Teach English Overseas: A Glimpse from a BridgeTEFL Graduate

Many trainees have taken and graduated from one of BridgeTEFL’s English teacher training courses. We’ve had the opportunity to meet, train and place some pretty amazing individuals! We thought you, faithful readers, might be interested in learning more about who they are, where they’ve been and what they know about teaching English overseas. Hopefully reading a few of our graduates’ stories will motivate you to take the plunge –get certified, teach English, meet amazing English language learners and see the world. Our first TEFL graduate is Nick Martin. He graduated from the October 2008 IDELT™ course in Denver, Colorado. He is currently teaching here in Denver for BridgeEnglish.

Tell me a little bit about your background, including what drew you to teaching English and the course you took. Had you taught before taking the October 2008 IDELT™ course?

I’ve always had an interest in international culture. I suppose I was first drawn to teaching English as a means to connect with various people from all corners of the globe. Prior to earning my TEFL, I had no experience in the field of teaching. Three years later, I can certainly say otherwise.

Tell me about your experiences during the IDELT program? Was it what you expected? What did you find the most beneficial part of the IDELT program to be for you?

I would say my experience in the TEFL program was an incredibly valuable one.  I can’t quite recall what it was I expected prior to beginning the course. What I gained however was a foundation from which to further fine-tune my ability to teach.  [There are] so many various skill sets and techniques I would have never thought to implement had I not taken the course. Concept Check Questions have since become my standard measure of operations.

Where did you teach overseas and for how long?

Though I had originally planned on teaching in Japan, I encountered difficulty in securing employment there. The fierce competition for ESL positions was taxing indeed. It was then that I felt I should focus my efforts elsewhere, which is what led me to teach in South Korea. I spent one year (May 2010-11) there, in the city of Changwon teaching children ages 7-14 in a private English school.

Had you done much traveling before this or was this one of your first experiences abroad?

Prior to my experience in S. Korea, I had studied abroad in Japan for five months in the fall of 2006.

How did you prepare for your trip and the job? Did you speak any Korean?

Unlike Japanese, I had absolutely no experience in Korean. No fluency whatsoever. I was still uncertain on how to say “hello.” The best I did to prepare for my experience there was pack my suitcases.

How did you find this job? Did you have a contract? What was the job like? What was your favorite thing about the job?

I found the job through an online job-posting database. I contacted the school directly and was hired to replace the current English teacher there. I had a one-year contract. My duties included planning and instructing beginner to intermediate course material for over 200 children. I would have to say my favorite thing about my job was of course the children. Not all of them mind you, but a select few made the job very pleasant for me.

Do you feel that the training you received in the IDELT course has helped you?

I feel very strongly that the preparation I received in the TEFL course helped me out a great deal while abroad. I feel as though I was able to conduct lessons very efficiently with the techniques I learned in the course.

What was the community like? Did you feel like a part of the community or more of an outsider? Did you experience culture shock?

I felt incredibly welcomed by the community mostly thanks to my co-workers. They did a wonderful job in seeing that I became accustomed to life in South Korea. I made many wonderful friends whom I dearly miss. The culture shock was pretty heavy at first, especially given that I was having a hard time adjusting to the cuisine. But it wasn’t long before I felt like a regular Korean myself. Though I never got used to Kim-Chi, I always felt right at home.

Where did you live? Tell me about your accommodations/living conditions.

My apartment was completely paid for by the company for which I worked. It was a rather large space, which I was incredibly pleased with. I felt very fortunate in this regard. I suppose I was surprised to be living in such a large area for free. My apartments in the states aren’t as big.

What did you do with your free time? Any interesting side trips or sightseeing experiences?

In my free time, if I wasn’t headed to Busan (the 2nd largest city in Korea after Seoul which was a half hour away by bus) to visit my friends, I would hang around Changwon and relax. Read some books, play some music, that kind of stuff. As far as sightseeing goes, there is a wonderful seaside temple in Busan that is phenomenally gorgeous. It’s a massive temple complex that sits right on the edge of a cliff overlooking the sea. It’s no joke when I say it looks like the set of some magical historical film.

What do you think is the biggest challenge that you encountered?

The biggest challenge I encountered would definitely have to be the food. It’s strange because I’m typically open to any and all kinds of cuisine, but Korean food was definitely a challenge for me. Even still, I can’t say I really get a craving for it.

Why did you decide to leave and come back to the USA?

I did not renew my contract and stay in Korea because I had decided it was time to go back to school. I am currently applying to various Japanese MA programs around the states.

Any tips for future IDELT’ers thinking about/planning on teaching overseas?

If I had any advice for prospective English teachers, it would to keep an open mind and be patient. Nothing will ever be how you expect it, especially when it comes to teaching abroad. Just be ready to be flexible with any and all challenges that come your way.

What are your plans now/what are you doing now? Do you think about going back overseas to teach English?

As I mentioned earlier, I plan on pursuing a Master’s degree in Japanese.  I don’t plan on returning to South Korea to teach English, as Japan is my area of focus. I would ideally like to teach at a Japanese university whether it’s English, history, culture, etc.