Teaching Traveling: Curious about travel and teaching in Korea, Europe, and beyond? Check out this interview with Carissa Peck, a California teacher who studied abroad in Spain, taught in Korea, and has traveled the world! Carissa, tell us about yourself.
Carissa: When I was little people would ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I changed my answer all the time: a pianist, a chemist, a mommy, but one thing was always the same. NEVER a teacher! I saw how much work my parents spent teaching and it seemed to me that it couldn’t possibly be worth it.
Traveling however, I loved to travel. I joined the French club because they were going to France and I have loved every moment I have spent exploring. To my surprise, once I started teaching abroad I found that I loved it, and I have never turned back!
TT: Love it! Tell us more about your travels in Korea.
C: Every weekend in Korea was amazing. I would get on a bus and go to a new city to see a new festival. I went to a tea festival, tea bowl festival, apple festival, mud festival, ice festival and so much more!
Often when I was buying my tickets the vendors would try to sell me a ticket to a different place. They were sure that these small rural villages were the last place a foreigner would want to go.
Those places are where I had the most fun! It was great to really be part of cultural events, plus usually people were so shocked to see a non-Korean in attendance that I was quick to find people to practice my limited Korean with, or to give super quick English conversation practices.
TT: How did you find your travel opportunities?
C: In college I studied a few times abroad through my University. In one instance, I studied in Madrid and became great friends with a Korean student. When I graduated she suggested I study abroad in Korea.
With a few clicks my application was out and I was accepted. Most of my jobs have been found via friends of friends, but some of them have been found online. My parents and friends always tell me that I have pretty good vibes about things online, and thus far I’ve always had good experiences.
TT: How did you find the money to fund your travels?
C: I’ve always been a really good saver! I find that I can usually put away at least half of my savings, even if I am not making that much.
In Spain my school provided free lunch and breakfast and I often filled my pockets with fruit and bread to bring home and share with my roommates. I shared a room the size of most closet with another girl, and didn’t buy any new clothes or accessories for the year.
TT: Nice! My method of saving money by getting free clothing was holding a clothing swap. Tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly interesting.
C: This is a question I get asked a lot and I always balk! I sit down at dinners and brunches, and they say, “Carissa, you’ve had so many experiences abroad, Tell us a funny story.” And I can’t.
I can’t pick between the time my Korean students told me I would be old when I was 30, or the students who asked me for condoms (I quickly figured out they meant erasers). It is difficult to express a great story, but I promise you, if you teach English abroad, you’ll make your own!
TT: Well put. How have your travels impacted you as a teacher, and in your current career?
C: At my current school I teach the study abroad students and students who cross the border from Mexico every day.
It is great that I can really relate to their lives studying in a new culture. It also helps that I can bring in realia and pictures from my time abroad to add to my World Literature lessons. Pretty much teaching abroad made me the perfect candidate for this job!
TT: What advice do you have for teachers who are dreaming of travel, or travelers dreaming of teaching?
C: Do your research, but after a certain point researching is just an excuse. If you really want to go abroad and teach, do it!
As for teaching itself, it is OK to get it wrong. Try new things. Share what you have with others and take what others have and adapt them to fit your classes. Most importantly, take time to yourself.
TT: How have your travels impacted you as a person?
C: I think traveling abroad has helped me be a bit more patient and understand of my students. Most importantly, it has made be a better communicator. I listen better, I speak more clearly, and I can write stellar directions for my students (or coworkers) to read and follow.