From abroad

Colette Lynagh

After failing to secure a place on a PGDE programme and my boyfriend beginning his probationary year in Stornoway, I was left at a loose end. Working in Glasgow as bar staff was losing its novelty with late nights, long hours and lack of real purpose.

I applied for teaching assistant posts without any success and the disclosure nightmare made volunteer work unappealing. Also, I had to pay the bills, so I was stuck between a rock and a hard place until my friend suggested I go on a course for teaching English as a foreign language.

A course was scheduled to start in two weeks' time, close to my home and only for a weekend, so I went for it. At just over Pounds 100, it was a lot more affordable than other courses I had found, and I could always extend my training if it appealed.

I booked my place and began researching jobs abroad. There are so many! I had difficulty sorting the wheat from the chaff. However, some in the Far East promised free accommodation, return flights and a comparable salary to here. It all sounded too good to be true: I envisaged leaky rooms shared with three smokers and their pets.

At this point I received an email from the company organising my TEFL course: it had been postponed for three weeks.

I already had my heart set on starting my job before Christmas, as a six-month contract would allow me to finish around the same time as my boyfriend and we could go travelling as planned. So I decided to be pro-active and call the TEFL organisation for advice. They had contacts in Greece, China, South Korea and Japan and as a graduate I found I had more options than non-graduates.

In Greece and China accommodation was free but the wages were Pounds 500 a month, which is enough to live on but leaves nothing over to save.

In Japan the wages were the highest, but so was the cost of living and rent was not covered.

South Korea was a different story. So here I am in South Korea, where education is seen as the noblest of all pursuits.

As I was told on arrival, "our only natural resource is the people, so we take educating our children very seriously."

I have come to work as a teacher at a hanwon (an English teaching private school) and already my experiences have been eye-opening.

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Colette Lynagh

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