“After deciding that I might want to go to Korea to teach, I started at the best place possible—Google,” Dominique Choe ’18 says, joking about her method of job searching.
As her 2018 graduation date approached, Dominique started searching for a position where she could use her particular skill set—her English degree from Erskine and her ability to speak Korean.
She was drawn to South Korea because of her own Korean heritage and because she has relatives still living there. Despite her strong connections with the country, Dominique had only visited Korea once. Now, she decided, was the time to return.
“I figured…I’m only this young once, so I decided to take this chance before being bogged down by other responsibilities,” she says.
Soon, she landed a job as the head teacher for the foreign teachers at Avalon English, an academy in South Korea.
Dominique explains that in Korean education, “academies” are schools that students attend in addition to their regular studies. “They go to school for the same time that kids in America do,” she explains, “but after school is a whole different story. Rather than…dance, orchestra, etc., the kids go to academies. Kids in Korea end up going to at least two or three academies a day.”
This meant that her workday started at 12:45 p.m. and concluded at 10:00 p.m., which was a good fit for Dominique, a self-proclaimed night owl.
Dominique describes her students as “eager to learn,” and she enjoyed watching them develop their abilities in English. There were difficult days too, however. Her students ranged from first through ninth grade, and the eighth graders in particular struggled with mood swings, a phenomenon Dominique refers to as the “middle school second grade disease,” (eighth grade is the second of the middle grades in Korea).
At work, Dominique also faced cultural uncertainties. “I’ve always had my Korean side and American side wrestle back and forth at times, but…much more [so] working in Korea.” Because Korean culture places a high priority on respect for elders and those with seniority, Dominique found it difficult to suggest solutions when problems arose. “I would be ignored because I was a newer employee,” she explains.
Despite the challenges of the experience, Dominique enjoyed her year in Korea, especially the opportunities she had to connect with relatives and develop mentoring relationships with her students.
“I got to know my kids and I miss them every day,” she says. “Thank goodness for social media because I can still keep in touch with my kids.”
“I wouldn’t trade that experience for the world,” she says.
At Erskine, Dominique Choe was a student worker in the admissions and communications offices and was active in a variety of campus organizations and activities. She served as president of the Class of 2018. She returned to the United States in 2019, and now works as a legal assistant at a law firm.
Shown in photo above, from left, Dominique Choe ’18, Brett Silas ’19, and A.J. Mealing ’20.