I have said it many times before, teaching English abroad is a great away to see the world. Having a secure income and an employer that helps you get set up in a foreign country takes away most of the risk and expense of moving abroad. Samuel Jeffery of NomadicSamuel.com has used teaching English in Korea as a spring board to live abroad for 6 years and travel the world. In this interview, he talks about what it is like to teach English in Korea and provides some insight into his travels, website and future plans.
Please tell us about your travels.
I’ve now been abroad for six consecutive years alternating between teaching English in Korea and backpacking around Asia and the Americas. I decided to go abroad for the first time after I became an ESL tutor on campus as a university student. I became close friends with my students and the seeds of teaching and travelling abroad were firmly planted around this time.
Where are you now?
I’m currently in a transitional phase visiting family at home in Fredericton, Canada. I’m considering teaching English in a country other than South Korea and I’m also considering backpacking for half or a full year. I will have more clarity on the issue sometime in the New Year.
What are your most and least favourite countries and why?
My two favourite countries that I’ve visited are India and Argentina. India is just an incredible country that has no rivals in terms of diversity. I’ve never felt more stimulated travelling than I have while exploring India. Argentina is an amazing country with wonderful food, scenery and diverse landscape. The two countries I didn’t enjoy quite as much as others were Ecuador and Brunei. In Ecuador, I witnessed some violent events and security issues at the time. While in Brunei, I found it expensive and somewhat under-stimulating compared to other nearby countries in SE Asia.
Have you had any major problems on your travels?
I’ve been quite lucky in that I’ve never had anything debilitating happen to me on the road. My worst experience was an infection I developed while travelling in Malaysia that landed me in the hospital for several days. I’ve had my iPod stolen and a few other minor things. I’ve been lucky enough to never have any big ticket items (such as my camera or netbook) stolen.
What do you estimate your expenses are when you travel?
I’ve generally been able to travel on roughly $1000 a month. When I’m backpacking in Asia my budget is typically between $800 to $1000 a month and in South America I’ve expanded it slightly to $1000 to $1200. Certain countries stand out for one reason or another. When I was backpacking in India I only spent $600 a month whereas when I was in Argentina my budget stretched to $1500. I think generally speaking a frugal backpacker can enjoy travelling in developing countries for $1000 a month. I’ve only done limited travel in North America and I’ve never set foot in Europe. I know $1000 a month would not cut it in those regions.
How long do you plan on continuing this lifestyle?
I see myself continuing on with my nomadic ways for the indefinite future. I haven’t even come close to scratching the itch I have to explore most of the world. I feel my life overseas is now more of a lifestyle than a temporary phase. I’m excited about what’s around the corner.
How was teaching English in Korea?
When I was tutoring English in University the majority of my students were from South Korea. They encouraged me to consider trying teaching English after I finished my degree and the idea really grew on me over time. In hindsight, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. I’ve had really good experiences in Korea and I now consider it my home away from home. I’ve found over time that my skills as a teacher have improved and I’ve always found the students to be a joy to teach. Korea has a lot to offer in terms of culture, food and interesting destinations to explore.
What is the quality of life of an English teacher in Korea?
The quality of a life for an English teacher is generally very high provided they’ve secured a reputable job. A typical contract includes return airfare, a free apartment, severance bonuses and low tax rate. A teacher is typically left with a lot of disposable income after payday. If a teacher is frugal and lives like a local, there is a potential to save between 50-75% of their salary each month. Overall, in larger cities there is a vibrant expat community with plenty of opportunities to enjoy a variety of different activities. One of the true highlights of living in Korea is the diverse cuisine. Some of my favourite dishes are as spicy as any I’ve tried in Asia.
What are the typical salaries for English teachers in Korea in US dollars?
