Kevin Boringot teaches at Jeomdong Middle School in Gyeonggi Province, South Korea. He graduated from Southern Oregon University in 2016 with a degree in English Education.
Ed Battistella: How did you get interested in teaching abroad?
Kevin Boringot: I became interested in teaching abroad because I thought it would be a wonderful way to combine my passion for teaching with the opportunity to travel and explore new places and cultures.
EB: Tell us about the program teach in? How did you find it?
KB: I currently teach with the English Program in Korea (EPIK). It is a government funded program, and I found out about it on Google when I was searching for teaching jobs overseas.
EB: What was the application and training process like?
KB: The application process was quite lengthy and competitive. I had to get an application form from their website and fill it with a lot of information about myself, my education history, work history, etc. I also had to attach a sample lesson plan about a topic of my choosing. Afterwards, I had to do a Skype interview with a person from the program. The interviewer asked me questions such as why I wanted to go to Korea, why I wanted to teach English, what my teaching philosophy is like, and how I would handle living overseas and deal with culture shock. I then had to get a comprehensive background check from the FBI and prepare a lot of documents for my recruiter such as an apostilled copy of my diploma, recommendation letters and a set of sealed college transcripts. After months of waiting, keeping in touch with my recruiter, and sending documents, I eventually got approved and had the opportunity to apply for my Korean work visa. The application process took almost half a year, so it’s important to try and apply early and be on top of all the required documents. The list of required documents is clearly detailed on their website, so all that is required is for the applicant to be proactive with the application process.
If everything goes well and the applicant finally arrives in Korea, EPIK kindly provides an orientation program that lasts for about a week and a half to ease the new teachers into their new lives in Korea and the expectations required of their new positions as Native English Teachers (NETs) in Korea. The orientation program includes lessons that go over working conditions, contract stipulations, Korean culture and basic Korean language lessons. There are also some cultural days and field trip events during the orientation to allow the new teachers to relax and get a taste of Korean culture and life. I found the orientation program to be very valuable, and it helped me ease into my new job. I felt very prepared afterwards, ready to take on day one of my teaching career.
EB: Did you experience any sort of culture shock teaching abroad?
KB: Definitely. I think working overseas come with its fair share of culture shock. Korean culture is quite collectivist, so my individualist American tendencies were out of place; however, as time goes by, I’m becoming more accustomed with Korean culture, so living here is becoming more comfortable.
EB: Had you studied Korean before you travelled? Have you been able to learn much about the language?
KB: Prior to my going to Korea, I have briefly touched Korean. I wasn’t conversational by any means; I just knew very basic elementary phrases to help me get by.
Nowadays, I would say I’m nearing lower intermediate level. I’m able to express myself more freely, but my lack of vocabulary still renders me unable to fully express my mind and feelings. I usually take Korean classes every weekend, so I’m making some progress.
EB: What’s been the most interesting experience so far?
KB: My most interesting experience so far is just surviving alone in a completely different culture and environment. It’s tough, and at times, I want to give up and go back to the comforts of home and the familiar. However, for some reason, I keep sticking it out, and I just signed a renewal contract for another year here, making the next school year my third school year here in Korea. Living overseas definitely makes you think, makes you more open-minded, and makes you more understanding of the bigger picture of the world and what it means to truly be a global citizen. There are just some things you can never experience living in the comforts of your own country.
EB: What are you learning about why people want to study English?
KB: With the interactions I’ve had with my students ranging from elementary, middle, high, and all the way to adults and seniors, I’ve come to understand that it differs from person to person. Learning English is highly valued here in Korea, for it means that more doors will be opened for them. Some of the big companies here such as Samsung and LG require its employees to have a certain score on English ability tests such as the IELTS or the TOEFL in order for them to be hired. Understanding of English gives people here a competitive edge in university admissions and in the job market. If it’s not for school or job purposes, many Koreans enjoy traveling overseas, so they learn English in order to have a more convenient time during their travels.
EB: How has the experience of teaching abroad influenced your career plans?
KB: Currently, I enjoy the career path that I’m in. I’ve come to understand that teaching non-native speakers is totally different from teaching native speakers, and this fact comes with its challenges, but it makes me happy to know that I’m here helping and making a difference in the lives of students who truly want to embrace English and how it can help their lives. With this in mind, I’m currently planning to pursue higher education, acquire a master’s in Applied Linguistics, and eventually teach at the university level.
EB: Any suggestions for others thinking about teaching abroad?
KB: I say do it. Even if you don’t plan on sticking it out and making it a lifelong career, just one year teaching and living overseas can greatly benefit and impact your life. You will experience many things. There will be positives and negatives, but I believe that at the end of the day, you will look back during your time doing it and you will say that it did make a difference, not just for you, but for the students that you’ve helped along the way.
EB: Thanks for talking with us.