A Day in the Life of an ESL Teacher in Korea


So I know most people that read this blog probably think we just gallivant around the world and do fun things all the time, but we are actually working full-time over here (I promise!). In fact, the novelty of being in a “new” place kind of wears off quickly when you are just doing normal, everyday things like going to work, buying groceries, going to the bank, and paying bills. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget we are even in Korea.

In case you are curious as to what the day-to-day bits of our lives look like, here is a collection of photos that make up a typical day for me. These photos actually aren’t all from the same day, but overall they give a good impression of what my 8-5 existence entails.

8:15 a.m. — Walk to school. My walk takes about 10-15 minutes…and I almost never actually make it out the door by 8:15. Lately, I’ve been walking along the river to school instead of going on the streets–it’s a much quieter and a less crowded walk!

The view if I walk on the streets to my school.

The view if I walk along the river to school.

9:00 a.m. — I arrive at school at 8:30, but don’t start teaching until 9. Each one of my classes is 40 minutes long, with ten minute breaks between. I typically have four classes before lunch.

12:10 p.m. — Lunch! I eat the school lunch with all of the other teachers. Typically, there is rice, kimchi, soup, a meat option and some side dishes.

1:00 p.m. to 4:30 — Most days I have one more 40 minute long class after lunch, and then I have free time for the rest of the afternoon.

4:30 p.m. — Time to go home! I see tons of students on the way home, both at the school and in the streets. They are typically shocked and super excited to see me–I don’t think they realize until they see me walking around that I actually have a life outside of teaching them. By this time in the afternoon, there are also a lot of street vendors out, selling clothes, street food and fresh fruit.

Some students on the playground outside my school.

4:45 p.m. — Arrive home at our apartment building, which has recently been given a facelift and looks bright, shiny and new now!

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About andreasherrodd

We're a couple of wanderlusters who love travel, food and adventure. Our goal is to see the world, and to inspire you to do the same. Follow our adventure at www.world-walk-about.com.

25 responses to “A Day in the Life of an ESL Teacher in Korea”

  1. Rowan says :

    9 til 1 isn’t full time! πŸ˜›

    • andreasherrodd says :

      True, but I just meant we have to be at work full time πŸ™‚ I do the standard 22 hours (plus one extra class) of teaching time a week, and the rest is “planning” time.

  2. Spiritual World Traveler says :

    I can relate to what you said about the daily activities that become so mundane you forget you are in a foreign country living your dream! Maybe that’s what makes a travel addict… that craving for the “un-mundane!”

  3. Lori Finley says :

    Your apartment is so high! What floor are you on? Some must have amazing views!

    • andreasherrodd says :

      We’re on the 14th floor–our view is one of my favorite things about Korea! We have three sun porches on two sides of the building too–so we can see the sunrise and the sunset from our place πŸ™‚

  4. Rachel says :

    We are approaching 9 months here now… you can bet I’m really ready for the next thing! I totally agree, I often sort of forget I’m in a new country…

  5. waterfallsandcaribous says :

    Wow, you’ve been here exactly the same amount of time we have! We’re definitely itchy to move on too…we’ve had some great experiences but on the whole are ready to embrace somewhere a bit bigger than our tiny village! It was interesting to note the differences between public and hagwon teaching – we basically teach the same amount of hours per week but we’re not expected to at school for the whole day. We do everything – teaching, planning – in a 5 hour stint. No breaks, no lunch but the whole thing is over very quickly.
    Looking forward to the next adventure though! Where do you think you guys will head to next?

    • andreasherrodd says :

      That’s nice you don’t have to sit at school all day! My job is so easy, but I hate just sitting around when I have nothing to do (which is most of the time). But overall, this is a pretty good gig!

      Next up, we’re planning a big backpacking trip through China and SE Asia, then on to Australia to get a tourist working visa. From there, who knows! If we still have money after that we’d like to go to India and Eastern Europe. What are your future plans?

      • waterfallsandcaribous says :

        We’re flying out to Malaysia in October to spend a week there eating our way through the capital, then doing a trip around India for 7 weeks…after that, we’re not too sure yet. Looking at a few ideas at the moment πŸ™‚ So hard to narrow down which of all the places we want to go!!!

