My Awesome Recruiter

I wish I could say that when I first decided to come to Korea in 2008, I knew exactly what I was doing. Truth is, Jo had a huge part in pointing me in this direction, and for that I am forever grateful. While I had worked in education since 1994, I really hadn’t taught ESL before, so prior to coming to Korea I elected to take a TEFL Certification program. As part of that program, I was assigned a recruiter to assist me getting a job in Korea.

QiRanger - Seoul - Korea - Cheonggyecheon

The company that was assigned to me was DreamWorks Recruiting. I really didn’t know anything about them or, to be honest, care. All I wanted was a job. Within 24 hours I had a job interview and a contract was forwarded to me in 48. They moved lightening fast. In the years since I’ve come to Korea, I know this is normal; however, what is not normal are the people behind DreamWorks.

Joanne is an American and she came to Korea to live here. While with her family, she met Troy and they fell in love, got married, and ultimately started a recruiting business. Unlike many others, they really do a lot of work to ensure prospective teachers match up well with schools. Troy interviews the schools to ensure they’re not shady and Joanne is quick to give you the skinny on the situation. They make sure you’re met at the airport and that your apartment is just as it should be. Joanne even created a Facebook group for all of us, so we could get to know one another. Most recruiters will avoid you as soon as possible. Not here. Their attention to detail and follow-up is why I’ve been recommending them since 2008.

If you’re looking to come to Korea to teach, I have recommended DreamWorks in the past and continue to do so. When contacting them, tell them I said, “Hi,” and that we need to get together soon and grab some samgyupsal and soju!

Review: Teaching in Asia

QiRanger - Teaching in Asia - BusanKevin - JLandKev - eBook - Korea - Japan - ESL - TeachingI get a lot of questions about teaching in Korea. It’s one of the reasons that I have a playlist devoted to those questions and topics. In fact, I even make a point to address some of the more common ones on the Vlog Channel. However, one of my friends has taken this a bit further and written a book.

Teaching in Asia: Tales and the Real Deal is the first outing for this self-proclaimed enthusiast of social media. As a result, he’s been sharing the information for years between his numerous blogs and YouTube channels. Kevin was kind enough to forward me a copy of the book to review and I sat down at my desk and read it in one go. It’s that quick and good.

The first thing many do when deciding to come to Korea or Japan to teach is hit up the Internet. While it was easy to find information in 2000, in 2012 there’s just so much out there – people can literally become paralyzed  reading all the search results. Teaching in Asia takes Kevin’s 10 year history of teaching ESL abroad and places it in one location. Sure it provides links to several reputable sources, but for me, the strength of the book comes from the Tales portion of the subtitle.

Anyone can go to Google and research about recruiters, schools, and life abroad. That’s not hard. However, very few do a good job of sharing  those experiences. In this book, Kevin shares stories about first arriving in Korea and candidly explains that he may have made a mistake. He goes through many of the ups and downs of teaching in different schools. That’s what I found most valuable, since it was new information and something that many can relate to and act as a guide should someone be placed in that position.

With so much information out there, days can be lost researching just what to do. Teaching in Asia: Tales and the Real Deal provides a good framework for answering the most common and burning questions in an entertaining way. Sitting down to read it won’t take more than three hours and the information you’ll glean from it will easily save that much time or more than if you were conducting the research yourself on the ‘net.

Teaching in Asia: Tales and the Real Deal is available in the Amazon Kindle Store. It’s less than $6 and certainly worth picking up if you’re thinking about teaching in Korea or Japan. I don’t get anything out of a sale, but think it’s a good buy if nothing more than for reading his stories.

About the author: Kevin O’Shea was born and raised in Nova Scotia, Canada. Before making the move to South Korea in 2002 to teach, he worked in the Electronic Game Development industry. Kevin taught in both Seoul and Busan, South Korea for more than five years before returning to Canada to become an elementary school teacher. He now works as a teacher at an international school in Japan where he lives with his wife and son. When not writing, Kevin is blogging, video blogging, spending time with his family and running marathons (literally).

Youtube: BusanKevin JLandKev

Twitter: JlandKev

Far Away Blog

Teach Asia Blog

The 90s

Today we begin a new unit in class. Ok, let me rephrase that… we begin the text with Unit One. Probably my biggest issue with many of the Korean curricula regarding English Instruction is that they rely on English textbooks. While in theory that may work well, I have found them really to be very ethnocentric. Today’s lesson is just one such example.

Friends - TV - NBC - 90s

Promo Shot of Friends on NBC. Image Source: The Origin Of, Property of NBC

The title of the unit is the 1990s. This would be a great unit for me, since this was when I was in college and I had a good knowledge of pop culture – but for my students that were born in the 1990s and still have little clue of American Culture, the references in the book are completely lost on them. So rather than teach the lessons as outlined in the text, I will be teaching the vocabulary and grammar points… but directing conversations and speaking activities to their youth.

