11Jul

Life and Shopping as a Plus Size Woman in South Korea

South Korea is known around the world for its skincare, makeup, and dermatological advancements. It’s also known for K-Pop and its idols, as well as its fashion. While all of these are things to enjoy and take advantage of while living there, it’s important to remember that beauty standards in Korea may be very different to what you’re used to at home. As a Canadian plus size woman, there were some things I found harder in Korea, while there were other things that I was worried about but didn’t even notice once I arrived.

What’s it Like Plus Size Shopping?

The biggest issue for me when shopping was finding clothes and shoes in my size. I love Korean fashion, and this was a huge disappointment for me! I had heard that this might be an issue, but was certain I could make it work. However, for the first few months, it was really hard to find anything that fit. I eventually found clothing in places that worked for me such as Zara, H&M and some thrift stores as well as the men’s section of certain stores, but it was definitely a frustrating process! As for shoes, I managed to find running shoes and sandals in the men’s section, but things such as boots and heels were much harder to find.

One thing I discovered was that the selection depended on where I was. I lived in Daegu, and found that even H&M was hit or miss for having my size there. However, when I visited friends in Seoul or Busan, I found that their selection was a bit more diverse! Seoul also has a couple of bigger-size stores including Romi Story, Mariang Plus, and Richmood Showroom. Hoya in Seoul makes beautiful plus-size hanbok (Korean traditional dress) inspired clothing as well. There is also Lady Plus, but they only have boutiques in Ilsan and Gyeonggi-do. Also, a lot of stores carry oversized clothing because that’s just the style in Korea, so you may be able to find something that fits in an average Korean store – just try it on and see. I found one of my favorite sweaters in a store in Gyeongju, and I didn’t think it would fit me until one of my friends encouraged me to try it on!

(A dress I scored at a thrift store in Daegu)

Can’t I Just Order Online?
There are a few plus-size Korean stores that only sell online, including 09Women and JStyle Evelett. I never used these websites personally because I’m more of a try-on girl, but I have friends who did. The only issue they had was figuring out how to return the items, but I’m sure a Korean speaking coworker could help if asked. If you’re down to do a bit more searching on Instagram, there are quite a few accounts that thrift and sell clothes, and most of them will deliver across Korea. Mikku xLarge, Modern&J, and DewA are just some examples, but if you have time to peruse, you can search #빅사이즈 on Instagram for more. A lot of these accounts will have links to their Naver stores which you need an account for, but signing up for one is simple. Another option is to browse on Coupang, but it’s a bit harder to sift through clothing on their website because of the sheer amount of stuff for sale.

A final option is to order from North American or European stores, but the shipping fee when ordering online from Canada or the United States can be atrocious. There are some companies like Ppali Ppali Express who can help you to ship things from the United States to Korea for a slightly cheaper delivery fee (by sending your items to their warehouse located in the USA, and having them send it to you in Korea), which I found worked best when shared with friends (which cut the delivery fee down significantly).

(Busan in one of the dresses I found at H&M, and sandals I ordered on Coupang)

So What Should I Bring With Me?
As you can tell, it’s not impossible to find plus-size clothing in Korea, but there are definitely more limited options. Because of this, I would recommend bringing jeans and other pants, undergarments, a bathing suit (if you plan on going to the beach and swimming) and shoes (if you’re above a size 6). Dresses, tops and skirts were easier for me to find since they’re often looser and less tight-fitting.

In summary, if you’re worried about finding clothes in Korea, just make sure to pack your favourite items and bring the basics that make you feel good. As for makeup, bags, socks and accessories: you don’t have to worry about bringing any of those. You can find those in nearly every other store in Korea!

(Some of my favourite jeans I’ve ever had that I ordered on Coupang, and my FILA Korea jacket that I got from the men’s section!)