The average salary for a starting teacher would be anywhere between $1700 to $2200 per month with a free apartment, depending on experience, qualifications and the level which one is teaching (private, public, university). For more experienced teachers the average salary would be between $2100 to $2500. Finally, for those who are working at a prestigious university, large company or doing research or development the sky is the limit. I’ve heard of individuals pulling in between $5000 to 10,000 but this is very rare and only for those who have advanced qualifications such as a Masters degree and lots of experience teaching in Korea.
Would you teach English again?
I would definitely teach English overseas again. I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to experience a new culture, travel and save money. Unlike backpacking, it offers one the opportunity to feel as though they are part of the local community. The one tip I would suggest is to carefully research your potential school before signing any contract. Although there are excellent schools, the ESL industry is also rife with dodgy operators who have little concern for the welfare of their teachers or students.
Please tell us about your blog.
I launched Nomadic Samuel on July 1, 2011. Although my website is relatively new, I’ve been fervently taking photos and videos for several years. My blog is largely based on travel photos and videos, although I do write about quirky travel stories, destinations, ESL tips and photography tips. In 2012, I will have completed all of my youtube projects which will allow me to spend a lot more time writing. Eventually I would like to earn a full-time income from my travel blog and travel related projects. It’s a work in progress and something that I’ll be pursuing with a lot of intensity over the next few years until it becomes a reality.
NomadicSamuel.com is quite popular for only starting in July, can you share how you have attracted so much interest in such a short time?
I’m very flattered and humbled by how well my website and other travel related projects have done in a short period of time. I think a few factors have helped contribute to the success of my website. Firstly, I’ve been overseas for six consecutive years and I’ve accumulated a wealth of different experiences over that period of time. Secondly, I’ve become quite an avid photographer over the last several years. One of the advantages of not having a blog (until recently) was that I was out taking a lot of photos just about every single day I was backpacking. Finally, I’ve been putting in a lot of effort into my materials (posting frequently on my site and my youtube channel) along with taking an advantage of opportunities to do interviews or guest posts on other sites.
What are some goals you have with your website?
Over the next couple of years I’d like to finish up projects I have on my youtube channel as well as continue to blog regularly on Nomadic Samuel. I have two new websites that I plan to eventually launch in the New Year related to travel photography and teaching English overseas (Travel Photography Tips & Teach English Travel Overseas). Eventually, I’d like to be on the road as a full-time digital nomad. I’m in the process of transitioning from teaching to a location independent lifestyle.
Samuel Jeffery is the wizard behind the curtain pulling the strings of NomadicSamuel.com, a travel blog that is miles away from ordinary…dripping with sarcasm. As a long term vagabond (6 consecutive years on the road) Samuel is sharing his photos, videos & quirky travel stories along with photography tips, interviews, ESL tips, reviews and general travel advice as a way to vicariously experience what it is like to backpack or to plan your own journey of a lifetime. Additionally, Samuel runs Travel Photography Tips and Teach English Travel Overseas. Get in touch with Samuel by following him on his Facebook Fan Page , Twitter , StumbleUpon , Youtube & Google + .
John, thanks for the opportunity for this interview. I hope anybody who has the motivation to travel or teach abroad will take advantage of the great opportunities that are out there.
Samuel’s experiences serve as a great motivation to other would be travellers and those interested in teaching abroad. It’s impressive how quickly his blog has rose to prominence!
Tim | Adventure Strong
Reading Samuel’s site really got me looking into teaching English in Korea also. It’s an attractive location to do so. Oh the paperwork… haha It’ll be worth it.
Your employer will take care of the visa and tell you exactly what is needed. It’s not as difficult as you think. 🙂
Tim | Adventure Strong
Yeah, so far it’s not too bad just tedious and slow. I’m just waiting for my EPIK interview now.
Tim Moon | Adventure Strong
Thanks John! I didn’t get into EPIK but I’m teaching at a school in Suwon, South Korea. It’s been a little over a month but so far, so good. Reading about others who did it really helped.
Congratulations Tim. How do you like teaching in Korea?