Jeju Island South Korea Teaching Abroad

The Fun (& Wet?) Side of Teaching English Abroad

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Teaching English abroad in South Korea isn’t always the most fun thing in the world—even on the stunning Korean island of Jeju, with its island beaches, mountain hiking, green tea plantations, hidden coves, sunrise-friendly crater, Korean cherry blossoms, and Jeju winter snow-days. While we work at a fantastic hagwon (Korean private school), learning and teaching a second language always has its obstacles, especially since we mostly teach 4-7 year-olds. And let’s face it—kids want to be kids. And you know what? They should!

That’s why our favorite days of the year are the days we get to put down the books, and let these kids—brilliant and studious and guaranteed-to-be-successful, as most of them are—just be kids. Enter Water Fun Day.

Our school’s Water Fun Day rings in as the talk-of-the-town ’round these kindergarten parts. Scheduled sometime in the summer before our week of summer vacation, Water Fun Day ranks as one of the most looked-forward-to day by student and teacher alike (and frankly, we see it as one of the best parts of teaching English abroad!). We deck out the roof of our building in Jeju-si in pools and shade-bringers and floaty toys, and all the precious kiddies come dressed to impress in the littlest of swimsuits, sunhats, and sandals. Not to mention, super-soaking water guns that rival their bodies in size.
Teaching English Abroad: Water edition!

Kids Will Be Kids

Beyond the absolute joy of a sunny summer prance on the roof, Water Fun Day marks an important break in the study-heavy lives of the South Korean children we teach. Of course, this study-centric lifestyle is in no way unique to our school. Amanda Ripley of Time Magazine charges the heavy study emphasis of Korean culture with “educational masochism“—an “addiction” to hagwons so deep that authorities have been compelled to enforce a curfew to keep students from studying at after-hours academies late into the night.
Teaching English Abroad to Korean Kids

While the kindergartners we teach in the mornings have not likely been touched by that extent of a study-heavy hand, it’s not uncommon to hear of our afternoon elementary students visiting a math academy, a music academy, an art academy, etc., in addition to our English academy and their regular elementary school—all in one day.

 


Read this guide for more information on How to Teach English in South Korea!


Teaching English as a Second Language can be fun!
And why? In only a single generation, South Korea has managed an incredible feat—rising from one of the world’s poorest countries, to a remarkable high-earning, developed country, a period of speedy economic growth referred to as the Miracle on the Han River. And to what do we owe this great miracle? The incredible hard work of the Korean labor force, and yes, a strict emphasis on studying.


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So study culture is here to stay in South Korea, and will most likely always define the experience of those teaching English abroad. But it certainly makes days like Water Fun Day all the more enjoyable!

 


Learn how to make money while traveling beyond teaching English abroad!


Water Fun Day: The Fun Side of Teaching English Abroad

Taking full advantage of the island summer weather Jeju spoils us with, we trek enthusiastically up the stairs from the floor of our school to the roof, and get up to some serious funny business. No talk of prepositions or the magic “e” or pronouns or any of that other language stuff that comes out of your mouth when teaching English abroad, just some good ol’ food for the soul in the form of splash-happy frolicking and good-natured water battles.

Cute Korean kids!

While some of the kiddie clan splash and wade in the pools, others armor themselves with water artillery, filling up their super-soakers for some classic child menace, beaming with joy as they prance around the roof in search of a good teacher target to douse.

Summer Water Fight!

But, of course, we teachers don’t let the little rascals get away without a little payback! Teacher’s don’t bring their own water guns, but hey, we’re teachers—we can just take the kiddies’!

Water Fun Day at our Hagwon

Sure, teaching English abroad gets you benefits like free rent, 50% medical, and a contract-completion bonus—but hands-down the most luxurious benefit you’ll come to appreciate in South Korea is the unlimited access to the squishiest of cheeks you ever did see. It’s the little things in life!

ESL Teacher Revenge: The Cheek-squeeze

So there you have it. Over one year of living and teaching English abroad, and the purest joy we have at our jobs is letting the kids be kids (and letting ourselves be kids as well!). Water Fun Day, along with our field trip days and special holiday parties like Children’s Day, Christmas, and Halloween, brings us foreign teachers the chance to simply play with the kids and create the fondest memories we’ll bring back home with us. While we’ve certainly learned so much during our time teaching English abroad, one of the most valuable lessons is the reminder that, stripped of language, culture, nationality, study-emphasis and whatever else, the little humans that we teach, at the end of the day, are kids.

…And kids are really weak and easy to steal water guns from.

BOOM. Teacher out.

