Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Going Gangnam SLP Style

It's been a couple of weeks since I made a post here, as I've been busy settling into a new life in a different part of Seoul. At the beginning of this month I finished my year contract with YBM ECC in Gwangmyeong, and moved in with Angela to work as an afternoon teacher at Gangnam SLP. It was a bittersweet moment. I was sad to say goodbye to the students I've come to love at YBM, and as burned out as I was with that school I couldn't help but feel a certain nostalgic, emotional connection with it: YBM helped jump-start my life in Korea, assisted me in getting my visa, flight and housing, and provided an unforgettable year of teaching that has given me useful work experience and many fond memories. For these reasons I'll always be extremely thankful.

The students I'll miss the most: Lisa, Jenny and Vicky.
An adorable goodbye message from Vicky.
That said, I was thrilled to be out of there! Being a morning teacher was strenuous at times, with long hours, few breaks, and all sorts of extra responsibilities (phone teaching, open class, hosting parties and celebration days, etc) that just made it a pain in the arse. I was also sick of teaching from YBM's textbooks: English World, English Playground, English Carnival...these books become really monotonous after a year of teaching them, as they all follow very similar, repetitive lesson structures. Most exciting of all was the chance to spend four months living with Angela. The two of us were sick of having to make an hour commute across Seoul to see each other, so we were both excited at the prospect of getting to share our own space together and see each other every day.

My new school: Gangnam SLP
Two weeks in, and things are going swimmingly. My new position as afternoon teacher is much more relaxed, I have more breaks, the kids are generally nicer and more well behaved than the ones I had to deal with in Gwangmyeong (not to mention with higher standards of English), and I actually have time and energy for my own personal pursuits, like writing. Best of all, Angela and I are loving our life together, especially the evenings, during which we have been snuggling up and watching movies and TV shows, something I didn't have much time for before. It's also nice seeing each other at work during the day, even if we don't generally have much time to chat.

We actually live well outside central Gangnam, in a district called Daecheong. It's much more quiet and traditional than the bustling, futuristic avenues for which Gangnam is well known.

There's this really pretty park right outside our apartment. We often wander through it on the way to get dinner in the nearby food district.
Our local supermarket.

Near our school is another pleasant park called Maroo Park.

This is the teacher's room in Gangnam SLP. It's usually much busier but this was during lunch break.
This is one of my favourite new classes. I teach them mostly science but we also read storybooks and newspapers. They are super-smart and really sweet kids. Front row: Tae-Woo, Jonathan, Jackie and Jessica. Back row: Alice, Jenna, Elva and Amy.
Here I am with them.
This is another one of my favourite classes: James, Tae-Hoon, Lisa and Alice. I teach them debate, which involves reading a news or opinion piece and then discussing it and answering questions. These kids are the smartest and most mature kids I teach, and it's great hearing their opinions on different subjects (recent topics included Korean reunification, inter-cultural marriage and the possibility of an Asian Union). 
My cutest class are these young beginner students. I've had a lot of bad experiences with pre-school age beginner students in the past, but these are such well-behaved, sweet, adorable kids that I always look forward to teaching them.

Of course, as well as new students I also have a bunch of new colleagues to work with. I got to know them already through Angela, but it's cool to actually be working with them now. Here we are drinking at Woodstocks bar in Gangnam.
Eating delicious Thai food in Itaewon.
That concludes my introduction to my new life in Gangnam. Things feel pretty good at the moment. The only thing left to dread right now is the Korean winter. Once we make it through that, it'll be time to start the next phase of our life abroad: backpacking across Asia. We're trying to save during our remaining months. I don't know how successful I'll be at that, given that there's dental treatment I need to get, as well as pre-departure travel costs that are bound to eat into my earnings. But in any case, we won't be doing as much sightseeing for a while, and I may only make a few posts each month, if that. I'm planning to bring my laptop when we go travelling though, as long as it survives that long (its screen is on its last legs and continuously turns black without warning). Hopefully there'll be lots more stuff to blog about once we depart for our adventure. Until then, life in Gangnam is going well for us both!

To end with: a photo collage we made using a machine at Gangnam Station.


  1. I used to teach at Gangnam SLP. The picture just above your caption about Daecheong looks like it was taken right outside my old apartment.

    1. Cool, it seems we used the same apartment then!

  2. Hi James, did you end up liking your whole experience at Gangnam SLP? I'm interviewing with them now and just wanted to get a feel for it. Thanks!

    1. Honestly, I enjoyed my four months there as an afternoon teacher, but it didn't look like morning teachers had a fun time there. Some of them were having open class every single month, which to me is way too stressful. Angela seems to look back on it very fondly though, despite how overworked she was. The big plus is that there are a lot of foreign teachers there so it's easy to make friends and find someone to hang out with at the evenings and weekends. Also it's a pretty nice, residential area to live in, not too crowded or hectic, but still within close reach of Gangnam and downtown Seoul. But the actual work life there was, in my opinion, too taxing.