The warm-up activity asks the students to share what they know about the popular movies, television series, and music from the 1990s in the US. Rather than pull teeth to get them to understand why Ross and Rachel are such a big deal to many in the 90s, I’m turning the activity back on them. They will be discussing the most popular television show, movies, and music during their first decade. Which brings me to my question for you: What is your favorite Movie, Television Show, and Song from the first 10 years of your life?

Here are my answers:

Television: This took some time to come up with a single answer, but probably the one show that defined my youth (and one I still look back on with great admiration) was Emergency!.

Movie: There are several I could list here. But I’ll go with the biggest one of the decade that still has an impact: Star Wars. Note that I don’t call it Episode IV, because when I saw it there was no episode title. There wasn’t going to be a sequel. It was just a movie that lit the imagination of a people.

Song: This was a little more difficult for me to come up with, but those that know me are not surprised by my answer: Dancing Queen by ABBA.

So there are my answers to the questions facing my students this week. What are yours?

Inside the Body

Some readers (and viewers) may not know this, but back when I was a school-aged student, I had dreams of becoming a physician. As a result, I spent long hours studying the sciences and marveling at how the universe functions. In fact, this passion lead to both my desire to obtain a degree in Zoology and my first university teaching role (Human Anatomy and Physiology). That knowledge ultimately cam in handy when I started my massage business in 2002. With that background, it’s probably no wonder that when I fist had the chance to see Body Worlds in the US, I leaped at the chance.

I remember back then not knowing what to expect. I had heard about the show and how Gunther von Hagens preserved complete bodies in ways that were unimaginable, but nothing could quite prepare me for that first visit. Seeing life-sized corpses dissected and “exploded” literally “blew my mind.” After so many years of laboratory work trying to achieve this level of detail, it was a breath of fresh air to actually see masters create intricate works for everyone to see.

Recently, we hooked up with our friends Becky and Tor for another adventure. This one primarily focused on eating (as it tends to always lead there), but Becky mentioned going to the Seoul Body Worlds exhibit held at the War Memorial and Museum. Since this would be my third trip to an exhibition, I decided to call the local PR firm handing things and see if I could get permission to film and Jo authorized to take photos. They agreed. This was very exciting for us, since normally photographing and filming is strictly prohibited. When we arrived, I checked in with the manager and got an extra surprise. Not only did she present Jo and I with a free DVD of the Body Worlds exhibit, but the coffee table book detailing how all this came to be… then it got better.

Jo, Becky, Tor, and I had planned on paying the W15,000 admission. It’s something we like to do, since helping out artists and exhibitions enables more to come; however, the manager had other ideas. As members of the Press, she comped all four of us. That was unexpected and greatly appreciated. Once through the gate, we started to explore the Seoul exhibit, that featured the life-cycle development.

As usual, the exhibit was amazing. The plastinates were some of the best I’ve seen and the camera did really well in the low-light conditions. Walking through the exhibition takes about 2 hours, more if you really want to examine the specimens or have the W3,000 audio guide. Several times we were stopped by guards asking us not to shoot, but once they saw the Press Passes, they apologized and allowed us to continue. I mention this, because many guests thought they’d capture the moments on their cell phones or DSLRs and were quickly instructed not to do so; therefore, if you are planning on attending one of the world-wide shows, don’t even think about snapping a picture.

Body Worlds is something I think everyone should see. For some, it might be hard to get past the skinned and articulated bodies, but being afforded the chance to peer inside the marvelous machine that keeps us going is truly rewarding. Only here can you see how nerves extend from the brain, weave in and out of tissue, pass over joints, and ultimately terminate in muscles allowing you to walk, run, and jump. It simply is amazing.

The Seoul Body Worlds exhibit runs through March 8th at the War Memorial and Museum. For details click here (Korea and English).


A few udates!

Since I’ve been back from vacation (almost a month now), I’ve been trying to get back into the swing of things with my Korean studies. The first nearly two weeks I didn’t touch Rosetta Stone, or any of my other materials because I was just too busy ramping up production for the current season. However, I did have a plan.

My original goal for the past term was to complete all of Level 1 during the 16 weeks of the semester. That seemed quite a reasonable goal. Each unit has 4 lessons. There are 4 weeks in a month. The math seemed perfect. I was the faulty part in the equation. I made it through Unit 3, Lesson 3. Once I got back, I opted to review what I had learned by going over the Adaptive Recall strategies and vocabulary units. Today was my first day learning all new material. This is how I fared:

It’s not what I hoped for, since I try to stay above the 95% mark. I made several stupid mistakes, but some of the errors stemmed from Rosetta Stone introducing two new vocabulary words and me not knowing which one to go with. Essentially giving me a 50/50 chance of getting the answer right.

The other evening I also set up the GoPro to test out the time-lapse feature. It was the first time I used this particular model for this purpose. The film was shot over 86 minutes while I left the apartment to get some dinner for Jo and I. I chose an interval of 5 seconds for the pictures, and I think for this short of film it was too much. Ever 2 seconds would have been better.

Rosetta Stone Sponsors the Year-End Contest

December has rolled around once more, meaning that the end of the year is quickly approaching, and what better celebrate that fact than with a contest. This time, I’ve gone all out and secured an awesome sponsor: Rosetta Stone.

