Q&A: Teaching in South Korea

Former study abroad student Missy Muser has returned to South Korea to teach English after recently graduating from EIU in 2013. Read on to find out more about what it is like to live and work in another country! Missy Abroad

1. You loved South Korea so much that you just had to return! What is the best part about teaching in South Korea?
One of my favorite things about Korea is how friendly people are.  Every time I’ve been lost (which will happen at some point any time you travel) someone was always willing to help.  Half the time, I didn’t even have to ask.  They just saw my look of complete panic or distress and would try to help.  Another fun thing about Korea is that it is different from the States.  You really do get to experience a culture that is different from your own.

2. Teaching abroad can be quite different than studying abroad. What was the most difficult part in adjusting to your new job?
Teaching and studying abroad are very different.  I studied abroad in Korea just for the summer so it felt almost like a holiday.  It was easy to meet people through the program or on campus.  I still find it fairly easy to meet people because other foreigners are often in the same situation as you are, and many Koreans are intrigued by foreigners.  I don’t know how many random conversations I’ve had walking down the street or waiting for a bus or train.  Obviously, they aren’t always lasting friendships, but not everyone you meet back home would be either.  The major difference is the amount of free time; full time jobs are serious work.  Just writing this makes me miss the flexibility of university life.  I’m a little outside of Seoul and work until 9 pm so during the week I can’t do as much.  The weekends are where travelling and meeting new people really comes into play.  Or meeting up with those awesome people I’ve connected with that sadly don’t live right in my area.  Public transport is easy and affordable here thankfully.

3. How prepared were you when beginning this new job, and what do you think could have helped prepare you even more?
I did not go to school even remotely for teaching English so I took an online TEFL course to help feel a little more prepared for the actual job aspect.  For the day-to-day living, I studied abroad first so I could get an idea of Korean living.  On a personal level, I felt very prepared to live abroad and to take the leap away from family and friends.  Technology makes it easy to keep in contact and a year goes by quickly.  If anything, I loved the challenge of being forced to be completely independent.  I knew I could handle living abroad on my own, so I was more worried about actually teaching.  I was nervous the first few days, as everyone is at a new job, but it becomes routine quickly and you learn all the ins and outs fast.

Missy Abroad2

4. What is it like teaching in a South Korean school?
Korean schools can vary.  There are public schools which offer more vacation and can be a little more secure, and then there are Hogwans (private schools) that are easier to get a job in but you do want to pay close attention to your contract and to try to make sure your school is a good school.  If there is already a foreign teacher at that school, try to get as much information from them as you can. Also, manners are quite different in Korea compared to the US.  Try to be as respectful as you can and your boss or co-teachers might give you some hints towards how to act.  Just be polite and they usually understand you have different ideas of what manners are.

5. What is it like where you are living?
Now I’ll be honest… I don’t absolutely love the town I live in.  It’s pretty grey and there isn’t a lot of nature incorporated through the city.  But it is easy for me to travel into Seoul which I do like.  I also wanted to be near the town I studied abroad at so I could visit friends and walk down nostalgia lane. All cities surrounding Seoul seem to have plenty of coffee shops, food joints, bars, buses, and are usually close to some form of outdoor trail or hiking area.

6. What do you do in your free time when you are not teaching?
I enjoy hiking and reading a lot.   I can easily spend a good majority of my time doing either of those.  Korea does have a lot of baby mountains and they are fairly big into hiking.  Sometimes it can be more stairs than trail, but it’s still beautiful and a great way to spend the time. There are also a lot of groups that do hiking trips, kayaking, ultimate frisbee, language exchanges, etc through social media networks.  Awesome way to meet people who have similar interests as you. Also, you get to meet people from all over the world.  I love being in a group and being able to listen to all the different accents or languages. And, of course, there’s always food.  Now some food you will miss with a fierce sort of ache.  Normal tacos or a killer homemade sandwich would be glorious at the moment, but there’s so much food to be had here.  They have restaurants everywhere and a wide range of types of food.  My first time trying Vietnamese, South African, or Nepalese food were all here.  And they were all delicious.  They have cheap street food you can get for a dollar or Korean barbecue for maybe 7. Again, the public transport is simple and cheap so it makes it possible to travel around and see new areas.

