life after graduation: CREATIVE JOBS IN A TOUGH ECONOMY

November 30, 2009 § Leave a comment

Leah Rowland, BS 2009, ventured out of the USA and into South Korea. She fell in love with the country so much when she studied abroad for a semester that by the time graduation day came she already knew what her next step in life was going to be. Though according to Leah, “if you are a designer South Korea is the place you need to be”, she is not in South Korea for that reason; she is a teacher there.

Leah lives and works in Seoul, which is one of the densest cities in Asia with about 12-13 million people in the metropolitan area. The buildings are old and some of them are just plain shabby. There’s a reason for that: they experienced a boom around the 1970s and had to build up the city very quickly. But as their economy grows they’re able to build more contemporary-style buildings. On smaller scales, the city is beautiful. Many restaurants, cafes, and bars have amazing interiors. They are committed to preserving their past, so a lot of the traditional architecture still stands. There are a lot of great urban spaces, too, as well as museums, live performances, and tons of other things to do and see. They have world class and cheap transportation; you can get to the other side of the city for about $1 on the clean, efficient metro, there is an extensive bus network, and taxis are very, very cheap!

Leah teaches in a Hagwon, which is a Korean term meaning academy. They are after school academies.  Students go to regular school during the day, then go to two or three different Hagwons after school. There are many different Hagwons, ones for math, music, drawing and language. The only requirements for the job are that you speak native English and have a four-year degree. The major doesn’t matter, and she did not get an additional degree in order to teach. Some people get TESL/TEFL certified and make more money. She teaches children aged 7-13. Leah explains her job: “They’re children, so they’re wild and it can be difficult to keep their attention. I have never had prior experience with children, and found that my patience runs deep.  As the teacher you have to keep their attention, or, at least, keep them quiet, then you have to work with the curriculum and get responses from them. I think I’ve been lucky with my students; while some of them obviously couldn’t care less about learning English, but a lot of them become very excited and passionate about the material. And that all depends on how you teach it, you have to be really creative when you teach because if you present the material in a boring way they’ll be bored and that’s not fun for anyone.”

“I needed to come back and see what more South Korea had to offer me, and I’m really glad I did. There’s nothing like being an outsider in another country, knowing it so intimately.” Leah states.

As part of her experience she also keeps a blog to document her lifestyle in a foreign country. Read her stories here.

Cheonggyecheon bus stop panorama. Photo Credit: Leah Rowland.

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