Explore the globe as an ESL teacher with Bogue Hermsmeyer

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I first met Bogue in the lush tropical surrounds of Tonsai Bay, Thailand back in 2013. As we introduced ourselves at the local breakfast shack down by the beach I found myself instantly drawn to his friendly, vibrant energy and great charisma.

Bogue lives and works as an English teacher in the city of Busan in South Korea. He is an adventure addict, overflowing with enthusiasm and full of great tales and funny games, making him an instant crowd pleaser. He is full of ideas for games and knows how to throw a damn good party, plus he’ll always make you feel welcome.

As I began to learn more about Bogue and his expat lifestyle I became instantly fascinated with the concept of ESL teaching and the vast amount of opportunities that the profession offers across the globe. Bogue has bworked as an ESL teacher for a few years and has built up quite a reputation in Busan. He now finds himself teaching English at a University level, a generous salary, a great amount of freedom in his work and of course, a ton of holidays!

In this post, I share Bogue’s story to inspire those who are looking for an easy way to set off and explore the world. If you are an English speaking native itching to escape the 9 to 5 and live in an exotic country where you are rewarded for speaking your mother tongue, then this post is for you!

Q: Can you tell us a little bit more about your profession, and your career progression into teaching and living in South Korea?

Well that is a long story! I originally came to Korea in 2009 to enjoy a new experience and a new culture, and to save some money for traveling of course. I had a fantastic time, and longed for more of the expat lifestyle. So I finally made my way back in 2012 and have been here since.

I never imagined it would turn into a career. I started working in a public middle school. It was fun, but I found a job teaching Business English to adults on my second round. Since I have many years of business experience back home, this was a better fit for me. Through the professional connections I made there, I now find myself teaching at a university. I have certainly been lucky. Howeverfrom my observations, if you put the time in and network enough, eventually, opportunities will open up!!

Bogue and his students.

Bogue and his students having some fun in English class!.

Q: What is the lifestyle, the culture and expat scene like in South Korea?

I came to Korea because I had a lot of friends and even a cousin of mine that lived here and loved it. I found an expat climbing website and knew, that even if it sucked, I could climb a lot and save tons of money.

The lifestyle is why I have stayed so many years. The Korean people are kind and generous. Certainly there are some negative experiences, but those are far outnumbered by the positive ones. It is hard to adjust to the lack of spatial awareness for me, but I have gotten used to it.

The expat scene here is whatever you would like to make of it. It seems that there are clubs and groups for just about any hobby. I know friends that are into clubbing, swing dancing, art, music, festivals, climbing, kayaking, ultimate frisbee, running, just about everything really. With the advent of Facebook group pages, meeting people here that share your interest is really easy. Everyone has similar time off and lots of disposable income, so the expat scene is a ridiculously good time!!

Q: Does South Korea have much of climbing scene across the country?

For such a small country, Korea has a lot of climbing options. Mountains make up 70% of the country. In my city alone there are 8 climbing areas (sport, trad & bouldering) that are all accessible via public transportation and a short hike.

Rock climbing in Yeongseo Pokp, Souh Korea.

Rock climbing in Yeongseo Pokp, Souh Korea.

The climbing scene is really growing in popularity. It used to be such a niche activity among the locals. However, in recent years gyms have sprouted all over the country. Bouldering in particular has become very popular. The downside is, crags on Sundays can be quite busy, but you can avoid the crowds with a little planning.

If you move to Korea check out Korea Climbing Calendar on Facebook. In my city “Busan climbers” is a great group page to meet new people, find gyms, and plan trips. Also, for more information on all the latest news of rock climbing in Korea try “Korea On The Rocks”.

Q: What does a typical day at work look like for you?

For the most part there are three types of teaching jobs here in Korea. Public school jobs are a 9-5 type of gig. Hagwons (private education institutes) can vary. When I taught adults I worked from 7 am to 3 pm. Friends of mine work from 2 pm to 9 pm. University jobs vary semester to semester. Some days I teach 2 hours and others up to 8.

Q: Can you share some of the best and worst parts about your job?