Missy Hiking

7. ​What advice do you have for other EIU students that are considering teaching abroad?
Do it!  Seriously, just go for it.  You learn so much about yourself and about others.  It’s a great chance to earn money, travel around, make friends with people you may never meet otherwise, and, if you are an actual teacher, you get the added bonus of experience.  Even those, like myself, who have no future plans of being a teacher, the experience here has still taught me a lot of skills that will be beneficial to any future jobs.  The Internet makes it so easy to keep in touch with those that matter back home.  Also, if they matter, they will still be there a year or more from now.  It’s a great way to get into the travelling mindset.  I’m already making plans for a year in New Zealand, a month in Europe, a summer in Alaska, moving west coast in the States, looking into programs in South America… and so forth.


Q&A: Jesse teaching in the Bahamas

Dedicated to our returning students, this installment of our Q&A Series focuses on a recent EIU graduate now teaching abroad in the Bahamas. Hear his thoughts from the best to worst and everything in between.DSC01572

Jesse Garibaldi

A recent 2013 EIU graduate, Jesse has gone from his hometown of Glenview, Illinois to studying, and now working on the beautiful island of the Bahamas!

1. Now that you’ve settled into your new job, what’s the best part?

Settling into a new job can always be scary, especially when it is your first job as a teacher. Thankfully, I work with a wonderful staff that is always looking out for each other and always willing to help however they can. I would have to say my fellow coworkers are one of the best parts of my job at Tambearly.

2. What’s the hardest part? What presented itself as a difficulty while you were adjusting?

One of the hardest parts of teaching here is the grading; it is something I have gotten better at but it still takes up so much time. I have been going in earlier and getting some work done
during my breaks to keep up with everything so I don’t have to worry about taking so much home.

3. Did your student teaching in the US prepare you well for this position?

I am really lucky because even though I am teaching abroad, the private school I am working at uses United States state standards. My lesson plans and the material I teach look similar to lessons I created during student teaching. I did my student teaching in kindergarten which is a little different than teaching in fourth grade like I am now. But I am teaching three, four, and five year old soccer so the practice I have had with the younger students has really come in handy there.

4. How does the environment affect your teaching or your daily life?

Tambearly is a open air school meaning that there are walls and a roof, but there is no air conditioning. The school is made so that the windows on the ground pull in air while the windows on the wall blow air out. It keeps the school pretty cool considering it has been around 90 degrees. Because the door and windows are always open to the environment, there are frequent “visitors” that come into the room especially if it is raining. One of my first few days, a frog managed to hop into my room and disrupt the whole class until I was able to get it out. Having frogs, lizards, and a variety of other animals is a pretty regular event, but I have become better at keeping my class calm and getting the animals out of the room without hurting them.

5. Where are you living? What’s that like?

I am living in a nice neighborhood and my house is only a three minute walk to the beach. The water is so blue here and the sun is so many different colors. Depending on the time of day it really is wonderful. My walk to work is about half an hour but most of the walk is along the water, which makes the walk much nicer. I am living on my own for the first time without roommates, which is a little different. I have made some really nice friends so I rarely get bored, but there are some times when my days can be slow.

6. What do you miss from home? (places, people, things, food)

It’s on those slow days when I find myself missing my friends and family the most. I have always been close to my family so even when I was living at home it was nice because there was always someone to talk to. Thankfully now with Skype and Facebook, I have been able to keep in touch with mostly everyone, which makes everything so much easier.

7. You’re coaching as well – how does that add to your experience?
As it is my first time coaching, I do not know the most about soccer. However, I am working with three, four, and five year olds so practice is not about specific fine motor skills but more to get the students out, having fun, and boosting their confidence. I have a good relationship with the young students and many of them are really enthusiastic about playing, which is always exciting to see.

Thanks, Jesse! Continue to teach others all over the world.

