Interview with Chris Schannauer: An American Teaching in South Korea

Today we hear from our latest Reach To Teach Teacher Chris who is currently teaching in South Korea. He made the move from Pennsylvania to Korea and although he hasn’t been there for long, his experiences have shown him a lot. Read on to find out what he thinks of his time there.

993381_10200559745659639_929942904_nPlease tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Chris Schannauer, and I am currently teaching English in South Korea. I graduated from Albright College in Pennsylvania with my BA in History, and I am currently pursuing my MS in General Education. I decided to teach in South Korea with my girlfriend Jenni because it is an awesome way to get paid to travel! It is also a great way to meet some really cool people!

How have you enjoyed teaching in South Korea to date?

I really enjoy teaching in South Korea so far! Jenni and I both work very hard during the week, and we have experienced our fair share of adversity thus far, but we are both certified educators so this is a great opportunity to add valuable experience to our resumes.

What advice can you give to new teachers interested in teaching in South Korea?

There are two things that I feel are very important to tell anyone who is thinking about coming to Korea: 1) TELL EVERYONE ABOUT YOUR DECISION! You will learn a great deal about teaching in Korea from other people. When Jenni and I began speaking with our friends about our decision to teach in Korea, we found that a number of our friends know people who are teaching in Korea. We were able to learn a great deal about Korea this way.  2) DO YOUR RESEARCH! I know this may sounds like common sense, but there is a lot of preparation that can/must be done before coming to Korea.

Can you tell us about a particularly powerful moment in your classroom?179763_10200424430636848_202571994_n

I think the most powerful moment for me in the classroom occurred the first time I attempted to speak Korean with my students. I am sure that I totally butchered the pronunciation…actually…looking back I know that I butchered the pronunciation, but I am sure that my students appreciate the effort to learn their language. I believe this simple act has improved my rapport with my students immensely. Now, some of my students will try to help me learn new Korean phrases when they are leaving my class.

What are the positive and negative aspects of living in South Korea?

There are many benefits to living abroad. Living abroad is a wonderful chance to experience a culture completely unlike your own. While living abroad, you will inevitably be invited to events by natives, allowing you to participate in authentic experiences which are unavailable to outsiders. In addition to the cultural awareness you will receive, living abroad is a great chance to network with some really cool people which you would not be able to meet under different circumstances.

Living abroad is also a great opportunity to check items off of your bucket list. I cannot speak for every person who is teaching abroad, but based on my experience thus far, you will work a lot, and you will be tired at the end of the day. Holidays and weekends are ideal times to travel. Don’t be afraid to find a temple or a world heritage site on the Internet, jump on the metro and go see it on a Saturday or Sunday. One of the most valuable things that living abroad can teach you is how to be independent. Living abroad forces you to figure things out for yourself, and as a result you will become a much stronger person.

While there are a number of benefits to living abroad, there are also negatives which are worth mentioning. In my opinion, the toughest thing about living abroad is the language barrier. It can be very frustrating to be unable to read things such as restaurant menus or signs and labels at the grocery store. Technology has made the language barrier much easier to deal with, but it is still there, even for someone who is actively trying to learn the language. My advice is to learn a little bit of the language before leaving for a foreign country. At this point I am two months into my contract and I have picked up a few phrases and the alphabet. It does not seem like much, but it is a very good feeling to be able to read things when out and about, even if you are not able to distinguish what the word actually means.

Another difficult thing to deal with while living abroad is culture shock. All the research I did before arriving to Korea mentioned culture shock. I did not really believe that it would happen to me, but it is very real. There will be times when you get very homesick. There will be times when you become very frustrated with not being able to find things that you could find so easily when you were at home. Culture shock is a natural thing. The body is not designed to have its world turned upside down. The mind is not used to being confused all the time. The mind is hardwired to make sense of things, and making sense of things in a totally new environment is very exhausting. Be prepared to be tired all the time. Be prepared to have tough nights. Be prepared to question your decision. Most of all, be prepared to be lonely from time to time. My advice is to reach out to the ex-pat community. Find a western restaurant that serves food that is familiar to you. Bring some small things with you that remind you of home. In the end remember that the positives outweigh the negatives, and that your time spent overseas is a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience another culture.

Have you had the opportunity to travel much in South Korea or in Asia?

Jenni and I have traveled a few places thus far, and we definitely plan to travel as much as we can while we are on this side of the world. We visited a fortress as well as a palace in Suwon, a Buddhist temple in Busan, and Haeundae Beach in Busan. We also plan to travel to Japan within the month and Thailand before the end of the year.

Do you have any favorite blogs or websites about South Korea that you’d like to share with our readers?

If you have any questions regarding teaching in Korea, or living abroad in general, feel free to contact me. I would be more than happy to share with you any wisdom I have absorbed in my short time here in Korea. Feel free to also take a peek at our blog! www.chrisandjenniseetheworld.wordpress.com

I will leave you with a few inspirational words from Mark Twain, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” –Cheers!

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