If you’re not familiar with Rosetta Stone, you should. They are the premiere language software learning company. I’ve used them to learn Indonesian, Tagalog, and Korean. In fact, Rosetta Stone can help you learn more than 30 languages.

The current list of languages available from Rosetta Stone.

For this contest, Rosetta Stone has agreed to give one lucky winner a Level 1 software package of their choice! That’s a $179US value! If you’re thinking about coming to Korea, you’re all set! Going to France? You’re set! Want to visit the bush in Africa? Rosetta Stone can teach you Swahili!

Entering the contest is easy; just watch this video:

So there you have it! The contest is open now through December 16th (Korean Time). Simply attach a video response to the YouTube video stating what language you’d like to learn and why. Since the YouTube system seems to be going through some issues right now, you can also upload your video to YouTube and then email the URL of your video. You can enter as many times as you’d like and for as many different languages as you’d like. Once the contest closes, I’ll use to select one entry as the winner. I’ll contact that person through the YouTube message system to notify them and ask for their personal email address. I’ll then pass that along to Rosetta Stone so they can ship your winning prize directly to you!

I hope you’re as excited as I am about this contest. I’d like to offer up a huge thank you to Rosetta Stone for sponsoring the prize. Please be sure to spread the word and video around. The more people that know about the contest and participate means that I can work with more companies in the future and get some even more amazing prizes!

While only one person can win, I wish you all the best of luck and I hope you have fun with your video responses!

Here’s something that should put a smile on your face as well!

Blogger Day At The National Museum

This past Tuesday I was invited to the National Museum to partake in a special educational program for Korean Bloggers. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect or whom I’d see there – but I’m always game for a day at a museum and this was as good excuse as any.



When I arrived at the registration table, I noticed a few Korean names… ok… a lot of Korean names and only one in English. Mine. After speaking with the organizers, I learned that I was the only foreigner that had registered for the event. What a shame, since the following program was pretty cool. Also, since I was the only foreigner at the event, the program was held in Korean; therefore, the museum provided me with my own interpreter.



The educational program focused on 초충도 (Chochungdo) or insect art. The style originated during the Joseon dynasty and was popular among women. The reason for this was that during that period, men held all the political and societal power, leaving women at home. Since there were hours on hand with little to do and nature in abundance, those with artistic ability took to sketching and painting what they saw.


The most famous artist was Shin Saim-dang. Her artwork is legendary. In fact, her series of eight screens is probably the most well-known. Shim is not only famous for her artwork, but poetry as well. This all-encompassing artist is the woman behind Lee Yul-gok, a Korean scholar who appears on the 5,000 won note. His mother; however, graces the 50,000 won note along with a representation of her work.



Following the presentation, we were given 90 minutes to create our own insect drawing. This is what I came up with.



As you can see… an artist I am not. Despite my failing, I had a great time and would highly recommend the educational programs the museum has to offer.

Video Responses

Gooooooooooooooooood morning! It’s #CoffeeTime here and I thought I wold share a few videos from the weekend. As I’ve stated before, the Vlog Channel is a place for me to have fun, but also post specialized responses to questions I receive about Korea or try out new projects. So this past weekend I filmed two such videos.

The fist was a question from a viewer asking if it was worthwhile to obtain a TEFL prior to coming to Korea to teach.

The second video was a lot more fun and from my friend Jay, The Aimless Cook. Jay has been selected as one of YouTube NextUp Chefs and I’m very happy for him. In his video, he tagged several friends to show us what’s in our fridge. Here’s my quick answer:

So of course… Now the tag is out there and you’re it. What’s in your fridge?

Learning Korean

Probably the most frustrating things about learning Korean (한국어) has been overcoming the issues created by all the rules governing romaizing the language. For example, I live in 경기도, which over the years has been romanized as Kyunggido, Kyeongkido, Kyunkkido, and the current standard Gyeonggido. Things doing get any easier, when the government changes things on the fly either, as they did last year with the 김밥.

Since I’ve been in Korea, I’ve always called it a kimbap, but now it is a gimbap. This is despite the 김 in KIMchi is spelled with a K and the 김 in GIMbap being spelled with a G – even though they are the same letters.

I’ve discussed over the years how frustrating it can be for travelers in Korea to try and navigate the streets of Korea because of all the changing romanization on signs. It’s the prime reason that I think those living in South Korea, even if only for a year, should learn to read Hanguel (한글). It makes a huge difference when trying to ask for directions and get help, since you’re not reliant on the the romanized language. Hell, look at the nation’s premiere film festival that finally changed its name to reflect current romanization rules.

In the above video, I try to give an explanation to James (ElevenColors) about how the ㄱ is pronounced in Korean. As I said in the video, I’ve learned that it is technically a cross between a G and a K – not quite fully one or the other. However, based on different conversations I’ve had with my naturally born Korean friends, from time to time they will pronounce words with a hard K or a hard G. This isn’t standard across all my Korean friends, making it a little frustrating for a learner of the language.

If you’re learning Korea, what’s the most difficult or frustrating thing you’ve come across?