ESL Teacher Feature: Barun Sarkar

The spotlight’s on Barun Sarkar this month! Read on to find about his experience as an ESL teacher living, working, and travelling around Asia.

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How long have you been abroad?

I moved to Korea in Dec 2009 with some departures for traveling, and I moved to Osaka, Japan in March 2017!

What have you taught?

I’ve taught at all possible levels from private academies to public schools to universities to corporate offices.

What is your living arrangement like?

I’ve lived in typical studio apartments with a rent allowance paid by my employer. My last apartment in Korea was 90 meters from Gwangalli Beach in Busan, so beach life was definitely a thing.

What is the wildest experience you’ve had?

One of the most exciting experiences I had was during the Jindo Sea Parting Festival. I was a trip leader for a group of over 120 people and dressed up like Moses for the sea parting. Despite the thousands of people at the festival, our company was the only one that carted our group by boat to the island opposite the mainland. Everyone else remained on the mainland. This way, we were the only ones able to experience and participate in a private traditional Korean dance and music performance. Then we hiked from the island to the mainland as the sea level dropped to expose a land bridge. Dressed head to toe as Moses really got people into the spirit and brought a ton of smiles and picture opportunities for everyone. It was one of the best memories I’ll ever have of my time in Korea.

ESL teacher korea

How did you meet people? What was your social life like outside of work?

I met people by joining expat-aimed travel groups such as When in Korea / WinK Travels, Adventure Korea or Enjoy Korea. These groups were some of the best ways to meet new people. And of course, heading out to locally organized expat events and large get togethers with existing friends always helped. So did good ole soju!

Where else did you travel?

In SE Asia: Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

In South Asia: India, and the Maldives.

And in East Asia: Japan, Taiwan, Korea, China, Hong Kong, and Macau.

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What was the biggest challenge in moving and working abroad?

The biggest challenge in moving and working abroad, aside from the obvious of language barriers (until you finally take it upon yourself to learn) is coming to the realization that you really need to stop hoarding SO MUCH STUFF! Seriously, moving 5 times to 5 different apartments in 7 years, plus traveling SE Asia for 8 months straight, makes you quickly realize what stuff is completely replaceable and how little you really need to get by just fine.

What was your biggest accomplishment?

One of my biggest accomplishments was being the regional director of WinK Busan, the Busan branch of Seoul-based When in Korea / WinK Travels. I was in charge of building the Busan operations from ground up. For just over 1.5 years, I was organizing and leading group trips of up to 100+ mainly expats across Korea. It was one of the most fun and rewarding jobs I have ever had.

What would you do differently?

I really wish I had travelled more while I was still in school, such as through student exchange programs or youth travel programs and the like. I also really wish I had jumped on more opportunities to take up working holiday visas in countries I was qualified for as a Canadian throughout my twenties. Traveling when you’re younger is an opportunity that you really won’t get back.

What’s a piece of advice for other teachers or those considering teaching abroad?

If you haven’t taken the plunge yet – stop considering. Be like Nike and just do it! However, keeping a positive attitude, open mind and understanding nature are essential to having success abroad. There will be obstacles and challenges that will gnaw your patience and crash through your comfort zone. Doing your best to understand that things are done very differently outside of your country is the best way to appreciate your new surroundings.

Ready To Take The Leap And Teach English Abroad?

Apply today to teach in China or Korea! Adventure Teaching will help you every step of the way.