02Apr

Teaching Tales from Daegu: Embracing Life as an English Teacher

This article is part 2 of a series. To read part 1, My Journey From Canada to South Korea, click here

My first two years in Korea were spent working at a hagwon in Daegu. The school’s six-hour morning classes ranged from the ages of five to eight, which were followed by two-hour afternoon classes where the students ranged from the ages of nine to fourteen. From March 1st to February 28th (the Korean school calendar year), each teacher kept the same homeroom class every day in the morning, and I really enjoyed getting to spend that much time with the same class, because I got to bond with them and see them grow. The afternoon classes varied between each teacher; some had beginner level classes while others had advanced academic classes. The hagwon I worked at was much more geared towards English immersion and discussion rather than book work and intense writing. My hours were Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm (though I often ended up arriving earlier or staying a bit later), and my apartment was a mere seven-minute walk from the school.

photo of a korean house or temple overlooking the mountains

Morning Routine: Building Bonds with Kindergarten Students

In the first few months of my first year, I arrived at 8:30am and stayed until 6:30pm almost every day in order to catch up and finish prep for the following week. Since I was working as a kindergarten teacher in an immersion school, there was a lot of craft and activity prepping that had to be done alongside the lesson plans. However, in my second year, I hardly ever had to stay late to do that. I understand the workload can feel overwhelming at first, but once you get into your own rhythm, you’re set! (Pro tip that worked really well for me: lesson plan for two weeks ahead, even if it’s not required by your head teacher or boss; you can always edit or add things to it later, but the hard part will be done!)

Both years, my morning homeroom classes consisted of 14 four year olds. They were all in school for the first time, which came with its own challenges! Every morning, they would start to arrive around 9:10, and class officially started at 10:00am. Class began with circle time, where we sat on the carpet and went through our daily routine of good morning songs and discussion time. This was followed by milk or snack time, before we started our first lesson of the day. As the year progressed, these lessons shifted from me teaching them, to having the students write on our whiteboard themselves and helping to present the lessons with me.

teacher and kid playing with plastic bowling pins

(Gym Time!)

After lesson time, we headed to our allotted hour of “special activities” for the day. This rotated every day between gym, library, and media time. After this came lunch (which I ate in the classroom with the kids, which I’ve heard can be common at schools in Korea), and after lunch came our center time, where the students split into groups to participate in lesson-themed interactive activities, simple worksheets, writing practice, math, and more. And when we finished center time, it was already time to go home!

Different Teaching Styles and Challenges

As I mentioned, the school I worked at was very focused on immersion and getting the kids to learn not just proper grammar and writing, but to pick up on colloquial English as well, so my day could vary from other hagwons. While I understand the value of hitting the books, I really loved this style of immersion, and I found that my students learned incredibly quickly from it. Within the first few weeks, they were already starting to speak back to me in English. It was incredible!

My schedule after morning class is where things differed between my first year and my second year. In my first year, I had an hour-long prep time between my morning class and my afternoon programs that began at 3:30. In my second year, I worked straight from 9-5:30 on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and had from 3:30-6:00 as prep time on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. Obviously, the first schedule was preferable! Another tip: don’t be afraid to ask about your schedule and how much prep time you’ll get before you arrive. Often, they won’t be able to tell you your exact schedule until a few weeks before you arrive, since they won’t know which teachers you will be replacing until a certain date. However, they should be willing to let you know when they can. Never be afraid to ask questions!

In both my first and second years, I had afternoon classes that I enjoyed, and others that were much harder. I had a lower-level class of all ages that had students with both physical and mental disabilities; an out-of-control class of six-year olds who stayed after their morning class and just wanted to leave by the time they got to me; and two more advanced English classes with two different groups of the funniest, most clever nine and ten year olds. Honestly, it’s the same as teaching in any country (including back home in Canada) – you never know what cards you’ll be dealt. You just have to do your best!

teacher sitting on the ground teaching about the calendar

(Leslie Teacher preparing for an elementary-level class lesson on why Jimin is her favourite member of BTS)

Conclusion: Thriving in Korean Work Culture

In summary, I loved my first time teaching in Korea. While it’s true that in Korean society, they say it looks good if you work extra hard, my philosophy is that as long as you know you worked hard, that’s all that matters! Just make sure to practice time management in a way that works for you, and know your boundaries, even if it feels weird to do so in a country that prioritizes work culture. Once I learned this, I thrived, and I didn’t find that work in Korea was any harder than teaching anywhere else. I’m even going back for a second round!

photo of kids looking at the penguins at a zoo
05Mar

Your First Day as an English Teacher in South Korea: What to Expect

Hey there, future English teachers gearing up for your big move to South Korea! So, you’ve landed the job, packed your bags, and now you’re ready to take on your first day in the classroom. But what exactly can you expect? Let me walk you through it.

