I am really grateful to the staff at Canadian Connection for all of their support. I love life in Korea and I am currently teaching my second year in a middle school (located in Seoul). Given the opportunity, I will continue to build a life in Korea.
I think that if I was in Canada and had to prepare for Korea all over again, I would have packed differently. Canadian Connection does give you an extensive and very helpful list of things that you should pack, however, I realize that there were many things I could have left behind. For example, I spent quite a bit of money and packed quite a few toiletries and medicines... but I live in Seoul where everything is accessible and available. I also bought a new pair of glasses in Canada, which was another big expense, only to find that glasses are EXTREMELY CHEAP in Korea.
I love my community and the people here are great. The Korean education system is different from Canada, so it will be an adjustment, however, if you have an open mind and are flexible you will be successful!
I do have to say that teaching ESL is not quite the satisfying job that I thought it would be. Even though your co-teachers might be very supportive, the students have a tendency to really push their boundaries with a Native English Teacher. Classroom management is definitely the biggest challenge in the public school system. This is the hardest part for me- I have my Bachelor of Education in Canada and teaching ESL is not the same as teaching curriculum. I find that, although the students are extremely friendly and really love you as a teacher, it is hard to connect with them on a personal level. You will hear a lot of "I'm fine thank you, and you".... and then that's the extent of the conversation :) (it's pretty endearing actually).
As for professional development.... I realize that ESL as a life long career is not the best match for me. I would not consider getting a Master's degree in ESL. Personally, I would rather teach subject curriculum in my first language so I am researching job opportunities in International Schools. I also speak French so I am considering teaching ESL in a French speaking country so that I may communicate a little better with the students. Classroom management and personal, more intimate conversations with students would be easier if I had a working knowledge of THEIR first language. (I do know some Korean, but it is very limited)
Obviously there are many unexpected challenges that arise- that is the nature of teaching! I would say the biggest piece of advice for new teachers is to have a healthy lifestyle outside of teaching. GO OUTSIDE and enjoy this beautiful country! Don't spend all your time on the computer when you go home at the end of the day. Don't just spend all of your time with other Native English teachers- make Korean friends! Also, I highly suggest that (if you are in a large city like Seoul or Busan) you leave the city at least once a month and travel around the countryside.
The local community is quite welcoming. Respect is reciprocal- give it to get it! However, keep in mind that it is a metropolitan city with a huge and dense population, so there are bound to be some rude people. Try not to take it personally!
I honestly have to say that connecting with Canadian Connection and taking that first step towards teaching in Korea has been the best decision that I have ever made. Thanks to everyone!