Tatum Dean studied with ISA in Seoul and Busan, South Korea. She loved South Korea so much, she returned to Hagwon, South Korea and began teaching. We reached out to learn more about what teaching in South Korea is like.
Did studying abroad in South Korea prepare you for living and working there?
Studying in South Korea basically gave me the idea to live and work there. I chose to study in South Korea for the first time in 2017 because, in high school, I had an exchange student stay with me from South Korea. I needed to study abroad for my major, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to see her country. Once I studied abroad, all I wanted was to return to South Korea.
I think, in some way, studying abroad did prepare me for my move to South Korea. Studying abroad got me acquainted to the culture. The second time I studied abroad, it gave me an in-depth look at life here, and also some good connections.
How did you get into teaching English?
I found out about teaching English in my university. I was actually studying French, and my French professor told me that he thought I would be good at teaching abroad, even though I was not an education major. I saw that South Korea had some good benefits when it came to teaching abroad. After I decided that I wanted to go back to South Korea, I figured that teaching would be a great way to start working in the country. Studying in South Korea basically set in stone where I wanted to work abroad.
What is a favorite experience from your time in Korea?
I’ve had so many great experiences in Korea. I’ve traveled to so many countries, I’m in a happy relationship, and I’ve tried so many new things here. I think one of the best experiences, though, was meeting people from all around the world. For a while, I lived in a shared house, and I met some life long friends there. I also still talk to my group of friends from Korea University who I studied with back in 2017. I wouldn’t have met these people had I not come to Korea. I’m very grateful they are in my life.
What do you love about South Korean culture?
The thing I enjoy most about Korean culture is that it’s a beautiful mix of the old and the new. Korea has such a rich history, and yet they developed very quickly. If you walk around places like Seoul, you see a thriving and bustling city. Then you go to a place like Gyeongbokgung Palace, and you are transported back in time. I think many people know Korea from K-pop and K-dramas, which are great, but my favorite part of it is this mix of old and new. The food is also amazing.
How does working in South Korea compare to studying there?
Living and working in South Korea is so different from studying abroad! The biggest difference is visas. As a student, you either don’t worry about a visa, or you get a student visa, which is fairly easy if you’re enrolled in school. If you plan to work and live here, getting visas is completely up to you. It’s definitely stressful at times. There’s also a big adjustment as well. When you’re in university, you are surrounded by people that have similar backgrounds or cultures to you. But when you are outside of university, you have to find places that make you feel at home. I don’t live in Seoul, so it’s a bit harder to find those “homey” places.
What are some future goals and aspirations of yours?
While I am a teacher now, I don’t plan on teaching forever. I would actually really like to work in a study abroad department at a university, or for a company like ISA. I had such a good time studying abroad, and I want to help others have just as good of an experience as I did. I think the world is big, and there are so many wonderful cultures out there. People should find as many opportunities as they can to explore it. I’m also interested in possibly working for the US Embassy, so I can help Koreans and Americans alike.
Interview by Jessica Terrell