Jeju Island Summer Fun

 

Have you ever considered teaching English abroad? Let us know in a comment below, and send us any questions you may have about our experience as ESL teachers in South Korea!

 


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This is our experience teaching in South Korea. Want to learn more about teaching in other countries? Check out this post about teaching English abroad in Nepal and Japan, or this helpful guide on teaching English in China!


 

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20 Comments

  • Reply
    Bee
    August 9, 2016 at 9:31 am

    so cool, i wish my hagwon had some fun for the kids. Jeju looks like an amazing place to spend a year btw.

    • Reply
      Lauren West
      August 9, 2016 at 5:04 pm

      That’s a shame about your hagwon, Bee! But yeah, we loved Jeju so much we renewed our contract for another year! We didn’t enjoy the winter, but spring, summer, and early fall are fantastic.

  • Reply
    Jana
    August 23, 2016 at 10:02 pm

    what an inspiring journey you are on! you are living a dream 🙂

    • Reply
      Lauren West
      August 23, 2016 at 11:33 pm

      What a lovely comment, Jana! Thanks for dropping by!

  • Reply
    NoMAD NiNo
    October 17, 2016 at 9:53 am

    We have considered teaching english. Looks like amazing work being done! Who gives the discount on rent? are these government run programs?

    • Reply
      Lauren West
      October 17, 2016 at 4:03 pm

      There are government run programs known as EPIK, which is for public schools. We, however, teach at a hagwon, or private school, which means our rent is paid by our boss as agreed on ahead of time in the contract!

  • Reply
    Gareth
    October 17, 2016 at 6:37 pm

    Having done my time in Korea, I can definitely attest to the fact that the hard days teaching kids are the hardest but conversely, the best days are the best. And while kids are expected to work hard in Korean schools, the times in which they are allowed to relax and play and so life-affirming. This article gave me a pretty intense case of nostalgia!

    • Reply
      Lauren West
      October 18, 2016 at 4:03 pm

      Probably the kind of thing so much sweeter at a distance!

  • Reply
    Joaquim
    October 18, 2016 at 1:24 pm

    So cute!!!!! Dont know why but I never thought of activity days and teaching English going together. Thank you for showing me another great side of teaching English 🙂

    • Reply
      Lauren West
      October 18, 2016 at 4:04 pm

      There’s definitely a lot to teaching English in Korea that I never even considered before I came here!

  • Reply
    Lisette
    October 18, 2016 at 11:24 pm

    This post is really cool. I have bookmarked it.
    Do you allow guest post on your page ? I can provide high quality articles
    for you. Let me know.

  • Reply
    Juliette | Snorkels to Snow
    October 19, 2016 at 6:20 am

    Awesome! Teaching English is hard work – I did a little bit of it as my mum was an ESOL teacher in NZ and I helped out a couple of times, and also did some short-term volunteering in India & taught English there. I considered getting qualified so I could move to somewhere like South Korea or Japan to teach English, but life had other plans for me. The little bit that I did was very draining & very intense to be honest. You don’t get any space to breathe! But worth it when you see their smiles…

    • Reply
      Lauren West
      October 19, 2016 at 8:02 am

      It’s certainly work, but we find it worth it in the end!

  • Reply
    Vyjay
    October 20, 2016 at 5:20 pm

    I can fully understand why you call the Water Fun day, the best part of teaching English in Korea. The video of the kids playing in the water is so cute. The kids are obviously having a great time and i am sure you had a rocking time too!

    • Reply
      Lauren West
      October 20, 2016 at 9:35 pm

      We love it! Can’t wait for the next one!

  • Reply
    Christina
    November 1, 2016 at 7:40 pm

    I absolutely love the pictures! That’s just pure happiness! Never thought of teaching in such a cheerful colorful way haha. Nice 🙂

    • Reply
      Lauren West
      November 16, 2016 at 3:16 am

      There is definitely a bright side!

  • Reply
    Danielle
    November 9, 2016 at 9:52 am

    Who could say no to all those squishy cheeks?!?!? I mean I wanted to pinch them through my screen! I love how creative you are with these adorable little faces. I can only imagine how structured and routine things can get as a teacher so to be able to toss in some crazy fun like this is so awesome of you guys. It’s really amazing how much you as a teacher are doing for them and I really hope you know what you’re doing is gonna have a great impact on them. Keep up the amazing, and super wet work, Lauren. Those kids won’t forget it!!

    • Reply
      Lauren West
      November 16, 2016 at 3:17 am

      Absolutely, Danielle! And thank you so much for the kind words!

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