  1. Preparing for Day One:

Before diving into your first day, you’ll likely already be in touch with an English teacher from your school. If not, I highly recommend reaching out and asking for some contact information. You might even be living in the same building, so why not suggest grabbing a coffee or walking to work together? It’s a great way to get some insider tips and tricks from someone who’s been there, done that.

  1. Getting Acclimated:

Once you arrive at your school, you’ll be introduced to the staff and shown to your classroom. Don’t be surprised if you spend the first few days shadowing another teacher and making trips out with the staff for administrative tasks. You’ll be setting up your life in Korea, from getting your ARC card at immigration to setting up a Korean phone plan and bank account.

  1. Ready, Set, Teach:

After all the admin and shadowing, you’ll finally be ready for your first day as a teacher. You’ll put all that training to use, but trust me, nothing beats the real thing. That’s why I recommend asking a coworker for a daily checklist of tasks to keep you on track. From taking attendance to grading assignments, having a routine will be a lifesaver.

  1. Classroom Management 101:

One key to a successful classroom is establishing clear rules and expectations from day one. Print out a set of rules and hang them on the wall for easy reference. Make it a habit to have students recite the rules daily before starting the lesson. This will help you maintain order and address any misbehaviour quickly and effectively.

  1. The Name Game:

On your first day, make sure to introduce yourself multiple times and ask your students for their English names (and make sure you’re saying them correctly!). Trust me, you don’t want to be like me and accidentally call a student “Hyena” for an entire term before realizing her name is actually “Hannah.” Lesson learned!

  1. Establishing Relationships:

Finally, don’t stress too much on the first day. Focus on building a good relationship with your Korean coworkers—they can be invaluable resources and mentors. I was lucky to have a coworker who understood the challenges of being new to a country and was always there to lend a hand.

So, there you have it—your guide to surviving your first day as an English teacher in South Korea. Remember to breathe, take it one step at a time, and most importantly, enjoy the adventure! Cheers to new beginnings and unforgettable experiences. You’ve got this!

“Don’t stress too much on the first day. Focus on building a good relationship with your Korean coworkers—they can be invaluable resources and mentors” Victoria White

03Jan

Choosing the Right Age Group to Teach ESL in Korea

Welcome future ESL teachers to this guide on choosing the ideal age group to teach English in Korea! Deciding which age group to work with can significantly impact your teaching experience and overall satisfaction during your time in Korea. Let’s explore the different options available and help you make an informed decision.

  1. Kindergarten:

Teaching English to kindergarten-aged children can be a delightful and rewarding experience. Young learners are enthusiastic and eager to absorb new knowledge, making each day full of energy and excitement. However, it requires a lot of patience, creativity, and energy to keep them engaged. If you have a passion for early childhood education and enjoy using interactive activities and songs to teach, kindergarten might be the perfect fit for you.

  1. Elementary School:

Elementary school students in Korea are typically between the ages of 7 and 12 years old. Teaching English at this level offers a balance between the energy of younger children and the ability to have meaningful conversations and activities. You’ll have the opportunity to help students develop their language skills and foster a love for learning. If you enjoy working with children and want to make a lasting impact on their education, elementary school could be a great choice.

  1. Middle School and High School:

Teaching English to middle and high school students provides a different set of challenges and rewards. These students are more independent and capable of engaging in deeper discussions and academic tasks. You’ll have the chance to explore complex topics and help students prepare for exams and future academic pursuits. If you have a passion for language and literature and enjoy working with older students, middle and high school could be a fulfilling option.

  1. Adult Learners:

Teaching English to adult learners offers a unique experience and allows you to work with individuals from diverse backgrounds and professions. Adult students are often highly motivated and committed to improving their language skills for personal or professional reasons. You’ll have the opportunity to tailor your lessons to their specific needs and interests, whether it’s conversational English, business English, or exam preparation. If you enjoy building relationships with learners and facilitating their language development, teaching adults could be a rewarding choice.

Ultimately, the best age group to teach depends on your interests, personality, and teaching style. Consider your strengths, preferences, and goals when making your decision. Remember that each age group offers its own set of challenges and rewards, so take the time to explore your options and choose the path that aligns with your passion for teaching English in Korea.

We hope this guide has been helpful in navigating the decision-making process. Good luck on your teaching journey in Korea!

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