Ashton wishes he could teleport, but for now, he’ll work on fulfilling his dream of molding young minds as an ESL teacher in South Korea. After wrapping up his TEFL certification in Poland, he wanted to trade in pierogis and potatoes for bibimbap and bulgogi. So what did he do? He headed East—like, the far east, and is now living his best life in a small town on the Korean peninsula. And yes, he did go to the Olympics! #USA #USA
Tell us about your love of languages. What stirred this passion in you?
I had an incredible high school Spanish teacher. Language is about perspective, and I think he taught that to me and so many others. I credit him with my interest in learning Spanish, which is directly related to my interest in traveling, and that is where I discovered that learning other languages is so awesome. It’s a passion that was sparked in high school and has only grown since.
Your university is in a pretty small town in a rural area of Pennsylvania. What led you to want to teach and live abroad?
Good question. I actually grew up in the same town I went to college in, which further intensifies the question. While I wanted something different, more than anything I wanted something to discover. Something new. Additionally, teaching abroad combined two of the only things I was certain I enjoyed: being around kids and traveling.
Is South Korea as amazing as they say? What are your favorite parts of teaching there, as well as your favorite parts of living there?
South Korea is amazing. One of my favorite parts of teaching here is the students’ reactions to any sort of game or fun group learning activity. It just adds excitement and laughter that’s contagious, and I think it makes the class more memorable and enjoyable. It’s also been great to have the freedom to teach a subject or topic the way it suits my students and me. The kids are also a blast to be around.
As far as living in Korea, the language is by far my favorite thing. The food is great, there are a lot of mountains for hiking, as for how welcoming most of the people I’ve encountered are; but nothing challenges me or makes me feel like I’m in South Korea quite like Korean itself (obviously). And that’s a very good thing.
What have been some of the most formidable challenges you’ve faced on the road to living abroad? How did you overcome them—any advice for our readers?
The hardest parts about living abroad are easily not being able to communicate on an easy, daily basis, as well as being far away from family. For the former, study up before you leave, use the language as much as you can while you’re there, and continue to study. A little dedication goes a long way. For the latter, try to keep your mind off it by keeping busy with things. This can be making new friends, going to social events, or simply traveling around where you are. You’ll miss your friends and family inevitably, but it’s so much easier when you have other things to focus on, even outside of work. And I still make sure my mom knows I’m alive as frequently as I should.
If you could do one thing over in your TEFL career process, what would it be and why? What would you do differently?
I would 100% start sooner. I’ve met so many to-be teachers getting their TEFL at age 18, 19, not even in University. I think that’s incredible, and such a good idea just for the experience before you dedicate 4 years of your life to a set degree. Especially something like Angloville-Premier TEFL.
Have your friends and family been supportive of your decision to move to Asia? How did you get them on board?
Yes! I’m very lucky that I have parents that support me in everything that I do, and friends that understand my dreams and desires. My mom, as a mom does, worried and still worries (she took a bit of convincing) but I know she is supportive of where I am in my life and in the world, as is my dad. If there were any worries, it was about safety, as the conflict with North Korea was escalating quickly when I left, but I told them that you can’t let fear hinder the possibilities, and dreams, of life.
What is the future for Mr. Perry?! 🙂
My direct answer to that question is “I don’t know,” because I have no set path right now. I’m enjoying life as it comes, and I’ll see where it leads me down the road. I absolutely love working with kids, and the TEFL has given me amazing opportunities to do that anywhere in the world practically. So quite possibly I’ll be in Korea teaching for a few more years, or maybe South America, or Europe. I can’t say exactly, I’m just excited for those possibilities.
Thanks Ashton!! Have a blast in Korea and good luck keeping it Gangnamm style!