Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Global Expatriate's Guide to Investing: Have you thought about your retirement TESOL friends?

Gone Seoul Searching reviews "The Global Expatriate's Guide to Investing."
The night I received “The Global Expatriate’s Guide to Investing: from millionaire teacher to millionaire expat” the plan was to read the first 10 pages and fall gently asleep. But instead I was up until 2am, completely engrossed and 130 pages into the book. As I fell asleep that night I was thrilled about my future. For anyone in the TESOL field that is still saving up and blowing it all on expensive vacations or months of traveling during the summer, this book is about to give you a huge wake-up-call. I followed along with Hallam’s basic steps and planned out my retirement fund (Or an initial one at best). At 26 years old, I haven’t thought much about my retirement. I have paid into a few retirement plans in California and have always been a steady saver, though I do not currently have a retirement portfolio. The most valuable lesson that I learned from author Andy Hallam is to start young.
            Hallam gives concrete formulas and examples for expats to get their retirement kick started. For those that have some knowledge of investment, the book guides you through the basics of choosing a better financial advisor who won’t use up all of your hard earned money with bogus fees and hidden charges. Going with your school’s suggested investment company can often lead you down the black hole of crazy lock in periods with fees that you wish you never agreed to. For those that have little knowledge about where to start, Hallam gives tips for starting a couch potato fund. If you are planning on retiring in the U.S. you can basically walk into any large company like H&R Block and sign up for a mixed portfolio of stocks, bonds, and index funds. He easily explains how any average Joe can get steady returns with low risk—all without an expensive agent.
            So here is what I planned out during my exciting night of reading. And I am not over exaggerating—I felt SUPER accomplished after finishing half of his book.

            Live to 90 Years old (I have high hopes for myself!) (33 years of retirement)

            Retire at age 57 (I’d rather aim young, emergencies happen)

            27 years old invest $10,000 @ 7%
            annual addition $18,000 with 30 years to grow

            =$1,895,000 Retirement portfolio

That leaves me with $57,424 a year to spend. Hallam states that the average retired American spends $31,365. This is what my retirement would look like as an expat with no retirement from the U.S. government or pension from my job. I realize that this is not a perfect estimate, nor may it be achievable. However, now I really know how much money it is going to take for me to plan for my future. I am still in debt paying off my undergraduate and grad school student loans. So I’ve calculated that If I pay off 10,000 in the next year that will be almost comparable to starting my investment funds. So the plan is to get those college loans paid down ASAP and then throw the rest of my money into an investment fund as Hallam suggests. And this is just planning for me. Women always need to be careful; we can never rely on our spouse to figure it out all for us. Who knows, maybe I will never get married or have kids. In that case, I better be prepared.

I hope I can stick to my plan and end up a millionaire teacher with millionaire expat Andrew Hallam’s advice. Good luck!

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  Creative Commons License  Gone Seoul Searching by Marie Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

Friday, December 5, 2014

Life as a Freeway Flier: University ESL teaching in California

            Today my co-worker strolled into our wing of desks (there are numerous wings of desks in a gigantic space of 50+ teachers) and said “Marie’s here today!” I sarcastically rolled my eyes at him and said, “I’m here! At least I think I am.”

            This semester, I have almost forgotten that I am a freeway flier because I have partly become very comfortable with my schedule and partly because I don’t even know what planet I’m on most days anyway. During my first months shuffling between 2 schools this year I actually got on the wrong freeway in the morning-- 4 times. But for the most part, I’ve been pretty successful sticking to the 5 North and 8 East. A while back in 2012 I was working at 3 schools in one semester. I taught in a tiny language school in La Jolla from 9am-1pm. Then I drove 20 minutes east and worked for 3 hours tutoring in an ESL/English lab from 1:30-4:30pm at a local community college. After that I hopped right back on the freeway to go teach a 3 hour night class at another community college up north. The drive up there was during rush hour traffic and it took me 1 hour. I usually ate dinner and relaxed in my car from 5:30-5:45pm and then rushed inside the teacher’s room to make copies for my class. Class went from 6:00pm-8:50pm and I drove home. 45 minutes later I wound up home around 10:00pm and started planning my classes for the next day.

            I drove 90 miles a day. The total time ended up being 2.5 hours a day with the 5pm rush hour traffic thrown in. I was a true freeway flier.

            You may be asking me, why on earth did you sign up for that kind of schedule? It just kind of fell in my lap and I couldn’t say no. As a part timer, I had classes canceled on me earlier in the semester that were my main source of income. So I kept tutoring for a little cash, got another gig at a language school, and a few weeks later was asked to teach a night class. When you are trying to get into community colleges and universities in adult education, you never say no. You also never quit a job once you have begun a semester. Your students depend on you to succeed and you have a duty to serve them. So even with my outstanding history of being a no girl, (because I know my worth) I had to get over myself and say yes.

