Alumni Spotlight: Gina Covert


Gina Covert is from North Mankato, Minnesota, and studied history at UW-Green Bay. She was an ESL teacher in Gwangju, South Korea for two years, where she enjoyed the opportunity to learn about Korea and Korean culture. She enjoys swimming, running, travel planning and reading in her free time.

Highlights: The highlight of my teaching experience really comes down to how much I fell in love with teaching, my students, and my school. My plan was to stay in Korea only one year, but I ended up liking my job so much that I stayed another year at the same school. Once I got to know the students, and they got more comfortable with me, I began to look forward to going to work every day and interacting with my students. I had a great support network of fellow English teachers, my friends, my co-teachers, and the school staff - all of whom were friendly, kind, helpful, and welcoming to me. Because I didn't speak much Korean, the only way I was able to learn about my students was through English, so when my students would come up to me in the hallways just to chat in English I was really able to get to know them, even if their English level was low. The best part of my days were when I effectively communicated with one of my students in or outside of class, because I felt it gave them more confidence in their English abilities, and therefore encouraged them to continue speaking.

Overall, my teaching experience in South Korea was a dream come true. My orientation provided me with a solid, strong network of friends to rely upon, ask for help and advice, and of course, have fun with. My school - staff, co-teachers, and students - were wonderful to me, and really made me feel welcome in their country. Other aspects of Korean culture - the food, low expenses, the safety of the country - all contributed to making my experience more positive. Travel in Korea was cheap and easy, thanks to their impressively efficient bus systems - trips to the beach in Busan or the museums in Seoul were only a few hours away. Also, due to working in the public school system, I had fantastic opportunities to travel around Asia during vacation time and was able to see more of Asia than I ever hoped I would have. Moving to South Korea was the best life decision I have ever made, and I hope that this will help inspire other teachers to come and experience life in Korea!

Morning: Usually I would teach two or three classes in the morning. If that was the case, I would arrive at least an half hour before the first bell rang, and I would spend time between lessons prepping for the next class! If I was all prepared I had free time, which I usually used for e-mails, chatting with people back home who were just going to bed, or preparing for future lessons. The mornings tended to go by fast, especially if I was busy with classes and prep!

Afternoon: A typical afternoon consisted of usually teaching either 5th or 6th period, and then one day a week I would teach a 2 period 'extra class.' This class didn't follow a book or a co-teacher, so I had the freedom to basically do anything I wanted related to English conversation. I usually taught PowerPoint lectures about fun topics, followed by a reinforcement activity or game. For a fun day, we would either play English games or watch a movie. I would usually have a small number of students for the after school groups - my classes ranged from 4 to 14 students throughout 4 semesters. Also, Wednesday afternoon is typically 'teacher volleyball day,' when all of the teachers trot down to the gym and work on their volleyball skills for an hour or two - the games were fun and usually followed by food and drinks that were brought in to the schools. If there wasn't anything going on in the afternoons I would use the time to do some touching up on my lessons for the next day, or sometimes just use it as free time for e-mails or reading or something.

Evening: In the evenings most teachers aren't responsible for any extra work or commitments, so your evenings are your play time! After either cooking dinner or eating out (sometimes about the same price) most of my friends and I would utilize the evenings to either socialize, exercise, or just relax.

I spent my evenings swimming at a nearby pool, going to a nearby gym for fun classes like yoga or pilates, or sometimes just hanging out at one of the many coffee shops in order to read, write, study Korean, etc. I had just come from four years in university, so the adjustment to working 9 to 5 and only having evenings free was a bit of an adjustment for me!