Q&A: Laura’s View from 2 Countries

A unique double trip installment to our Q&A Series dedicated to our returning students. Hear their thoughts from best to worst and everything in between.

Laura Krieg

AlpsLaura is a native of Woodstock, IL and is an EIU student receiving a Dual Cert. in Special Education and Elementary Education. She has studied abroad TWICE within the past couple years, first during May 2012 on the German Life and School program in Esslingen, Germany and then again in May 2013 on the Science and Schooling program on Andros Island, Bahamas.

Q1: PLACES, talk about your favorite spot in your home away from home. Where? Why?

In Germany, my favorite spot was at the highest point in the Alps.  It was so breathtaking.  I have never been able to look down on so much and so far.  I would love to visit this spot again.  In the Bahamas, my favorite spot was the lodge where we stayed.  There were two other groups (one from Ohio and one from New York) staying there with us, so we got to interact with more than just our group of EIU students as well.  Every night, we would sit out on a deck they had on the ocean and watch the tides come in.  It was a great place to stay!

Q2: NOPE, are there things you don’t miss from your destination? What? Why?

The sand fleas in the Bahamas!  I came back covered head to toe in huge bites!

Q3: YEP, you’re actually homesick for something from abroad. What? Why?

I really miss the laid-back, relaxed lifestyle from the Bahamas!  People did not rush around as much as they do in the United States.  You simply got where you needed to go when you got there.  Also, everybody was so friendly!  People would honk and wave every time they passed you on the street.

Q4: SHOCKING, you could hardly believe your eyes when you saw … What? Why?

A small group of us were snorkeling one of the reefs in the Bahamas.  We were swimming right along the reef when a 6 ft shark came up over the reef and swam right underneath me.  I could have reached down and touched it… it was so close!  I don’t think my mind actually registered what it was until it was underneath me.  Scary, but AMAZING, experience!

Q5: WEEKENDS, full of travel. Where did you go? How did you choose? Was it difficult to plan?

In Germany, I spent a weekend in Konstanz, Germany on Lake Constance.  I chose this location because it was close enough for a weekend away but very different from where I was studying.  It was beautiful!  I did find it difficult to plan because I do not speak any German and neither does the girl I went with.  The weekend was definitely an adventure… we ended up walking miles and miles because we couldn’t read the bus schedule!Andros Island

Thanks, Laura! We appreciate hearing your memories from both of your trips abroad!

Q&A: Missy on South Korea

Another installment to our Q&A Series dedicated to our returning students. Hear their thoughts from best to worst and everything in between.

Missy Muser


Graduating this December as an EIU Finance major and Economics & Biology minor, Missy decided to study abroad this past summer in South Korea. Originally from Coles City, IL she ventured off to the South Korean city of Suwon where she studied at Ajou University for a month long program.

Q1: FOOD , your favorite subject & ours. Best dish? Worst dish? New recipe you picked up?

I loved the food in Korea, so picking one best dish is difficult. I absolutely loved Topokki, which is a spicy dish that included rice cakes. The rice cakes were delicious and the best way to describe them would be comparable to a thick, chewy noodle. I’m a terrible cook so I didn’t come home with Korean recipes, but when I’m craving one of their dishes I find myself going out of my way to dine at a Korean restaurant here in the states.

Q2: PLACES , talk about your favorite spot in your home away from home. Where? Why?

During my travels I was able to visit the capital of Seoul, Korean Folk Villages, Buddhist Temples, and even spent a few days on Jeju Island, which were all incredibly beautiful places. My favorite me-time place was the picnic tables area in front my dorm. Surrounded by trees and chirping birds, it was there where I would spend my mornings drinking coffee and reading my book because I found the spot to be quite soothing.

Q3: TOP SECRET , did a local point you to a market, pub, or park you didn’t know about? Pass it on.

A few of the Korean students lived in the surrounding area so they pointed us to some of the better local food places.  They took us to a melting pot type restaurant where each table would cook their own food of beef, seafood, or vegetables. It was delicious! Another great spot they showed us was a barbecue restaurant.  In South Korea the barbeque doesn’t include barbeque sauce, but simply the grilling of the meat.  At some restaurants you grill the meat yourself along with cooking kimchi eggs along the outside of the table, which were also very good.

