It all started with…
a flyer posted on the walls of Jimenez Hall at the University of Maryland College Park. It was my senior year and like many future graduates, I had no clue what was next. The flyer advertised a program that brought native English speakers to South Korea to teach English.
"Wow, what a fun adventure that would be!" I thought to myself.
A few months later I was on a flight to Korea, wondering if I was adventurous, crazy or a mix of the two.
I spent my first year in South Korea living on the small island of Ganghwa. I was a TalK program scholar teaching English in rural South Korea. Life was incredibly different than my life in Maryland, I was new to teaching, Korean culture, didn't know the language and I stuck out like a sore thumb!
That year taught me a lot.
I grew so much from the challenges faced in and out of the classroom. As difficult some days could be, I was still falling fast and hard for Korea. Upon completion of my contract, I decided to move to Seoul to get a taste of the city life.
I chose to apply directly and forgo a recruiter. I landed a sweet job at the Seoul English Village Pungnap Camp. I absolutely adored teaching in the camp setting, it was full of fun and excitement and I developed close relationships with my fellow co-workers.
It was that year that I dove back into my old passion of dance (I had stopped years before). I started training in KPOP and Hip Hop at DEF Dance Skool. Two months into my training, I was asked to be the first foreigner to perform in the monthly video. What an honor!
A few months after that, the manager asked me to teach a weekly Dance English KPOP class for kids.
Teaching at SEV pushed me to be a more creative teacher since the camp's focus is full immersion via situational classes (everything from baking class to banking class).
Teaching dance allowed me to connect to students and improve my teaching methods on a whole new level!
Right after re-signing my 2nd contract with SEV things went sour. The sponsors of the camp changed and the school became an ugly mess of threats, negative leadership and letting go some of the best staff.
I decided that the camp no longer was an environment I wanted to work in, and left.
Without a job, distraught from the extreme change of climate at SEV, I decided to enlist the help of a recruiter for finding my next job.
The pressure to secure a position in a timely manner along with the pressure of a pushy recruiter led me to my next job at Uiwang Global English Center.
While the job was great, I knew the commute was way to long when coupled with my intensive dancing commitments in Seoul.
Halfway through the contract I gracefully told my boss that I had to part ways with the company.
It was then that I decided to move back to the States for a time of reflection and to figure out my next steps.
During my reflection I realized how incredible the experience of teaching in Korea was, it truly grew me and changed me for the better!
I also remember the struggles of finding a job, teaching in the Korean school system, and assimilating to Korean culture.
I realized that aside from recruiters and YouTubers, there was no support system for future teachers moving to Korea.
With any big change in life, we always seek the help of mentors or those who have "been there and done that".
I decided to create Hello Tonya Teacher to address this exact issue. I wanted those applying for teaching jobs to not feel alone in the process, get a second set of eyes on contracts, get help and feedback on their essays and lesson plans, learn best practices for teaching in Korean school, gain access to resources that took me years of searching to find, and help prepare them for what to expect as a foreigner living in Korea.
With my online course,Teach Live & Thrive in Korea, future English teachers of Korea have access to a mentor for smooth transition to life in Korea.
Knowing that my struggles and lessons-learned could be of help to others has brought me great satsifaction :).
I can't wait to see you on the other side!