After graduating in December 2013, Amanda Spikes knew that she wanted to utilize the “international” aspect of her public affairs major. While she was not initially sure about what she wanted to do after graduation, on a whim, Amanda applied to a program to teach English in South Korea. When she finally received notification of her acceptance into the program, not only was she relieved, but she was happy to find a career path that allowed her to help others while also having the opportunity to travel.
Now Amanda can be found at a small local elementary school in the city of Chungju in South Korea, living a life very different from the life of a student at Roanoke College. Amanda’s day begins at 6:30 every morning. Yet, unlike teachers in the United States, Amanda’s commute to her small elementary school is an hour long, by foot. In her elementary school, Amanda teaches 6 lessons a day. She shares that “there is a big difference between South Korean and English education”. During her time in Korea she has realized that wealth creates a large disparity in educational opportunities. Wealthy families can afford to send their children to private English
academies, whereas students from middle class families cannot speak a word of English.
The organization that hired Amanda, the English Program in Korea, is a government agency that places native English speakers in local public schools. To be accepted into the program, one must possess a bachelor’s degree in any field. The objective of the program is to shrink the educational gap that exists between different socioeconomic groups, to ultimately make the educational system more fair and competitive.
Amanda shares, “After being war-torn for nearly 60 years, South Korea has become one of the largest economies of the world. It seems like a lot of emphasis is on education, beauty, power, and prestige. Power structures and hierarchy are important here”.While the school systems place significant importance on performances on standardized tests, Amanda hopes that by teaching English in the public school system, she can offer a skill to students who may not have otherwise had such an opportunity.
Amanda recommends the program to anyone interested in exploring the world. This opportunity has given her the best of both worlds, being able to help those in need, while also having the opportunity to explore the world.