Sally Kessler

French major, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Class of 2009

How do you evaluate your experience of working with ESL Job Link before and after you go to Korea?

Don is professional and extremely organized. I haven’t heard of anyone having problems dealing with him—everyone I know who has gotten placed by him has been paid regularly by their school, gotten all of their vacation time, etc. Before I left for Korea, he explained everything that I needed to know about the recruiting and visa process (as many times as I needed to hear it), complete with achecklist and approximate timeline. He was always very easy to reach, either by cell phone or e-mail. He addressed immediately—and thoroughly—any questions or concerns that I sent to him. In addition to providing information, he listened to my input; we discussed my priorities to provide me with a placement that would be goodfor me. Finally, he has kept up with how I am doing now that I’m here, including a visit in person

How do you think about your decision to teach in South Korea?

I’m having a blast!!! I think that the last time I consistently had this much fun, I was in elementary school myself. Time is justflying by, from going on hiking trips to visiting Neolithic ruins.It’s just a great experience.

How much do you like the current school, everyday life and teaching kids at school?

My kids are awesome. I never knew I liked teaching or little kidsso much before I met them—they made a serious impact on my life, and I’m going to have to see about becoming a teacher when I get back to the States. They’re exhausting to deal with, but totally worth the effort. It’s not only the fact that they’re talented, hard-working, and smart–they’re all just great, fun people.

Additionally, I really appreciate the fact that my school has been honest about what was expected of me and what they were offering in terms of salary, housing, free flight, etc. The staff has also been great at going above and beyond, making doctor appointments or theater reservations for us, helping us out with our Korean homework, etc.

Finally, I love the fact that there are nearly a dozen American teachers at my school, so I have a built-in social network. I have friends and don’t feel isolated–I get to speak English, hang out with people who culturally understand where I’m coming from, and celebrate holidays in the manner with which I’m accustomed.

Is there your personal advice for candidates who are looking for teaching jobs in South Korea?

1. Ask around what you should pack (deodorant is not always easy to come by) before you go.

2. I got TEFL certified, and while it certainly isn’t required, I’ve found it to be occasionally helpful in class. There are more or less expensive certification processes that might enhance your teaching and your CV.

3. I was too lazy to learn any Korean before I left. That makes me a bad, bad foreigner, but enough people speak English that you can get away with not knowing a lick of Korean when you get here.

Other particular or fun experience in South Korea?

I love being very active on the weekends and visiting the palaces, national museums, Buddhist temples, fortresses, hiking, camping, etc. I generally feel safe and at home in Seoul, in whatever neighborhood I’m in, and the people that I’ve met so far have been very friendly and helpful. I’m not afraid of walking into the “wrong” neighborhood and being treated like a rube (or, on the other end, robbed) like I am in some European and American cities, and I interact with random people more than I would in Europe. Specifically, spending New Year’s packed like a sardine amongst other revelers and dancing in the densest club ever have been truly interesting experiences. Visiting the House of Sharing, the MacArthur landing site, and the Torture Museum have taught me a little history, too. If you’re not afraid of going a year without cheap peanut butter, I would definitely recommend the experience.

By Sally Kessler, French major, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Class of 2009

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