From MTV Producer to English Teacher in Korea (Part 1)

Last Updated on February 7, 2011 by Christine Kaaloa

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My fantastic 4th grade ladies.

These days I find, readers have been curious about the life of an English teacher — What’s my story? Why did I take a gap year break from my life?... Well, my story can be shot from many angles- this is one aspect of it…

My Story:

Reality teens to real life tots

I teach in a public elementary school through the EPIK program.

When I left my career as a TV producer/shooter in New York City to embark on a gap year(s), I was beginning to feel a little burnt out from producing MTV teen reality shows.  I didn’t have a 9-5 cubicle job, but being a freelancer in NYC is a 24/7 gig. Sustaining a career in a competitive city, I was shackled to the pressure-cooking megalopolis of a work-obsessed regimen and obviously, the economy wasn’t getting better.

I never stopped loving my career in entertainment, mind you. Working in a creative field is my life-long passion and most entertainment folk will tell you, they feel blessed to “work”at a job that feels most of the time, like play. Working with reality teens and their psychology however, can feel like complicated work. In reality shows, teens are cast at a rough and awkward stage, blazing with rebellion, sass and growing pains.

MTVSSW16crewAll a part of a day’s work! Location shoot in Miami at a MTV’s My Super Sweet 16 birthday party.

Single, freelance and inching closer to 40, I wanted to use my creative skills to inform, empower and educate (not that reality shows can’t do that…). And I thirsted for innocence… a reminder about why I’d someday, like to have kids of my own someday!

My Inspiration:

My perspective began changing when my travels began venturing into the developing countries The children I met, barely had shoes on their feet and worked hard; yet would hike for miles each morning just for the privilege of an education. For them, there was little to take for granted. They didn’t throw spoiled temper tantrums (and I’m not only talking about kids…)  nor did they bust out 15 hour non-stop run-and-gun workdays to capture the craziest stories on tape.

Their rewards and pleasures were simple; their naïve hearts were open, trusting and kind and it touched me.

MG 9479(Above) VIllage girls are resourceful in their dress-up play .
(Below) Children playing homemade toys everywhere from bows & arrows, walking stilts, building blocks to pretend guns.

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Every child deserves an education and a chance at a better future.

I’m not Sally Struthers, but the stories you see ,when you travel, can change the way of your heart.

For children in rural villages, life is about hard work and helping their families in farming. School tuition is too costly for their families, ranging anywhere from $5-$100/year (this is pocket change for us!) and in some regions, schools aren’t always easily accessible or receive a lot of funding.

(Below) A classroom/nursery in the mountain hills of Thailand.
An English teacher motorcycles out there once a week to teach.

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wrkrkids 9975(Above) Trekking in the Nepalese mountains, around 7:30A, kids help their family carry things back.
(Below) Vietnamese hill children backpack woven baskets, which are perfect for carrying loads.

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Charitable causes: a win-win situation isn’t as easy as you think it would be.

While I could take a “break” from my life, I realized I couldn’t take a vacation from it.

So I scoured opportunities where I could contribute my fancy video and documentary expertise.


I looked into “non-profit” programs, which charge you the cost of a luxury cruisetrip, for the chance to be “a do-gooder” for children in a developing country. “Voluntourism” as Sharon Whitehead of All of Us Revolution puts it, was not for me. This put me off to the concept of volunteering, until I read Nerdy Nomad’s The Underground Guide to International Volunteering, an e-book which gives tips on volunteer programs, which you can do for cheap to FREE! Unfortunately, I found this a year too late.

Jaded, I turned to what I’d often heard about -teaching English to children abroad.

Okay, …so my Korean students have nice clothes and shoes on their feet; often, nicer than me.  I get paid to teach, get a free apartment and the closest I’ve come to “encountering  third world situations” is tackling the Asian squat toilet in my school restroom upon my first week.

My job is nonetheless still satisfying and meaningful to me and by Korean standards, I teach in a low-income area.

IMG 1813Morning stroll through my neighborhood, passing run-down hanok houses on my way to work.

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Choices can feel like walking through a maze of hanok houses (above pic), but I believe you get exactly what’s meant for you, despite the path you take.

I consider myself very lucky to have the opportunity I do and am thankful that South Korea makes win-win situations possible..

My Schedule:

A Day in a Life of an MTV Producer turned English Teacher>>>

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The Series:  (click below for more)



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Gap Year Travel, Korea, Should you teach in Korea?, Teaching English


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