Teaching English leads to world travel

When Abby Guthrie graduated from Hanover back in 2012, she knew she wanted a job where  she could interact with many different types of people, and have new challenges and problems to solve daily.

So when the opportunity arose for her to teach English outside of Seoul, South Korea, Guthrie didn’t think twice before saying yes. She found her first job not long after graduation, through an online firm that specifically recruits ESL teachers for Korea, teaching students aged six to 12 with low to intermediate English skills.

When that assignment didn’t live up to expectations, Guthrie was able to quickly find another teaching literature and composition to high school students at a private academy whose skills were quite high. She also taught adults business English and helped prepare them for English-speaking job interviews.

“I came to Korea with no training and received little (of it) at first,” said Guthrie. “However, I think experience and talking with experienced colleagues is a huge path to success. I gained confidence in the classroom quickly and learned from my many initial mistakes.”

Initially, Guthrie’s hardest challenge was classroom management, especially adapting to the needs of individual classes. She said she modeled her technique in her small discussion-based classes on those of her Hanover professors.

She learned how difficult learning another language could be as she sometimes struggled to communicate in her new home. Fortunately, the Korean people were very tolerant and hospitable.

“Not speaking the language occasionally got me into trouble. I (took) a few wrong buses and accidentally ordered an octopus when I hate seafood. I also almost walked naked into a clothed area at a sauna (before) a kind Korean saved me.”

Guthrie kept her Hanover connections strong by spending time with classmates Robin Bortner ’12 and Jordi Garcia-Timko ’12, who also teach English in South Korea. The three saw each other weekly and traveled around the country, as well as vacationed together in Thailand. Guthrie also visited Cambodia and Indonesia.

“Most weekends we get together and hang out with each other as well as with other friends. I think we’ve been a great support system to each other and it has made Korea fun. We love to reminisce about Hanover and are constantly making new memories exploring the culture.”

Living in another country has also allowed Guthrie to meet other internationals, including her boyfriend, Kristofer Svanholm, a Swedish native and pilot she met last summer while taking a scuba diving class. The pair have visited each other ever since.

Now that her time in Korea has come to a close, Guthrie plans to move to Stockholm next month after a brief trip back to the States to get her visa. She hopes to continue teaching English as well as freelance English recordings, which she did in Korea, along with a lot more travel.

While she was lucky enough to find a good job in South Korea when the first one didn’t pan out, Guthrie said she wouldn’t want to discourage students from pursuing opportunities since there are many good schools.

“In addition to recruiters, I think those looking to teach in Korea should network with any contacts they have in the country and use Facebook and Craigslist to see if they can find a job independently,” she said. “The English job market for young U.S. citizens is strong.”