortnight visiting on holiday, which teaches you so many beautiful/ ridiculous things about a place, and so there could be a billion more ways I could use to compare these two amazing countries (I could write a whole post on types of beer! Actually I might do that…). But in super brief, Thailand and Japan are like riding a Tuk Tuk vs. taking the bullet train. One is a bit more of a slow, bumpy ride, and the other is more sleek and a bit more predictable, but they are both brand new experiences, that can be equally thrilling (you’d be surprised how fast a Tuk tuk can go!), and will take you to places to never expected! Both countries are amazing, so if there’s anything at all drawing you to one or the other, just pick that one and GO! You won’t regret it.

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Tuk tuk or bullet train?

Top 5 Struggles of Long-Term Backpacking (and how to beat them!)

5 Struggles of Long-Term Backpacking (and how to beat them!)

Any backpacker will tell you that their life isn’t just one never-ending vacation. Yeah, you’ll have some amazing experiences, meet fascinating people, and gain a deeper understanding of foreign cultures one could never garner from books and movies. But backpacking isn’t easy—it takes dedication, flexibility, and resilience. However, knowing what struggles to expect and understanding that every traveler has highs and lows can be a great way to prepare yourself when hard times crop up.

loneliness_subheading

When traveling solo, loneliness can be a real struggle. There will be times when you’re completely alone, sometimes for a day or sometimes for a week. The people you do meet come in & out of your life rapid-fire and these friendships, no matter how short-lived, can be very intense. You spend a week hitchhiking with someone and doing everything together, and suddenly you know everything about one another—the quirks and habits only a roommate would ever pick up on, the vulnerabilities you may drunkenly spew at 4am, and all while sharing an experience full of “you-had-to-be-there” moments no one else will ever really relate to. Then a day later they’re gone and chances are you’ll never hear from them again.

how to beat it:

You’ll eventually get used to all the hello’s and goodbye’s, but these realizations often hit rookie backpackers pretty hard. Many think they’ve made friends for life only to find that they’re feeling forgotten only a few weeks later. Enjoy your time with the people you meet and make the best memories you can. Don’t let missing people deter you from getting to know others. You’ll learn so much from the great discussions you’re bound to have and these fleeting relationships will be full of eye-opening experiences.

And if someone is important to you, make the effort—believe me, some travelers make great pen pals because we’re used to communication taking a little elbow grease.

disenchantment_subheading

I’m hesitant to use the word “jaded”, but there definitely comes a time when your experience begins to work against you on the road. When you first start out, everything is new; you want to see everything and there never seem to be enough hours in the day. But down the road, you’ll find thoughts rife with apathy beginning to creep into your mind: “Another temple? I barely remember the last 30 anyway…” “There’s a waterfall? Eh, I’ve seen bigger.”

how to beat it:

This can be hard to overcome, but it’s all about living in the moment (cliché, I know). Think about it this way: Just because one time you had really fantastic pizza, does that mean you’ll never eat pizza again ’cause no other pie could compare? Hell no—pizza’s still awesome.

Treat each experience as its own and do your best not to compare. Why deprive yourself on the assumption that yesterday was better than the possibilities of today?

Any traveler knows that some of the best memories and experiences are the ones that were complete surprises—areas stumbled upon after a wrong turn or last minute excursions taken on a whim. You never know what’s around the corner, so don’t assume you do.

discomfort_subheading

Being on top of a mountain overlooking the valleys below or drifting down a river at sunset is one thing—getting there is another. It amazes me how often I hear people complain of the conditions they find themselves in, as they clearly didn’t expect their journey to be anything other than smooth-sailing.

There will be 18-hour bus rides with no pit-stops. You may travel in cramped quarters with both humans and livestock. You will stay in hostels with bedbugs. You may occasionally find yourself sleeping on the street. Air-conditioning is often a luxury you can’t afford and carrying that 60-liter rucksack will take its toll from time to time.

how to beat it:

Time for some tough love, kids: Get over it. This isn’t luxury travel and backpacking isn’t a glamorous lifestyle. While discomfort may range from slightly annoying to genuinely painful, these journeys will reward you in so many ways. You’ll find yourself growing in terms of patience, understanding, courage, independence, & trust, among others. The experiences you’ll have and the things you’ll see will make it all worth it.

homesickness_subheading

Homesickness hits different people different ways…for some it grows and builds over time, while for others it suddenly hits them at all once like a semi coming head-on. Some miss creature comforts while others long for their loved ones or for the familiarity of their old stomping grounds. There are times when you’ll fixate on what you’re missing out on—you’ll hear of old friends getting married, having kids, getting houses or accepting promotions and wind up thinking, “Whoa, am I falling behind somehow?”

how to beat it:

