Since February of 2009, three of my fellow graduates from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication‘s public relations program have all begun teaching English in South Korea. All three students were interested in international cultures while in college and active in public relations on campus, specifically the Oregon Chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America. I felt the phenomenon was worth blogging about and interviewed them for this post.

Branden Johnson graduated in 2008. He served on the UO PRSSA Executive Board as PRSA Liason and directed our student-run firm, Allen Hall Public Relations, both during his final year.

Regina Mitchell also graduated in 2008. She participated in Allen Hall Public Relations and served as the guest services manager for the 2008 UO PRSSA Regional Activity.

Bryan Saxton graduated in 2009. He served as the 2008-2009 Web Chair on the UO PRSSA Executive Board and as 2007-2008 Public Relations Officer for International Student Association, one of the most active groups on campus.

Now, for the interview:
What made you decide to take up teaching English in Korea?
BJ: I was working at a small marketing agency in Portland last fall when I was laid off due to the increasingly dire economy. Teaching abroad was something I had wanted to do for years. Korea never would have been my first choice, but I found a Seattle-based recruiter on CraigsList, and had a job offer in less than a month. As opposed to a lot of other countries, the money and benefits in Korea are some of the best you’ll find right out of college. I have cheap health insurance, a generous salary, a pension plan, and my school pays my rent. They paid for my flight, helped me take alll of the necessary procedures to become a resident alien, and provided me with a furnished apartment in a nice area.

RM: I am going to be completely honest when I say the first thing that caught my eye about teaching in Korea was, well, the money. Korea is so wonderful and generous to their foreign teachers and offer the greatest benefits– free accomodation, high stipend for enrollment and finished contracts and a solid salary. Also, I figured it would be more worthwhile to immerse myself into a country I knew little about. I always wanted to travel and so all of this was made possible with the program I entered!

BS: MONEY! That, and the opportunity to travel. This is the most cost-effective way I know to run around Asia. I also have a lot of friends in South Korea, and it will be nice to reconnect with them. Other reasons include: living in a big city, adventure, doing something with my life that I didn’t see myself doing 5 years ago, ect.

Do you think your education in the J-school/PR program has helped you in your new job? If so, how?
BJ: I think my journalism degree has definitely helped in terms of being an effective English teacher. I am confident in my writing and comprehension of grammar, which were both fine-tuned in the J school. I also think that my leadership roles on campus contributed to my teaching abilities. Classrooms — especially kindergarten classrooms — are dynamic places that present unique and often challenging situations. A teacher has to be flexible yet maintain control and respect. It’s not easy, but my college experience prepared me in ways I never expected.

RM: If there are a few things that I can thank the Journalism school for, it’s definitely the writing and public speaking practice. I’ve been challenged a few times on things such as English grammar, and I continually have to present lessons that are exciting. As a public relations major, it was essential to impress a client and perform to your best while connecting to your audience. The same is true with teaching.

BS: Not sure yet as I haven’t started working. But I’m pretty sure our command of grammar, punctuation and writing conventions will be helpful because we’ll be able to teach those to students.

What do you want to do after your contract is up (if you know)?
BJ: I’m still undecided about my future after next February. I met my boyfriend here, and a lot of the decision depends on his plans. I would be willing to stay another year or two, but I’m also anxious to get back to the States. I want to go back to get my master’s in elementary education, but first I have to do another year of undergrad to finish some prerequisites. Coming to Korea has taught me to let life take you where it will. This has been an amazing experience and I don’t want it to end. But, it has prepared me to take the next challenging steps in my life and career, and for that I am excited to move forward.

RM: After the contract, I will move back to Seattle and spend some time thinking of my next steps. During that “down” time, I could see myself either coming back or continuing ESL teaching abroad in another country. There’s a lot out there!

BS: Not sure yet. Work in PR? That’s what I want now, but that could change in a year or two. Right now I just want to travel, save up a bit of money and have some fun.

Some final words from Branden:
“Get out there and find what makes you happy. I graduated with a job in marketing and now I teach kindergarten halfway around the world. And I love it.”