Meet Jessica from Curiositytravels.org. She is a travel blogger, lover of food, and constant daydreamer, always trying to plan a new trip. Currently, she is working as a foreign English teacher in the capital city of South Korea, Seoul. From her blog we find out she has travelled to Asia and Latin America, while visiting such amazing countries as Argentina, Ecuador and Malaysia. Let’s find out what cool stories she can share with us.
How is Seoul treating you these days?
Seoul is a very fun place to live, so it is pretty good. I’ve been here about a year and a half now and honestly, I’m pretty ready to move onto somewhere else! Luckily, Autumn is coming up and it is my favourite time in Korea. I am looking forward to that. But in the next 6 months while I finish my teaching contract, I’ll mostly be writing and saving for the next adventure!
How do you manage to combine teaching with traveling in South Korea? Does teaching help you or make your travels more difficult?
I teach at a public elementary school, and the vacation time is really good. I get 21 paid days to take, excluding public holidays. Last year we had a ton of public holidays so I had time to travel around Korea and abroad. The salary also allows for me to travel and still save a decent amount of money. It’s a great way to combine both!
What are the main differences between being a teacher in your home country and being a foreign teacher in South Korea?
I was never a teacher at home, so I don’t really know! I actually studied international business. To teach in Seoul you just need a TEFL and a Bachelor’s degree. I did work with kids at home, and I will say the little ones here are incredibly cute and polite.
What is the first thing you were shocked or surprised of when you visited South Korea for the first time?
I was pretty shocked with the lack of English spoken in the city. I thought that since I was living in Seoul, it would be more westernized, and English would be spoken more widely. Turns out it can actually be pretty hard, and even if someone does speak English, they may be too shy to actually use it and help you out.
Do you have your favourite Asian food you can’t imagine your day without?
As clique as it sounds, it has become kimchi. I don’t have to eat it with every meal, but definitely with every Korean meal. If it isn’t kimchi, I’d have to say Thai curry paste! Even when I can’t make a whole curry, I season my vegetables with the paste to get the flavour.
Do think it is possible for a foreign traveller like you to be treated as a local in a foreign country, when working and living there for a long period of time? Some people say it’s impossible. Do you agree?
In Korea, it is a bit impossible for me. Even though I have been here a while, my Korean is not good. I can read the characters, and get by with all the basic phrases, but other than that I struggle. I think it’s possible for others though. If you are embracing the culture, living like the locals, AND speaking the local language I don’t see why not!
What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken while traveling?
Traveling always carries risks, it is so unexpected! I’d say one of my biggest was when I took up an internship to work in Ecuador solo. I was committing to 3 months, and though the job didn’t turn out to be so great, I had an amazing time, met some awesome people, and learned a lot.
How do you beat homesickness? Can you share with us your best ways of dealing with it?
When I am feeling homesick I try and do the same things I would at home. Recently for me that meant baking a funfetti/confetti cake and watching trashy American TV. Embarrassing, I know. Also, talking to friends and family at home as much as possible helps.
What do you pay the most attention to when giving your readers travel tips? You seem to be posting a lot of travel guides on your website.
I think about the things I would want to be reading myself. I love to read blog travel guides for my upcoming destinations because they give me a real and accurate depiction of what I will encounter. Sometimes, Lonely Planet gets stuff wrong!
Argentina vs. Korea. In which of these places did you feel like home the most?
Argentina, for sure. Though I was there a shorter amount of time, I have a strong connection with Latin America. I even studied it in university. I loved everything about Buenos Aires, and I need to go back! I ended up moving to Asia to experience a new side of the world, expand my horizons and well… it offers more money!
What advice would you give a girl of your age heading to Ecuador to travel?
I would tell her to always be aware of your surroundings. It is not the easiest place to travel, and though everyone is so friendly, there still is a decent amount of crime. Be smart and always have your valuables in a secure place! I know many people, including myself, who were robbed in Quito.
Have you ever met a person/ people who inspired you while being on the road? If so, who were they?
I met a girl on my flight to Quito, Ecuador who ended up befriending me and letting me stay at her parents’ house while I battled some awful altitude sickness upon arrival. She was so incredibly kind to do that for a stranger. Brazilian by blood, but grew up in Ecuador, and then moved to the U.S. She was gorgeous and spoke 3 languages. I was incredibly jealous!
Which photo published on your website are you the most satisfied with? Tell us the story behind it.
I love this picture I took in Ayutthaya, Thailand. There are so many amazing ruins to explore there. I also recently used this photo in the Capture the Color contest by TravelSupermarket.com. I love the colors, the Buddhas, and the lotus flowers. Maybe it is the smile on the faces of the Buddhas, but this picture makes me happy.
Thank you for your time and commitment when participating in this interview. I may wish you success in teaching, good luck in traveling and a lot of positive energy when exploring the world!