Interview With Megan Tighe, An American Teacher In South Korea
Hello Reach To Teach readers. It is nice to see you once again for our next teacher interview. This time we asked Megan Tighe a number of questions about her time spent in South Korea so far. She was kind enough to answer them for us sharing her views on her experience.
Please tell us a little about yourself.
I was born and raised in the United States in Akron, Ohio. After graduating from Ohio State in 2010 with a Bachelor’s in Marketing, I moved to Chicago, Illinois for 3 years where I worked as a marketer for a company I highly disliked. One fateful afternoon, I stumbled upon a TEFL school in my neighborhood. The rest is history. When I’m not teaching English in South Korea, you can catch me searching tirelessly for the best sweets in Seoul, participating in a random class (soap making, anyone?) or striking a yoga pose after checking out what the heck my Korean classmates are doing first. Namaste!
How have you enjoyed teaching in South Korea to date?
Teaching is a very rewarding, albeit exhausting, profession. I taught ESL adults in Chicago prior to moving to South Korea, and teaching kids is a very different beast! But for every down (you perfectly explain an activity in clear, simple English only to be met with blank stares), you get an up (you create an activity that students love so much they ask you if they can repeat it one more time). My experience with teaching in South Korea thus far has been overwhelmingly positive, and I owe that to my school, co-teachers and of course, the students.
What advice can you give to new teachers interested in teaching in South Korea?
Be patient. The process can be long and tedious, especially if you plan to apply for a public school position. Know that it will all be worth it in the end. Don’t let negative comments or reactions from others deter you from pursuing your dream. Chances are they know nothing about South Korea, because if they did they would likely not respond in a negative way.
And finally, one thing that may sound self-explanatory but is worth mentioning is that life abroad is still life. You will have to go grocery shopping, do laundry and pay bills. Unless you come with someone from home, you will have to make a whole new set of friends. You will have fantastic days and terrible ones, too. Living abroad is not a vacation and the initial “honeymoon” period after you arrive will end eventually. All this being said, living abroad will (slowly but surely) change your life.
Can you tell us about a particularly powerful moment in your classroom?
I unexpectedly received a new co-teacher a few weeks into my contract. On the first day of class, she motioned for me to come to the front and center of the classroom. Little did I know, I’d be leading the entire lesson by myself! After going through some textbook material, I quickly made up an activity on the spot. The lesson was about traveling and I had the students draw a picture of somewhere they’d been, write a short paragraph about it and then present it to the class. I was blown away with the sheer talent of my students, both linguistically and artistically. I learned that day to never underestimate the creativity and abilities of your students!
Public transportation in Korea is top-notch! You can get virtually anywhere in the country by subway, train or bus. This makes traveling around the country fun and easy to do. A negative aspect for some might be the fact that as a foreigner you will be stared at quite a bit. You will also likely eat a lot of things you can’t identify. And if you don’t know the Korean language, it will be difficult to learn and the language barrier will be frustrating at times.
Have you had the opportunity to travel much in South Korea or in Asia?
I have visited multiple cities outside of Seoul thanks to the aforementioned top-notch transportation. These include Busan, Mungyeong, Jecheon, Danyang, Gimcheon and Muuido Island thus far. International trips are in the works. Stay tuned!
How do you like your school in general?
I love my school! Not because it has a large English budget, the latest technology or perfectly behaved students, because in fact it has none of those things. But it is filled with warm-hearted, hard-working and caring people.
Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about?
There are a few things no one told me about South Korea before I arrived, that I wish they had. These include the fact that Korean toothpaste doesn’t contain fluoride, garlic bread is sweet here and schools leave windows open year-round, regardless of how cold it gets (something about the need for constant fresh air). Bring a Snuggie, or 10.