Remember that you can’t have it both ways: you may be missing out on things back home, but those back home are missing the journey you’re on. You need to figure out what’s important to you. If you settled into the 9-to-5, would you resent it down the line? Or are you yearning for the contentment that comes with setting down roots? Determine what your goals truly are and set your path toward what you want to achieve. For some that path will lead them home again while for others it will just keep going.

burnout_subheading

There’s definitely a myth out there that backpackers are lazy. Many short-term travelers will note how they’ve seen so many backpackers just sleep all day, rarely leave the hostel, or seem to have a perpetual hangover. But ya know what? Traveling is exhausting. You get tired…like, really really tired. Between stressing over the logistics of getting from point A to point B, constantly adapting to new cultures & climates, and trying to fit in as many new experiences as possible on a non-existent budget there are times when it can become overwhelming. Some days the idea of getting out of bed and dragging your rucksack onto another 18-hour bus seems like a gargantuan task that you physically and mentally just can’t handle.

how to beat it:

This may seriously be a “no duh” solution, but honestly: just take a break. Whether that means spending 5 straight days wallowing in your bunk at the hostel in a nest of soda bottles & Pringles cans, or it means taking a month off back home, it’s important to recharge both mentally and physically.

Remember that every journey has it’s highs & lows, so try not to let the hard times defeat your adventurous side!

-Ashley

#TRAVEL – Phillipines: Kawasan Falls

If you’re interested in visiting one of the best waterfalls in the world, then you’re reading the right thing.

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Kawasan Falls is a 3-tier waterfall located in the southwest of the Philippine island, Cebu. Cebu itself is an interesting and beautiful place to visit, but in this post, I’m going to concentrate on the waterfall itself. I first saw a picture of the Kawasan Falls on an Instagram travel account I follow – @doyoutravel. I Immediately added it to my bucket list.

The location of the falls isn’t in the most convenient of places, but the dirt cheap cost of transport in Cebu makes it easily accessible.

GETTING THERE FROM CEBU CITY

The chances are you’ll be staying in Cebu city. This gives you 3 options:

Bus – The cheapest option is to take a bus from the main bus station. The bus ride takes 3 – 4 hours and costs as little as 200 PHP ($4 USD).

Car – A more expensive but more comfortable option is to take a taxi. Taxi drivers charge about 3000 PHP ($64 USD) for the round trip. Between a few people, 3000 PHP is still very much affordable and in my opinion is worth the extra time you’d gain….. and the air-con!

Bike – The third and probably the most exciting option is to rent yourself a motorbike or scooter and drive there yourself. After experiencing the roads of Cebu, I will say to anyone doing this – BE CAREFUL!

STAY CLOSE

Additionally, there are several hostels and resorts located closer to Kawasan Falls. If I ever visit Cebu again and have more time, I’m definitely going to stay away from the city center and explore more of the island!

Before you reach the waterfalls, you’ll need to trek for about 15 minutes from the National Park entrance. Like most national parks there is an entrance fee. For foreigners, this fee is 30PHP, which is very little. The path to the falls is mostly flat and adjacent to an azure-colored river, so the walk is rather enjoyable despite the heat.

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When you arrive at the falls, it’ll take a few minutes for your brain to figure out that it’s real and that you’re not dreaming or watching some CGI’d masterpiece.I think it’s worth noting that despite its natural beauty there typically aren’t as many tourists as you’d expect at the falls. Instead, there are many locals having a good time! It’s also worth knowing that the falls are at their busiest on the weekends.

If you’re on a budget it’d be wise to bring your own food and drink because the vendors on location sell their products at high prices. It is a bit of a money trap.

And speaking of money trap….. Immediately upon arriving at the falls, you’ll be swarmed with local Filipinos asking to be your guide for the day. Despite saying “no, thanks” several times, we still ended up with a guide at our side who helped us around and told us a little about the area. Even though we did not want a guide in the first place, we still paid him and thanked him at the end of our stay.

There are actually 3 waterfalls. The first is the most impressive and is where the majority of the food, people and rafts are. Yes, rafts. 3 or 4 large bamboo rafts have been constructed in the waterfall pool. You can rent these rafts and even get a local to take you to the actual waterfall and go under it. The water gets VERY powerful and didn’t go nicely with my sunburn! But it was fun!!

The other 2 waterfalls are just a little further up than the first and can be found within a 5-minute walk.

If you’re looking for a dash of adrenaline to your day then go canyoning!

A few tour operators at the falls offer the chance for you to canyon down the 3 falls.

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I really cannot rate the Kawasan Falls high enough! I’d go again, if only just to look at it for 30 seconds. It’s stunning! Go and experience it for yourself.

 

This Lonely Planet guide to the Philippines has all you need and much, much more!