In the last edition of Teacher Talk we covered 7 Unique Things You’ll Experience When Teaching in Rural Korea. As much as I could go on and on about teaching in rural Korea, I figured why not ask other Teachers about their experience to get the most diverse, all encompassing post.
In this third edition of Teacher Talk, you’ll find detailed anecdotes and photographs of past and present English teachers in various small towns and small cities throughout Jeollanamdo, Korea.
*Disclaimer*: I use the word rural loosely, meaning “outside big major cities/most popular teaching spots for English teachers”.
Without further ado, let’s meet our teachers:
Mark, Yeosu, Population: 295,538
October 2014 – October 2016
“My move to South Korea was a common expat story: just one year to try something new and see what life abroad was like. I started at a Hagwon an hour northeast of Seoul, needless to say, I was hooked. Life near Seoul has its many perks, but after a year I was looking for a more authentic and local experience. I applied with JLP (Jeollanamdo Language Program) and was ecstatic to get placed in my top pick – Yeosu.
Yeosu was a nice blend of city life, costal living, and nature. Being that Yeosu is a peninsula, there is no lack of beaches and alternately plenty of mountains to escape to. I purchased a bicycle early on, and later a moped, then even a car. These means of transit offered local adventures abound! On a few occasions, I even booked passage on ferries to a few of Yeosu’s outlying islands. The province of Jeollanamdo is known for its exquisite fresh foods, and Yeosu provides its own flair with many seafood based dishes. All-in-all, I could not recommend the city any more highly. A true hidden gem!”
Corey, Gurye, Population: 27,115
October 2014 – October 2015
“Now a year and a half removed from my time in Korea, and Gurye still holds a very special place in my heart. Tucked at the base of Jiri Mountain, Gurye really is both a natural and cultural gem. Despite its size, there was never a shortage of things to be seen or done in this town. Hiking, camping, river floats, festivals, markets, and concerts are just a few things I was fortunate enough to experience. However what fun are those activities without a group of loved ones to share them with?
Being the small town that it is, means there are not many other foreign teachers living within its confines. Although, what is lacked in quantity is regained tenfold in quality. I made some of what I still consider to be my best friends while living in Gurye. Both English teachers and locals alike. From every one of my students, my co-teacher/faux mom, the coffee shop owner in town, my six fellow English teachers and everyone in between. The people you meet and relationships you forge truly are what make Gurye such a special place”.
Madi, Muan, Population: 75,718
April 2015 – April 2016
“City life has its perks, but small town life is highly underrated in Korea and probably, understandably, daunting to many. Heck, it was to me! I could count the number of English speakers living in Muan on one hand. However, it would take loads of time to count all of the relationships I built with so many impactful people in my small town.
The neighbor lady with her dog, who said hello to me every morning as she watered her flowers and I walked to the bus stop. The cafe owner who adopted me as her own and fed me, introduced me to her family, brought me food and medicine when I was sick, etc. etc. The group of foreigners who I relied on and who relied on me, creating a bond that will probably exist forever.
It never ends! You might think it feels isolating to live in a rural area, but if you make it your mission to step out into that community, you will find it is mostly warm, close-knit, and welcoming. I’ll end here, because I could seriously rave about Muan forever. Definitely don’t rule out a small town when you move to Korea. You might find more than you expected to and build relationships that will last a lifetime.”
And there you have it: three people, three different places, and three detailed anecdotes to give you a broader picture of what teaching English in “rural” Korea looks like.
Since I couldn’t fit all the anecdotes I received into one post, stay tuned for a Part 2 where we explore more places and experiences of the English teachers living there.
Thanks for reading!