This is tough to say. My current job is amazing. I love teaching, and it brings me great pleasure just to go to work and do my job. I have to admit that the holidays are amazing.I have an insane amount of time off. The lifestyle is also something that keeps me here.I can go on massive trips twice a year and climb every weekend in the meantime. As an immigrant I actually have a better lifestyle than educated locals. I am thankful every day for my job and the lifestyle it provides 🙂

You can’t go past the amazing Korean dining experience!

Negatives….. I think it is key to keep a really positive mindset when living abroad. Don’t surround yourself with negative people, misery loves company and it can get dark if all your pals hate it here. That being said there are a couple of downsides.

Our salaries are not increasing here. People still make about the same they did in 2008. Naturally the cost of living is rising, so Korea is not the economic dream it once was. We get paid pretty well still, but you can’t save quite as much as in the past.

Pollution is the other. Although this doesn’t really involve work it does have an effect on your lifestyle. I cancelled my trail run today due to yellow dust, heavy air pollution. It happens in the spring a bit. So instead of checking the forecast,you need to check the air quality index. That just plain sucks, but you deal with it.

Be sure to prepare yourself for the hustle and bustle of Busan!

A photo of a crowded street downtown in Busan, South Korea.

Be sure to prepare yourself for the hustle and bustle of Busan! (photo courtesy of Time Out Busan)

Q: What are your three of your best tips/things to consider for anyone out there who may be thinking of heading overseas to teach English?

Keep an open mind. Don’t judge the culture too much. There will be so many different things from home. Look at things from the locals’ perspective; it will make things much easier.

Don’t try to change the system. I have seen a lot of good teachers get really frustrated and burnt out because they tried to “fix” the system. Do what you can with the power you have. Teach the kids and have fun. It is actually considered quite rude to give suggestions to an older person of authority in this country. Keep this in mind!

Go with the flow. Things change here last minute all the time. Example, my next Monday’s classes were cancelled on Friday afternoon. My admin office didn’t know about this and my students found out before I did. This is just how it goes here. Don’t get frustrated and go with the current, not against it.

Q: You seem to have balanced your life really well with a good mix of travel, climbing and adventure – do you have any travel tips or advice?

Set up a budget. I was able to save lots of cash here to fund my trips this way. I have a Monday to Friday budget. Then a Friday evening to Sunday budget. This helps you keep track of your spending and you can hit your goals easier.

Take cheap weekend trips. Find cheap hobbies. Camping and climbing is a great example but there are lots of other options. Going to Seoul and partying is fun, but not a good way to hit saving goals.

Do something you love every day. Even on a busy work day, I fit in my routine exercise and make time for good food. Find what you like and do the same.

A photo of Bogue reaching the Summit of a mountain in Busan.

Bogues best tip: Find time every single day to do something you love.

Q: If teaching isn’t exactly someone’s cup of tea, what other jobs do you see to be available for westerners in Asia?

That is a tough one. If you are flexible and have some experience you can find jobs in business, trade, importing etc. However most of the people I know are teachers or in the military. For an extensive list of ESL related jobs be sure to check out“Dave’s ESL Cafe“. Who knows, you might even find something fun, and hey, at the end of the day all you are really doing is getting paid to speak your mother tongue!

Q: Any plans to move back home to the US any time soon, or are you happy to call SK home?

This month I am starting my MA in Education with a focus in TESOL. It is from an American university that sends teachers here during our holiday. So I am here for 2 more years minimum. I am taking the program so I can solidify my credentials and resume even further and do this for a very long time 🙂 No plans to go home.

Q: And finally, what are your three favourite climbing destinations and a sentence why?

1. Seonunsan Korea - Great overhanging limestone.
2. Rifle Colorado - Really hard sport crag in a beautiful setting.
3. Indian Creek Utah - Although I am not the best crack climber, my trips here have been some of the best of my life.

Thanks Bogue for sharing your awesome experiences living and working abroad in South Korea! What an incredible way to balance your passion for climbing, travel and adventure with professional work that is both enriching and exciting.

If you are interested in learning how to become an ESL teacher then make sure you check outDave’s ESL Cafefor all the information you will EVER need in order to become an English teacher anywhere in the world.