The embassy of the Republic of Korea hosted a reunion for South Africans who had worked there as English teachers. Pictured are Karl Graf, ambassador Choi Yeonho and Megan Kearney. Picture: Jacques Naudé
Pretoria - South African teachers have spoken highly of the Korean culture of respect and kindness which was shown to them during their stays in there.

They shared these views during a reunion celebration at the Korean embassy in Pretoria for teachers who taught English in Korea.

Megan Kearney, a Fine Arts student from the University of Pretoria, went to Korea in 2015 and taught English to elementary students, something she said was the best experience of her life.

The 26-year-old from Rietfontein said although she did not study teaching at university, she had a great love for children and had always embraced the philosophy behind teaching.

“I did not know much about Korea before I went there and it exceeded my expectations,” she said.

She said the main thing that stood out for her was the culture of respect and kindness.

And being around people from other countries and learning about their culture was a bonus.

However, her first few months there were not the best of times for her: “At first it was a little bit alienating because I did not know anyone and everyone gets a culture shock because it’s a new culture and it was a completely scary new experience.”

Kearney said being in Korea was great and she would recommend visiting it to anyone interested in short-term teaching, or just wanting to visit.

“I would like to go back there some other time, but only to visit,” she said.

Karl Graf taught on-and-off in Korea for eight years, teaching both adults and young students. “Being there was really unexpected, as I just got a call from a friend who asked if I would be okay teaching Korean students and I told him yes,” he said.

He had taught in different countries since then, and the last time he was in Korea was in 2013.

Students there were confident, involved in their communities, and worked very hard to learn English, he said. Like Kearney, he too loved the culture and the respect people had towards each other.

Graf said it was really easy to make friends as everyone was friendly and open. “The main thing I loved about the country was hiking and exploring,” he said.

Graf said he would definitely recommend that young people sign up for the programme to teach in Korea as it was an “eye- opener”. He would also love to go back and teach Korean students again.

“This event is to show young South Africans who have been to Korea that they are valuable to us, and we really appreciate them,” said Choi Yeonho, Korean ambassador.

He started the annual gathering when he first arrived in South Africa in 2014 in order to keep the connection with those who had made a difference in his country.

Pretoria News