Q4: NOPE , are there things you don’t miss from your destination? What? Why?

One of the few things I don’t miss is the lack of outdoor garbages.  For whatever reason, they just weren’t that common in South Korea. Usually a pile of garbage would just occur throughout the day around one location, but I couldn’t bring myself to just leave my garbage sitting there.

Q5: YEP , you’re actually homesick for something from abroad. What? Why?

I was most homesick for coffee while abroad. I was given coffee singles from a girl I had met while I was out there, but most of the coffee had sugar or sweetener added to the mix, which made it too sweet for my liking. Even the coffee I bought from their convenient stores was still too sweet, which just couldn’t satisfy my intense American coffee craving!

Q6: SPEAKING OF , what new vocabulary have you added to your repertoire after study abroad?

I find myself saying the word “yes” in several different languages instead of just in English.  I also say, “Bulio” (I don’t know) and “Kamsahamnida” (thank you) in Korean quite often as well.

Q7: SHOCKING , you could hardly believe your eyes when you saw … What? Why?

The airport. It was shocking finally reaching my destination and it became that epic moment where I felt like I was really in a new land. I couldn’t wait to spend the following month in South Korea and meet so many new people.

Q8: WEEKENDS , full of travel. Where did you go? How did you choose? Was it difficult to plan?

I visited the city of Gangnam (yes, from the catchy song), and there I was able to see some nightclubs and roam the streets. A few of us from the program also traveled to Caribbean Bay, which is a well-known water park, and took about 1.5 to 2 hours to reach. Lastly, we went to Jeju Island for a school field trip and were able to explore the beaches and see the beautiful landscape.

Q9: TOUGHEST DAY , everyone has one. What challenged you while you were abroad? Why?

My toughest day was actually the day I had to leave. The day was tear-filled and it was just heart wrenching knowing I had to leave all the people I became so close with. Many of us have kept in contact with each other, which I am grateful for, and some I will be seeing again soon if I get to return to South Korea in the spring for a job opportunity.  However, I knew when leaving that it wouldn’t ever be the same situation and experience if I were to ever travel to South Korea again.

Q10: PARTING WORDS. What would you say to students worried / concerned / afraid of Asia?

Everyone is always a little nervous traveling to a new place, but if you are open and friendly to people, they will open up as well and that will help you make connections with people from all over the world.  Also, don’t be afraid of not making friends because if you are open to meeting new people it will be very easy to make those types of relationships with others.


Thanks, Missy! We’re glad you enjoyed your study abroad experience in South Korea!

Q&A: New Zealand & Australia

We just recently welcomed home a group of students from a month-long tour of Australia and New Zealand. They saw everything from wine country to koalas, went bungee jumping, and climbed glaciers – all the while earning 6 credits for Intercultural Communication here at EIU.

We caught up with EIU senior Jersey Milano who is majoring in Interpersonal Communication, and asked a few questions about his time spent “down under.”

Q: Talk about your favorite spot in your home away from home. Where? Why?
A: My favorite spot was Napier, New Zealand because of the wine tastings and the awesome black stone beach where I watched the sunrise.  Napier is compared to Napa Valley’s wine country.

Q: Did a local point you to a market, pub or park you didn’t know about?
A: In Cairns Australia, there was a souvenir shop that the highest price I saw was $17 for a hoodie.  They had shot glasses, stuffed koalas, cozies, shirts, mugs, and much more.  When I went there to get souvenirs for my family, I bought three 12 packs of koalas, a bigger koala, 3 pack of shot glasses, a koozie, a hoodie, and a mug all for only $30.

Q: What challenged you while you were abroad? Why?
A: My toughest day while abroad was in Franz Josef, New Zealand. I have a disability known as cerebral palsy.  I have never let it hold me back, but in Franz Josef, it held me back.  Everyone was able to climb a glacier but it was the smartest decision for me not to climb it.  I did not want to get stuck on the glacier and have a helicopter airlift me off of the glacier.  I felt weak but it was for the best.

