Kate was born and educated in the United States but has been living abroad for the past six years. She spent several months backpacking around South East Asia, followed by a year teaching in South Korea. Next came some development work in India and a year teaching English in Istanbul, Turkey. She then decided to pursue her Master's Degree in Development Studies at the University of Cape Town and is now working in the financial sector development space in Cape Town.
Why did you choose this program?
I did a quick google search online and came across Travel and Teach. After a few email exchanges and a Skype call with Niko, one of their recruiters, I decided that they were the organization for me!
This program appealed to me as it has many positive reviews and several of my friends went through them in the past. I also really liked the wide array of schools and places that I could be placed in. They also made me feel like I had a say in where I ended up, which not all program did.
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
Travel and Teach set me up in a school and found an apartment for me. Not only did they do this, but they also were always willing to talk to me if I had any questions or concerns.
They helped me with obtaining my visa, medical insurance and plane flight. All I had to do was simply show up for my flight! The amount of work that they put into helping me feel safe in comfortable in Korea was amazing.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Just do it and don't hesitate. This was easily one of the best years of my life. I made so many long-term friends, who after five years have passed, I still see on a yearly basis.
Not only did I meet amazing people, but Korean kids are so well behaved and adorable. I could tell that I was making a difference in these kids' lives and it was amazing to see how their English skills transformed over the course of the year that I was there. Be sure to bring fitted bedsheets - those are hard to find in Korea!
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
Typically, I would arrive at school around 8:30 am and teach my kindergarten class until 12 pm. At this time, we had lunch with the kids and then shortly thereafter, they went home. In the afternoon, I taught classes of 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders ranging from math to social studies.
My day ended around 4:30 pm. After this, I would either go for a run or head to the local gym. My evenings were spent in local Korean restaurants (the food is amazing), the local karaoke joint or local spa with friends.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
Of course, moving abroad for the first time and for the length of a year is a bit terrifying, especially when it was a place that I had never been before - Asia. But I have always been the adventurous type so I was willing to take the leap of faith and boy am I happy.
Going abroad to Korea made me realize just how much I enjoyed traveling and getting to know new cultures and people. It's nice to not to have a sheltered view of the world and to experience how different people live first hand.
What was your favorite experience in Korea?
One of my favorite experiences in Korea was going into Seoul for the weekends. I lived in Incheon, which is a bustling town about an hour from Seoul.
Riding the metro into Seoul made me feel like a local. I loved strolling about the myriad of underground shopping malls in Seoul, eating street food like the locals and exploring all the various neighborhoods that Seoul has to offer.