As an EPIK teacher (the English Program in Korea) there is little you can do to request where you will teach. The process of placement can be a bit frustrating and nerve-wracking. However, you are able to request a general area of the country to be placed in when you apply, though that can place you in a 2 hour + area within a large city or in an agricultural province. In my situation, I requested to be placed in a very rural province called Jeollabuk-do (nicknamed Jeonbuk). Here is a map of South Korea that shows the country’s provinces:
Jeollabuk-do is a small province that is mainly agricultural and has small cities in comparison to the very large metropolitan cites of Seoul, Daejeon and Busan (among others). Here is a smaller map showing the province of Jeollabuk-do:
In the province of Jeollabuk-do there are a few medium-sized cites including Jeonju, Namwon and Iksan. These cities are not huge, with the largest being the capitol city of Jeonju at about 650,000 in population. While I live in Jeonju, I often spend my free time in Imsil or in Namwon, which are much smaller cites about 30-50 minutes away by bus and about 15-30 minutes away by train. One of the most rural areas in Jeollabuk-do is Wanju county, the county that I teach in.
In Wanju county I teach at two schools: Bongseo Elementary School and Dongsang Elementary School. These schools are more different than I could have imagined.
Bongseo Elementary School is a massive school that is expanding as we speak, in order to accommodate more students for the coming year. Even with its current size, it’s host to some 1,000 elementary students k-6, making it the largest elementary school in the Jeollabuk-do province. At Bongseo I primarily teach 6th graders, 7 separate classes worth, each with about 30 students. I also teach one 5th grade class, as well as a class devoted to teaching my fellow Korean co-workers to improve their conversation skills and confidence when speaking english. Each class is so different! My students have such wild personalities and interests. It really is an adventure teaching so many different types of students. Here are a few pictures of Bongseo Elementary School:
Dongsang Elementary School is almost the complete opposite of Bongseo. This school is tiny. I teach grades 3 through 6 here, but all together, the total number students I teach here is less than one of my classes at Bongseo. In fact, the whole school has less than 30 students (27 to be exact). Because of the small classes, each student gets more one-on-one attention. Grade 6 has four students, grade 5 has five students, grade 4 has ten (the largest grade in the school), and grade 3 has three students. This school is so small because it is nestled away in the mountains on the edge of a lake. It is overwhelmingly beautiful and peaceful, though the journey to get there takes about 2 hours by bus from Jeonju. Here are some pictures of Dongsang:
I love where I am teaching. My students make the long days of travel well worth the time. Though it is difficult adjusting to a new culture, language, and job, I couldn’t have chosen better schools if the choice had been mine. I am constantly thankful for the kindness my students, co-teachers, and the people I encounter on my travels through the countryside. I am looking forward to the next year ahead and what new teaching and learning experiences it will bring!