Q: You’re probably homesick for something from abroad. What? Why?
A: I am homesick for Queenstown’s very own Fergburger.  While there, it was the best burger in the whole wide world.  There needs to be a location here!!

Q: You could hardly believe your eyes when you saw … What? Why?  
A: The most shocking thing I witnessed was actually being face to face with a kangaroo in Port Douglas, Australia.  I never thought I would be able to pet it, let alone feed the kangaroo.

Thanks for sharing, Jersey!

Q&A: Kelsey in England

Big Ben, London

Posing with the one and only Big Ben

Kelsey Hoyt

A senior English major with Teacher’s certification from Highland, IL, Kelsey studied in Winchester, England for a full semester.

Q. Tell us about the food. The good, the bad, the ugly.
A. You would think the best dish would be fish and chips, but it was actually very difficult to find! They served mostly Indian/Thai dishes such as curry and things like that. I really enjoyed Pad-Thai soup and the weekly roasts that the campus served. However, one night there was Yorkshire Pudding which to my dismay is definitely NOT pudding of any kind. It was a soppy mess of bread, gravy, and meat, and was not tasty in the least! They also served baked beans with their breakfast, which I eat at home now!

Q. Do you have a favorite spot in Winchester?
A. My favorite spot was a small café that my friend and I would always go for breakfast. It was just so quaint and tiny, we felt like we had found a well-kept secret of Winchester. There was also a very small coffee place ran by a man named Harry in London. We came back to visit him and he remembered us every time!

Q. Let us in on a local tip, what do you recommend?
A. If anyone is in Winchester, head to Ginger Two’s! A wonderful little tea and pastry shop with the best cakes around! There is also a pub called William Walker that we spent every Tuesday night at. It was so delightful and we quickly became regulars as the servers learned our orders and even reserved a table for us!

Q. American English vs. British English. Discuss!
A. Quote: “This queue is dreadful!” Translation: “This line is so long!”
Quote: “Add a bit of colour, would you?” Translation: “That needs more color.”
Quote: “As you wish!” Translation: “Do whatever you want to do.”
Quote: “I’m so pissed!” Translation: “I’m a bit tipsy!”
They also don’t do double letters in some words which threw me off and got me a lot of papers sent back. They also don’t use the word cooperate. They use co-ooperate.

Q. You could hardly believe your eyes when you saw … What? Why?
A. The first time I saw Big Ben, I cried. I also cried when I saw the Globe Theatre. I just never thought that it would happen. My fairy godmothers made my wildest dreams come true, and I will never forget what I felt when I saw those landmarks.

We’re glad those fairy godmothers support study abroad 🙂 Thanks, Kelsey!

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

A weekend trip to Ireland, seen here at the Cliffs of Moher

Q&A: Taylor on Interning in London

Big Ben

Posing with the iconic Big Ben in London

Taylor Gandolfi

Charleston native and rising senior at EIU majoring in Graphic Design, Taylor is currently enrolled in a graphic design internship at a web design firm called Digital Broadcasters in London, England.

Q. How did you decide that London was the right place for you to complete an internship?
A. I decided to do my internship abroad in London because London is a good place to make contacts. Another big reason why I picked London is because since I am working instead of studying I need to be fluent in the language of the country that I am working in, and I don’t know any other languages other than English.

Q. What is your daily workload like as an intern in the UK?
A. At my company, I am working 40 hours a week, from 9:30-5:30 every day. I work along side the Graphic Designer, and the owner of the firm and she gives me projects designing various things such as web lay outs, advertisements, flyers etc while working with Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign.

Q. What has been the most rewarding part of interning abroad?
A. The most rewarding part of interning abroad has been being able to work with other interns from around the world. My office has interns from France, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, and England, and it has been really interesting to compare cultures and to hang out with people my age from all around the world.