        You’ll love Australia, its amazing. Make sure you pop over to NZ as well – you can see the lot in a relatively short space of time and it should NOT be missed.

      • andreasherrodd says :

        Sounds awesome! We will definitely hit up New Zealand too, I’ve heard it’s ridiculously beautiful there πŸ™‚

      • Gram Anne says :

        Wow! Andrea and Matt, what exciting plans! Gram Anne

      • andreasherrodd says :

        We’re definitely looking forward to what the next few months will bring πŸ™‚

  6. Steph & Tony Investigate! says :

    That’s not too shabby! I am a graduate student (well, for two more weeks and then I am done!), so I have learned not to judge how other people spend their time, but it seems like you have a really nice set-up that allows you to work a completely respectable amount of time, while also having enough time to really enjoy life. I have been intrigued about the possibility of teaching English overseas, but I’ve only known people personally who did so in Japan, and they were working RIDICULOUS hours while they were there and it did not sound appealing at all!

    • andreasherrodd says :

      It completely depends on the school, but in my experience, public schools are more reliable about hours than private schools, because everything is regulated by the government. We have free afternoons to plan, but I really don’t have anything to plan because we go straight from a national textbook. Overall, easy gig! If you are interested in teaching in Korea I can send you some additional information, just let me know!

  7. mindonmissions says :

    This makes me so excited to be an ESL teacher! I am about half way through my degree so I’ve been reading peoples’ accounts of their experiences overseas…I was recently reading the not so pleasant stories about teaching in Korea so this is encouraging that not all public institutions are that way. I can definitely identify with the wanting to constantly go to new places though, I just want to get out of the States and be finished with my degree already

    • andreasherrodd says :

      I’m glad you’re excited, but definitely read my newest post too…haha, Korea is not all good! But overall, we are enjoying ourselves here. My advice would be to do a lot of research on your particular school, and if you can, talk to some past teachers. The public schools are (in general), less shady than the private schools, plus you get more vacation time. You sacrifice a small amount of pay, but for me, the vacation time is worth it, along with the peace of mind that everything at the public school is government regulated. Whereabouts are you thinking of teaching?

      • mindonmissions says :

        I read that post as well. I personally have always had a heart for Spanish-speaking countries all of my life, but I am open to new places. I’ve been to Colombia and Chile so far and fell in love with their cultures, and I am going to help out at an ESL camp in Ukraine this summer.. I just started looking into teaching in Asia because another site recommended a program in Korea that I would be interested in if I didn’t want to wait to finish my degree…Except I looked further into it and found out that it was illegal..haha, but I most likely will stay with Spanish countries since I love my personal space and Asia does not believe in that. Thanks for the advice; I don’t think the guy who suggested the program was at all concerned with safety, especially me being a woman traveling alone.

      • andreasherrodd says :

        Korea is actually incredibly safe–they have almost no violent crime here. Some neighborhoods in Seoul are a bit rougher around the edges, but it’s the second biggest city in the world, so that’s only natural. Ukraine will be interesting! I like Europe, but I’ve never been to Eastern Europe. You’ll have some adventures for sure!

  8. Shay M says :

    Nice read. I’ll be teaching over there VERY soon. I’m excited, but I do realize that I will be working. I wish I could find something where I could travel, get paid and not work lol. That would be the life.

    • andreasherrodd says :

      That would be the life! If you ever figure that one out, let me know. πŸ™‚ And anyway, depending on your school, you might not be working very much…it’s a pretty easy gig!

  9. Gram Anne says :

    This is all very interesting to a mostly stay at home gram. Nancy and I did fly to Phoenix, to have a nice vacation. That was fun! Gram Anne

    • andreasherrodd says :

      Glad you had fun in Arizona! Our day-to-day lives actually aren’t that exciting, we mostly go to work and stay at home in the evening! But we try to make up for it with fun things on the weekend. πŸ™‚

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  1. My Love/Hate Relationship with Korea | World Walk About - May 15, 2012

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