Teaching English in Busan, South Korea: Q&A with Anne Shelton

Discover the captivating story of Anne Shelton, a 23-year-old from San Francisco, as she shares her enriching experience of teaching English in Busan, South Korea. 

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What is your citizenship?

United States

What city and state are you from?

San Francisco, California

How old are you?


What is your education level and background?

Bachelor's Degree

Read more: The Requirements for Teaching English in Korea

Have you traveled abroad in the past?

I studied abroad

If you have traveled abroad in the past, where have you been?

New Zealand, Europe

If you have studied abroad in the past, where did you study?

New Zealand

What sparked your interest in teaching English abroad?

To be able to travel while still earning a paycheck and doing something more productive with my life than working in the food industry.

What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?

I was worried about teaching for the first time- standing up in front of a class and pretending I know what I'm doing- turns out teaching is both harder and easier than I expected it to be.

What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?

Half and half. Many friends were very supportive because they knew it was a good life decision but they were sad they wouldn't see me for a whole year.



Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy? South Korea English Teaching

I would like to teach in countries that require teachers to be TEFL certified and the International TEFL Academy seemed trustworthy and supportive even past the classes.

Which TEFL certification course did you take?

Online TEFL Class

How did you like the course?

I liked it- The first online course I've ever taken and it was actually very interactive while allowing me to lead my normal life. I learned a lot about teaching and lesson planning an educational theories in general. The instructor was nice and very helpful and the other students provided good discussion.

How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?

To be honest I wish there had been more in the course about teaching to very young kids- but I think when I start teaching to older generations all the knowledge from my TEFL classes will become very useful.



Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?

I am teaching English in Busan, South Korea - as a first-time teacher, I wanted my hand held through the process and Korea seemed to offer that. I chose Busan because I didn't want to be landlocked in Seoul and am very happy to be here because this city has a different (better!) character.

South Korea English TeachingHow long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?

I have been here for 5 months and plan to stay for a full year before I begin exploring other country options.

What school, company, or program are you working for?

I'm working for Kids Club- a Hagwon chain in South Korea.

Read more: What is a Hagwon for Teaching English in South Korea?

How did you get your work visa?

My recruiter helped me get a work visa VERY quickly- there's a lot of paperwork but it finally got sorted.

Read more: E2 Visa Korea Requirements for English Teachers

Tell us about your English teaching job!

I liked to joke that I have the worst job in Korea because I think my conditions are particularly bad compared to EVERYBODY else I know in Busan. I work "31" hours per week but that only counts the hours that I am standing and teaching in front of the class. In reality- I am AT work from 9:30 am-7 pm on MWF and 9:30 am-5:30 pm Tuesday/Thursday.

I get paid 2.1 million won- which after various taxes etc comes to a little under $ 2,000 US dollars per month- and they pay for my housing and transport costs to get to work are nil so I am saving a little over $ 1,000 dollars per month when I am not traveling or going shopping too much. I was told that everything in Korea is cheap and while that's not necessarily true its not hard to find good deals.

Read more: How Much Do English Teachers Make in Korea?

I am working for a Hagwon- Kindergarten in the morning and elementary school in the afternoon. I LOVE the kids even when I don't like forcing them to learn (they are very overworked). I get one week of vacation in the summer (going to Thailand) and one week in winter (perhaps India?) and then about once a month get a day off for a national holiday.

My school also goes on lots of field trips and has special play days which helps break up the monotony of teaching such long hours every day.

Also- the weekends here are AMAZING. I made friends quickly and easily and I have been hiking and exploring and seeing something new every weekend. There is so much to do in Busan.

How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?

My school hooked me up with a nice apartment- I live in the same building as my co-teachers. We live in a central area- although its nothing special it is convenient to get to all the nice places.


Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc. about your country:

Teaching English South Korea

Korea is a very proud country- they are proud of their long-standing traditions and they are also very proud of their new technology and their inventions of K-pop and K-dramas. Sometimes they are very rigid- shush-ing us loud talkers on public transport, etc. But more often they are overly going out of the way to make sure I am comfortable and getting the full cultural immersion experience. Public transport is a breeze- the subway system is all in English and when you figure out what bus you need that's easy too. And there is always the option of getting a taxi-which is pretty cheap.

Nightlife is intense- people go out late and stay out late- a typical night out will have me coming home at 6-7 am. There are loads of foreign bars and the drinks are cheap- about 3-5 dollars for a typical mixed drink.

The social scene is great here- I have joined several Facebook groups to stay informed and I always have something to do- I am often stuck between deciding what to do. I go hiking a lot and there is a lot of good hiking in Busan- along with other outdoor activities like kayaking, rock climbing, etc.

The food is great but you do have to be a little bit brave. I'm addicted to kimchi now and consider rice to be a staple of every meal. I'm lucky because my school feeds me lunch for free so I have been able to sample many different Korean dishes- and most are very good (including dried anchovies with their heads still on)

There's a big expat community in Busan and there is always some sort of event going on.

I think the dating scene is a lot better for guys than for girls here- most foreign guys end up dating Korean girls whereas foreign girls don't tend to date Korean boys. I do know many foreign couples but they are few and far between and most met before they came to Korea.

Travel opportunities are great. I am going to Thailand in the summer and thinking about India in the winter- and between those times will go to Japan on three-day weekends or Jeju Island (a couple-hour ferry ride away) which is meant to be amazing.



South Korea English TeachingWhat are your monthly expenses?

I have to pay $30/ month for housing.

Korean food is cheap- street food snacks can fill you up for under $5. Makkoli (Korean rice wine) and Pajeon (savory pancake) can be $10 per person in a group. Barbeque (DELICIOUS) is no more than $20 for a giant meal.

All touristy things are cheap- under $10 for most things: Busan tower, etc.

Kayaking is cheap and hiking is free :)

Transport is cheap: about $1.20 for bus and subway. Taxi averages $10 for a decent distance ride- and you can fit 5 people in a cab legally. Speed train to Seoul is $100 round trip.

I got a smartphone and I pay about $65/month for the phone and an unlimited data plan- and having a smartphone is one of the best things about Korea.

How would you describe your standard of living?

High. I live in a nice apartment by myself- and never have money worries except for where to travel next.

In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?

Probably at least 1.2 million won per month would be the least you would want to make and more if you are paying off debts at home.



What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?

I would recommend Korea & teaching English in Busan but I would recommend teaching in a public school (through EPIK or otherwise). That being said I would rather work in a Hagwon in Korea than in a restaurant in the US any day.

Check out Anne's blog: https://awkwardannesadventures.wordpress.com/

Go further: A 6-Step Plan to Find English Teaching Jobs in South Korea


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