Teaching English in Busan with Nathaniel Olson

Case Studies in the 9 to 5 alternative: No. 3

Welcome to a series of profiles on alternative lifestyles. If you think that you (or someone you know) would make for an interesting interview, then drop me a line. I know there are plenty of you out there 🙂 Hope you enjoy!

Badaling Great WallMeet Nathaniel Olson, an avid traveler and certified teacher currently based in Busan, South Korea. Most people (that I know) who teach English abroad end up in places like Europe, Thailand and Japan, so when I connected with Nathaniel through Twitter (you can find him here), I was interested how he ended up in Busan. Did you know that South Korean schools typically have the highest pay rates for English teachers? Upwards of $2500/mo, a free round-trip plane ticket, free housing, and 50% medical? What a deal!

After college, Nathaniel found a job that took him to 48 U.S. states and 5 Canadian provinces. He eventually wound up in Busan after realizing that education was his true calling, likening the city to his hometown of Seattle. I’ll let him tell you the rest:

How did you end up with a Masters in Teaching?

Ever since I was growing up I had a feeling that some day I would become an educator.  Yet, the draw of making a ton of money sounded pretty nice coming out of High School…so I went the advertising route…after a year stint in Seattle, I realized that money really wasn’t that important to me and I needed to figure out what would make me happy.  After small jobs, I got a job with the Bureau of Education and Research.  The job allowed me to have close contact with many well known educators.  I eventually sat down with my sister and decided that is was time to go back to school to become an elementary teacher….

48 states and 5 provinces? Sounds like a lot of travel. What was the gig?

The gig was working for the Bureau of Education and Research.  I was a program manager, yet it’s easier to describe as a tour manager for educational presenters.  I traveled with a new presenter each week traveling the US and Canada…each day a new city.  It was tiring and fun at the same time.  I would have never gone to some of the places that I went without the job.  It also gave me the itch to go back overseas.

How did you end up teaching English in Busan over other world cities?

Actually, I didn’t know much about South Korea or even Busan before I seriously considered it.  I researched many job opportunities across the world.  What really attracted me was the opportunity to live in a port city, teach in a public school, financially be able to pay off my student loans, and a new experience.  I also liked how group oriented the society as a whole is.  I’ve loved every second of it.

Wait, Busan and Seattle are similar? In what sense?

They both are port cities with mountains in the background.  They have world famous fish markets, eco-friendly people, and are large cities, yet not the size of Seoul or Los Angeles.

What recreational activities do you amuse yourself with outside of school?

I love to go hiking, play soccer, relax on the beach, ride my bike, attend concerts/sporting events, fishing, snowboarding, and anything that gets me outside.

Any long-term plans? Think you’ll be hanging out in Busan for the next few years?

I’m done here in March 2010.  Then me and my girlfriend are backpacking around SE Asia for awhile, back to the Portland, OR area to look for a teaching job, then off to Africa for the world cup, and eventually living in Portland, OR by next fall.  Hopefully I’ll be teaching 5th or 6th grade in the public schools by then.

Best of luck, Nathaniel!

If you have any additional questions, feel free to ask in the comments and I’ll do my best to track him back down. He’s a busy guy, romping around Busan and all.


5 thoughts on “Teaching English in Busan with Nathaniel Olson”

  1. Excellent article. It gave me flashbacks. I taught in Busan for about a year, in 2003-4. Chose it for similar reasons: climate was similar to Boston, there were good salaries on offer, the pace was laid-back. Eventually I used the experience as a launching pad for projects in Cambodia and Hong Kong.

    Now I live in Sydney with the English guy I met in Busan: the town that changed my life in the best of ways!

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