English Teachers of South Korea: Charlene Choi
Name: Charlene B. Choi
Hometown: West Lafayette, Indiana
Age: American age, 26
Currently Living: Dongducheon
Job: Elementary English teacher
Contact Info: firstname.lastname@example.org
What are you doing right now?
At this moment, I'm answering question for this interview. Smart aleck answers aside, I'm currently working as an English teacher at a small elementary school in the countryside of Paju.
And what’s your typical day?
Because I'm not really a morning person, waking up early can be a chore in itself. I commute to work by bus, and then I have the mornings to myself to prepare for classes. Starting from 11 AM, I normally have about 4-5 classes a day, depending on the schedule. Frequent breaks to recharge are a must. After a busy day of classes, I wind down with some TV and run errands around town if need be.
Where are you from?
I'm from a university town in northwest Indiana (Boiler up!). Because my hometown is a 2-3 hour drive from Chicago, I've visited the city a good number of times too.
Why did you decide to move here?
I was a senior in college when my friend directed this advertisement to teach abroad to me. At the time, I didn't really know what my next step was after graduation (I think many think similarly). I also really wanted to reconnect with my roots, so to speak, since I hadn't been in Korea since I was two. So I thought, this would kill two birds with one stone: live independently and earn money while also reconnecting with my family and past.
Why do you teach?
Honestly, it was a means to an end. That didn't mean I never took it seriously as a job. Before I moved to Korea, I spoke with a recruiter and when asked for his honest opinion about who fails and succeeds as an English teacher in Korea, he said that those who succeed took it seriously as a job and didn't use it as “an extended vacation.” After four years of doing it, I have more respect upon the respect I already had for teachers and what they do.
If you weren’t teaching, what would you be doing?
It's hard to say! I'm still figuring that out because teaching English here has been my first real grown-up job. I know I eventually want to move on, but it's hard to figure out where to start climbing the ladder of success. Ideally, I'd like to work somewhere I can be creative and motivated.
What separates the good teachers from the bad?
If we're talking about foreign English teachers in Korea, then I'd refer back to the recruiter's advice from before. I'd say having an open mind and being able to learn and unlearn from your experiences is very important. For them and any teachers in general, I'd say respect for your job, peers, and students make a good teacher.
What were the hardest life lessons you had to learn while here?
Not everyone will have the courtesy to be honest to your face. Your words and actions have consequences. Always consider others' differences, even if they clash with your beliefs. And as a Korean American, even if you're seen as foreign in either country, it's OK to not live up to impossible standards as long as you are true to yourself and know your worth.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking about teaching abroad or living abroad?
Be prepared to be wrong about everything, but know when to stand strong to your beliefs and accept other people's views.
Do you have any passions or hobbies that you pursue abroad?
Lately I haven't been as productive creatively as I could be, but I do like to draw (more like sketch) when I can. It definitely comes in handy in the classroom and the kids seem to like it. My favorite times of the year is decorating my classroom with crafts I've made for Halloween and Christmas. I also like to sing on occasion, but that's harder to bust out during class.
What would you be doing if you were still in your home country?
Probably working some sort of graphic design-related job and regretting not having taken the opportunity to come to Korea!
Do you want to add anything else?
Stay in school, kids, otherwise we'll be out of a job.^^
We'd love to interview you!!! If you're a current English teacher living abroad, shoot us an email at Steve@HalAndSteveEnglish.com