Friday, March 20, 2009

Go East, Young Man

Jobs are hard to find for recent graduates? I say, go on an adventure!

With few employment options in his hometown of Bellingham, Washington, Green applied to teach English in a South Korean middle school through Reach to Teach, an organization that assists college graduates with finding teaching positions in Asia. Green, who counts trips to Canada as his only experience abroad, will be leaving for Seoul on March 20 for one year.

"I am scared. I've only had one major breakdown so far, ... but I'm really excited about being on my own ... somewhere completely new where I know absolutely no one," he said.

Like Green, many recent college graduates are searching for alternatives to jumping into the job market in the face of the recession. An increasing number of young Americans are searching out paid positions teaching English in countries like South Korea, Japan, China and Spain as a means to expand their horizons and weather the economic doldrums.


mmazenko said...

Great post, Darren.

It inspired me to write my own entry about teaching English in Taiwan for five years. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. Not only did I get a great job in a tough job market (1991-92), but I saved a lot of money and traveled the world for five years.

To this day, I regularly share my experience with my students, and I tell them, if they do nothing else after high school, "get out of this country for a while."

Anonymous said...

Bellingham? Yeah. I know another guy who just graduated from WWU who is teaching English in Japan. Wonder if someone at the university is pushing this?

Anonymous said...

This really is an amazing opportunity for recent grads (or anyone for that matter) to see the world, gain international experience (looks great on a CV) and skip out on a few years of the recession. I've met tons of people here in Madrid that are doing this and I'm planning at least 2 years in Vietnam and China respectively.

Any native speaker with a TESL/TEFL certificate can teach abroad, so you don't even need an organization like the one in the article, but it is helpful. I'm glad that you posted this. So many people don't know this is an option. Adios, Loni

Darren said...

Thanks, Loni.

You're living an adventure that, in retrospect, I can only dream of. I think if I had to do it all over again, I'd do some things differently.

Anonymous said...

I went to Korea as an exchange student in the early 1990's, and it was a life-changing experience. At that time, non-military foreigners were not very numerous, and Korea was a great place to live and work (illegally, teaching English).

Today, the exchange rate is unfavorable for foreigners who seek work in Korea. Over the last year, the Korean Won has been devalued relative to the US Dollar by about 50%. Compensation paid to foreigners has not really kept up. On the plus side, many seasoned foreigners have probably looked elsewhere for work, so entry-level people may find positions are easier to get.

But one should go in with both eyes open. There are many blogs and forums where prospective overseas English teachers can educate themselves through the experiences and opinions of others. For example, this book and this book were written by an American who started teaching English in Korea. He later moved to China and worked in the same capacity for a time, but (sadly) committed suicide in China in 2006.

Still, if one is careful and providence is kind to them, they can have an incredible time overseas. There are very few things that can enhance one's appreciation of what we have here in the USA like a year or two abroad.

Anonymous said...

BTW, when one travels from the US to Asia, they are generally traveling in a western direction, no?

mmazenko said...

In many countries, the TESL certificate is not necessary. In Taiwan, the only requirement is (or at least was) a four-year college degree.

Darren, it's not too late. I've had many colleagues, and former colleagues, go abroad after "retiring" from thirty years in the public schools. Some have taken their families, even young kids, with them, as the experience is invaluable. Some do it for a couple years, others make a complete lifestyle change.

I've considered going back to Taiwan and taking my kids (4 and 7) for a couple years abroad. There was a potential AP position at the Taipei American School that tempted me, though it didn't materialize. But, while it was great to do right out of college, it's never too late. Many schools will give at least a couple years while holding position and salary scale.

Anonymous said...

I have a coworker who worked in the DoD schools in Germany (maybe elsewhere) back in the 1980's. He said it was a great gig. I had looked at DoD schools in the early 1990s, but ended up getting hired at a community college instead.

One of the pitfalls that awaits some foolish American kids who go abroad to certain countries is described in this blog post and this one, too. Korea, in particular, is not very kind to foreigners who ignore the local drug laws.