From Computer Programmer to Teaching Abroad: Chris Sutcliffe

Part 3 of 30, “ESL Teachers over 30.”


“Finally, after a long time of being too chicken shit to do it, I applied to the EPIK program in late 2011.” – Chris Sutcliffe

Essay by Chris Sutcliffe

Since graduating in 2004, (majoring in Business Computing) I got a job working as a programmer.  I enjoyed the work as it was challenging and stimulating, but ultimately, it just wasn’t rewarding.

When I was younger, I was lucky enough to travel with my parents to various places around the world.  When I became older and had a disposable income, I really wanted to get out and see the world on my own. So, in 2008, I decided to take a three-month leave from my job (they were awesome and guaranteed my job back when I came home) and travel. During my trip, I saw so many different things and met so many different people from all walks of life.  One person, however, stuck out from the rest- a guy called Jack who I met in China.

We had many conversations about life, and we both talked about how we feel uninspired without jobs, like something was missing.  So, when we both finished with our travels we stayed in touch.  A year later, I was still working at the same company and he was still working at a job he hated. He invited me to go on a road trip where he lived with him and his friends.  So, I took two weeks vacation from work and jetted to Canada from the UK to see another part of the world.

During this road trip, my friend Jack introduced me to one of his friends, Ken. Again, we had many different conversations, but the one that I really remembered was when he told me all about how he lived in China for a year and taught English. Something really clicked; I’d never even imagined myself teaching, but the idea that you could, as an English speaker with no training, go to another country and teach was amazing. This idea stuck in my head long after I came home from Canada, but I never had the confidence to actually do anything about it.


Fast forward another year to 2010 and my friend Jack sent me an email out of the blue saying that he had decided to go to Korea to teach English. He did the exact thing I wanted to do, but didn’t have the balls to do.  I was still hesitant and lacking the confidence to make such a move without knowing much about a country and their culture.  So, I decided to do something about it.

In 2011, I went on another trip to Asia.  I went to China first with another friend, and then onwards to Seoul to stay with my friend Jack.  After spending 10 days in China, coming to Korea was a breath of fresh air- almost literally.  My initial love of China dwindled since my first trip and I couldn’t see myself visiting again for a long time, let alone teaching there. Seoul seemed so awesome.  It was a modern, vibrant city, and the people were much friendlier.  I instantly fell in love with the food, ease of transport, the atmosphere, and the sheer variety of places to see and do in just one city.

Returning home after spending 5 days in Korea made me realize that is where I wanted to be. I wanted to learn more.  I wanted to immerse myself in Korean culture and at the same time do something rewarding. So, during the rest of 2011, I spent my time researching jobs, the Korean way of life, learning Hangul, etc. Finally, after a long time of being too chicken shit to do it, I applied to the EPIK program in late 2011.   This wasn’t as easy as I first imagined, but after about 9 months I found out that I had been accepted and got a place in Seoul. Getting that email was one of the happiest times in my life- knowing that I would be celebrating my 30th birthday whilst living and working in Korea seemed like such an exciting chapter in my life.

As to my future, I really can’t say. I love living in Korea for now, so much so I just signed a contract at a different school. Teaching has been much harder than I expected, but it has been ultimately rewarding.  Every job has its ups and downs. Living here has been the best decision I’ve ever made.  I’ve had some of the happiest times of my life here, but on the other hand, I’ve had some of the most miserable times here, too.  I really do feel that as a whole this experience has improved me as a person in many ways.  I suppose I’ve gotten to know myself a little more.


To read more stories and thoughts of those who decided to teach abroad after 30, please click here.

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