Irish Expat Living in South Korea, Interview With Maggie

Published: 12 Sep at 2 PM
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Filed: Interviews,Korea South
Maggie O'Driscoll is a TEFL elementary school teacher working for the Sejong City Office of Education in South Korea. In Korea since June 2012, Maggie works at three elementary schools teaching students of varying ages and levels. As a way to challenge herself in her final year of her 20s she started to blog and, as she moved to Korea a few months later, this blog has essentially become a blog about her life, impressions and travels in Korea and elsewhere. When not teaching, Maggie loves to travel, visit numerous coffee shops and read anything she can get her hands on (particularly crime fiction). She also loves to write either by blog or letters and postcards home. Maggie's expat blog is called You might think I'm mad but... (see listing here)

Meet Maggie - Irish expat in South Korea
Meet Maggie - Irish expat in South Korea

Here's the interview with Maggie...

Where are you originally from?
I am from Dublin, Ireland.

In which country and city are you living now?
I live in Jochiwon which is part of Sejong-Si in South Korea about 1.5 hours from Seoul by train.

How long have you lived in South Korea and how long are you planning to stay?
I have been here since June 2012 and I plan on staying until June 2014.

Why did you move to South Korea and what do you do?
I moved to Korea to teach English. I used to work in HR and as part of my role I was coached and trained many of my colleagues. This gave me a taste for teaching that I decided I wanted to explore. I teach elementary students in three public schools. I mostly teach 3rd and 5th grade for curriculum classes and my afterschool classes range from 1st through 6th grade. I additionally teach an advanced English class for gifted students. They can be a bit intimidating!

my brother and me
My brother and me
Did you bring family with you?
No, but when I arrived my brother was living and teaching in South Korea as well in the Gangwon-do Province. He has since moved to the US to teach there.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
I honestly had very few problems. My brother was a great help in settling me in as were my co-teachers and friends that I made here. I only have been homesick once and that was a few weeks before Christmas as turning 30, so it's only to be expected!

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
I do mainly socialise with expats as we have a great bunch in my town. However, I have excellent friends amongst my co-teachers who have looked after me since I arrived. We get to chat every day and meet occasionally after work for drinks or dinner. I also am taking Korean lessons so I have made friends with my tutors. It can be hard meeting Korean people outside of the education environment but you can find many who are looking for language exchange partners or who are involved in the local churches or sports clubs.

Enjoying the local cuisine in Busan
Enjoying the local cuisine in Busan
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Sejong is quite small at present, so there isn't too much to do. It is the new administrative capital of South Korea so in a few short years it is expected to have a population of 500,000. However, there is a lake park that is beautiful for picnics and the local mountain for those who like to hike. We have numerous restaurants, coffee shops and pubs as well as lots of local sights such as Bear Tree Park. I've yet to get there but am dying to go!

What do you enjoy most about living in South Korea?
Everything! I really am enjoying my time here from the food to the friends I've made. The easy access to pretty much everywhere is brilliant and all the different places you can go, things you can see and do.

How does the cost of living in South Korea compare to Ireland?
Korea is a lot cheaper than Ireland overall - transport, eating out, cinema, pubs etc. However, buying food to cook at home can be expensive and finding clothes to fit can be awkward and costly.

What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
Finding clothes to fit you! Monsoon and Typhoon season and the humidity!

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Try and stay around postive people in Korea. If you hang out with negative people they can truly warp the way you view Korea and can make an experience way harder than it need be.

learning to play Korean drums on an Sejong Si teacher trip to Jindo
Learning to play Korean drums on an Sejong Si teacher trip to Jindo
What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Getting used to people staring at me all the time. It's extremely disconcerting and can be very off-putting.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
I don't know yet if I will return home but I have lived abroad before for college so while it will be tough I know that I will be fine. Ireland is home in the end.

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Especially if you are coming as teacher, don't overpack. You will live in a small one room apartment that may not have enough room to swing a cat never mind a giant suitcase.
  2. Travel in Korea - not only is transport incredibly cheap but there are some truly great places to see from Seoul to Busan, the islands including Geoje and Jeju, Chuncheon and Jeonju are two amazing towns with quality dishes (bibimbap and dakgalbi) that you will consume frequently originating in both these towns.
  3. Take advantage of Korea being so well located and travel abroad. Who knows when you'll be back in Asia!
  4. Make friends with the locals and the other expats in your area. The locals will give you tips and advice and the expats will help you feel a little less homesick.
  5. Pick up a hobby while you are here - if you already have lots of hobbies keep them up. If you are only sitting in your apartment you will go stir crazy and hate your experience.

Making peanut butter and jam sandwiches with 2nd Grade
Making peanut butter and jam sandwiches with 2nd Grade
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
My blog started as something new to do for my final year of my 20s. At the same time I was studying for my TEFL Qualification so I knew that I would eventually use this blog to document my travels, experiences and impressions. I update it usually at least once a month and some times 5-6 times a month! It depends on how exciting my life is! It has lots of useful information for those interested in living in Korea and particuarly for those teaching in Korea. I have also included several other Korea related blogs that I follow. It's called "You might think I'm mad but" (see link below)

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
I can be contacted via my blog for anyone who needs advice on coming to Korea or Sejong Si specifically.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingMaggie is an Irish expat living in Korea South. Blog description: Teaching in South Korea - funny stories, information, places to see and things to do
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Comments » There is 1 comment

Thine wrote 10 years ago:

Hi Maggie, Thanks for your Blogs, I read it and its quite good and interesting... I was also planning to visit and stay in Korea, I am a big fan of Kpop here in Philippines, and I found my self inlove with korean culture and their Food.. I was searching a Job via net hopping I will found one.. I am currently working as a Technical Customer Support in IT company... but comparing my home town to korea, I think I was born in a wrong place.... I am a Filipino by Blood but have a Korean Heart...sounds Funny :) Hope you read this... and thank you again for your Blogs.. Thine:)

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