Q. And the most challenging part?
A. Probably one of the most challenging things about interning abroad was figuring out how to use the tube/bus station. Another thing that was really hard to get used to was the time difference, which has also been challenging to talk to people back home, but it isn’t bad once you get used to it. The one complaint that I have is no ranch dressing.

Q. Have you been able to travel? What are some of the highlights?
A. I was in Paris last weekend with one of my room mates and we got this “Paris Pass” that got us into all of the major attractions (Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triumph, Montemarte, and all of the museums). it also got us on a river cruise with amazing views of the whole city and a wine tasting, and all we had to do was show our Paris Pass! Next weekend I will be traveling to Amsterdam while the following weekend I will be traveling to Dublin, and the last weekend I have I will be traveling to Zurich. With my work schedule I am only able to do weekend trips, but my boss has been pretty flexible letting me leave early to get cheaper flights.

Q. Has your time abroad met your expectations? Do you feel well prepared from your time at EIU?
A. My time abroad has far exceeded my expectations. Some of the things that my professors have had me do in class that I thought was a waste of time (for example tracing things in Illustrator) have been very useful in the different tasks given to me. I feel like EIU has prepared me very well with the different programs that I have to use, the one thing that EIU Graphic Design doesn’t really cover is working with clients.

Q. Any advice for others considering a term abroad?
A. When first arriving here I wasn’t sure what to do with my phone, and the easiest, cheapest way has been to get a UK SIM card (which is only 12 pounds a month for unlimited data, and texting, while calls I have 250 minutes) and to talk to people from home using Viber.

Merci beaucoup, Taylor!

Eiffel Tower

A weekend in Paris, seen here at the top of the Arc de Triomphe!

Q&A: Mattie in England

This is the first installment in a Q&A Series dedicated to our returning students. Hear their thoughts from best to worst and everything in between.


Cheers from the UK!

Cheers from the UK!


Mattie Korneta

An EIU Senior History major from Frankfort, Illinois,
Mattie studied abroad for the 2012-13 academic year
at the University of Westminster in London, England.

Q: Did you travel while you were abroad in the UK? Where?
A: I went to many places; some include Scotland, Ireland, Wales, France, Germany, and Poland. I chose based on a few different factors, which mostly were history of the place, timing, and price… not to mention food. Planning is not overly difficult if you are looking a month or a few months in advance, and it also helps with keeping prices down: earlier the booking, cheaper the travel and accommodation. In the UK, I also had a railcard that got me cheap train tickets to pretty much anywhere.

Q: What new vocabulary have you added to your daily repertoire after study abroad?
A: I say cheers all the time. Cheers basically is the perfect word in British English. Cheers for hi, bye, thanks, and pretty much anything you can think of. People here give me looks like I’m daft when I say it. Oh and queue for line, which my mom loves to point out. Those are just a few examples – no accent though!

Q: Do you have a favorite place in your home away from home?
A: Borough Market was one of my favorite places in London. It’s this sprawling food market just near London Bridge and The Shard (tallest building in Europe!), and it is basically foodie heaven. The stall owners are all ridiculously nice and you can try so many different types of food and drink, you’ll come away with a new appreciation for food.

Q: Are there things you don’t miss from your time in England?
A: The only thing that comes to mind is how they walk in London. Here in the U.S., we tend to walk on the right or the left depending on the direction, yes? Not so in London. Everyone just walks wherever they want, and it can take ages to walk what would normally be a 5 minute walk because you are having to stop or move or weave between people. Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus were the worst.

Q: Let’s talk about food. Best dish in London?
A: Best dish I had in London was probably any of the Indian food. They do it so well there, and Brick Lane in the East End is a great place to grab a curry. They have proper restaurant promoters, so you just walk down the street until you get the best offer. Interesting fact: the number one ordered dish in England is actually chicken tikka masala, not the famed fish and chips.

Thanks, Mattie! Welcome home 🙂

If you’d like to hear more about Mattie’s time in the UK, visit her blog: http://astudyinthesmoke.wordpress.com/

One of Mattie's many trips: Berlin, Germany

One of Mattie’s many trips: Berlin, Germany