Letter from South Korea: Part 1

How does a recent graduate stay hopeful?

The unemployment rate for youth climbed to 14.9 per cent in May, says Stats Can. One in five young adults have moved in with a friend or relative, says Maclean’s. Most are suffering from recession anxiety, says the Calgary Herald.

If you’re graduating soon, recently graduated or a parent of one of the former, I hope you’ll take heart with this “Letter from South Korea” post.

Below, you’ll find Part 1 of my interview with a 24-year-old recent graduate from a Canadian university who has chosen to teach English as a second language in South Korea.

Meaghan Harrison @ National Museum of Korea

Meaghan Harrison @ National Museum of Korea

Her name is Meaghan Harrison, and she’s a fiesty young woman who I’ve known since birth. I’ve always admired her beautiful outlook on life. Hand her lemons and she honestly wouldn’t think to do anything else but throw a lemonade party.

What made you decide to leave Canada?

Ever since I was a little girl and saw my big sister (you might know her, she happens to write an interesting blog in Ottawa) travel after university, I knew I wanted to do the same. I thought I might do some back-packing around Europe, but that didn’t really fit well with my economic situation. Teaching overseas is the perfect way to meet both of my goals: travel and pay-off student debt.

Job opportunities are pretty limited in Canada right now. You can take a low-wage entry position (which I did for a while), but this makes it extremely difficult to make rent and pay-off student debt. I actually made more money waitressing, but I wanted to get into something different.

 How did you pick South Korea?

Gyeonbokgung Palace

Gyeonbokgung Palace

As soon as I decided I wanted to do teaching abroad, I started researching on the internet and contacting friends that had done the same thing. I just kept hearing great things about South Korea and I got in touch with a recruiter who really helped me decide that South Korea was the place to do. Some of the other Asian countries are more expensive to live in, and South Korea has a reputation for better contract and employment conditions.

Have you always been interested in teaching?

In some ways, I always have been … but I never thought I would want to be a teacher as a full-time job. I enjoy working with children and I also did some hockey coaching for youth when I was in university. And I can remember, when I was very little, that I used to hold classrooms in my bedroom for my stuffed animals! I even gave out assignments and graded how each one did; I think my stuffed lion animal was my best student!

With students

With students

Now that I am actually teaching full-time, I can definitely see myself doing this when I return to Canada. I really love my job. I teach kindergarten level now and if I end up teaching back in Canada, I would like to teach older children. But this is an excellent way to start – if you can teach six-year-olds to read, write and speak English, then anything is possible!

Stay tuned for Part 2, coming soon!

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4 Comments

Filed under Adventure, Family, Guest Posts, Headlines, Learning, Living, Media, Observations, Tales, Travel

4 responses to “Letter from South Korea: Part 1

  1. Brenda

    Did Meaghan study to be a teacher?
    Good on her for being proactive and finding a way to meet her goals.

    At risk of sounding old and curmudgeonly (and making myself very unpopular)…
    Isn’t the only way to get a high pay, high level job to work through all the lower pay, lower level jobs, gaining experience and industry knowledge? What other way is there?

    • coffeewithjulie

      Hi Brenda –

      You are right of course (and don’t sound curmudgeonly at all) – life does dictates that one needs to work from the bottom-up to gain industry knowledge and experience. But — to play the devil’s advocate — if new grads are not able to find entry-level jobs in their industry, then they are basically killing time doing work that doesn’t even pay the bills, let alone allow for paying-down student debt.

      In Meaghan’s case, even if she ended up not enjoying teaching, she would return to Canada with higher-value career experience (she was answering phones and waitressing in Canada) that would help her resume and job search. However, she has found that she does enjoy teaching and so this experience will help her apply into the very competitive process for entry into a Canadian teaching degree upon her return. (She currently holds a B.A.)

      Thanks for visiting and posting a comment!

  2. meg

    Don’t worry, you are not making yourself unpopular! What you said totally makes sense, and I do realize that to get a high paying job, you need to work through the low-paying entry positions first. This is what my husband and I were doing before we left, however, we were barely making ends meet. Not only were we not making any progress on our loan payments (I inherited his once we married), paying bills and making rent was difficult. If we were to ever travel, we just thought this is the best way to do it. Now we get to travel, our apartment is taken care of, and we are making much better progress of getting out of student debt.

    And of course, all the other things my sister said! Thanks for your comment.

  3. Brenda

    “if new grads are not able to find entry-level jobs in their industry, then they are basically killing time”

    Very good point.

    I visit often, Julie! 😉
    Looking forward to Part 2, Harrison sisters.

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