            Luckily my schedule as a freeway flier now is nothing like it was during that wild spring in 2012. I teach at a community college up in northern San Diego 2 days a week. The 45 minute drive up there does take a toll, however I skip all of the traffic these days since I leave at 7 am. I lucked out with 2 back-to-back classes, which never happens in the part-time world, and I’m back home by 1:30 – 2:30 everyday. I cut out right after my office hours to avoid the 3pm deadlock. When I get home I immediately start planning lessons/grading for the next day.

            The next morning I get to sleep in since I teach in the afternoon at the other University 2-3 days a week. I usually feel pretty relaxed because I’ve had time to unwind al little and I drive a quick 20 minutes to the campus. I teach from 1:00-6:00pm and go straight home to pig out. The quick turn around from Tuesday night classes to Wednesday morning is sometimes tricky, however if I’ve planned ahead and made all of my copies I’m usually fine the next morning.  The key to my success this semester is that I am not a “double dipper,” meaning I don’t do two colleges on the same day.

            The freeway flier life is definitely a tough one. I have no stability when it comes to classes. If a class suddenly has low enrollment and gets cancelled then that’s it. I’m simply out of a class to teach until the next semester rolls around. Once you have been in the part-time game for a while, you start to learn which classes and schools do and don’t have issues with enrollment. Luckily I’ve gotten set up with classes now that seem to always be fed by eager students. We actually had students’ waitlisted this semester for an introductory academic writing class.

            Some days I feel like I’m a crazy person and don’t know where I am. I’ve not only been a freeway flier, but a plane hopper over the past 4 years. Hopping from Korea, to Japan, to Macau, and to the U.S. in between, working so many gigs in a short time frame, has been intense to say the least. However, I feel so blessed to have learned about so many different programs, curriculums, and projects along the way. Some mornings I wake up and still think I’m in China. Other mornings I remember waking up in China and asking myself “What on earth and I doing here right now?” So when my co-worker made that comment to me this morning, I had the same question. I didn’t know what I was doing or where I was.

            Some days aren’t so bad at all as I cruise down the freeway and slowly make a mental transition. At some point while I’m driving home for 45 minutes, I begin to leave the college classes I taught behind and start thinking about the university classes at the other school for the next day. A gradual shift happens where I debrief from the days’ lessons and start to focus on planning the next day’s events. I don’t even think about my classes up north until the next day comes to an end and vice versa. My mind shifts and I feel just fine.  I get to reflect on what went well in my lessons and what didn’t and I usually come to some kind of realization that what I accomplished was meaningful. Some days I’m even happy to be a freeway flier because the sense of freedom that comes with not having a salary. I don’t have to be at my job from 9-5pm everyday. I make my own hours and show up whenever I want. When I decide its time to go home, I leave. That is something that I see as a great benefit. If I want to go home and lesson plan and grade in my pajamas I can. Though I’m not salaried, I make a pretty good combination of paychecks that allow me to live decently in San Diego. My patchwork of jobs has somehow worked out.

            I definitely won’t continue as a freeway flier forever; though job market for full-time ESL teachers in California is virtually non-existent.  I’m happy to serve my time in the departments that have given me so much support and training as I  patiently wait out my turn for a full-time position. I’m young, and with only 4.5 years of teaching under my belt still have much to learn. So for now, life goes on. I’ll keep flying around on freeways and flying around on airplanes as much as I can to support myself in this insane field. I have no plans to go back abroad right now, but who knows. The last time I came home from Japan I told myself I was back in California for good.  My days abroad were over. However, after the 90 mile a day driving schedule and class cancelations, I hopped right back on a plane headed to Macau. And my year in Macau was the most rewarding year abroad yet in terms of my profession and personal life.

Time will tell if I can make my mark here in California and get hired on as a contract instructor. Until then, I’ll be flying up and down the I-5 and I-8 and everything else in between all while enjoying the coastal views and some techno music too. (Gotta get pumped up for class right!)

If you have any questions or comments about "Life as a Freeway Flier: University ESL teaching in California" please leave them in the comment box below
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  Creative Commons License  Gone Seoul Searching by Marie Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The language police will forever change the way you view text books

A book review of The Language Police.
      Can you imagine reading a book that never uses the words "man," "founding fathers," "blind person," "bus boy," or "Adam and Eve?" Instead books would have to read: Eve and Adam because it's sexist to say a man's name first, and we should refrain from saying bus boy for the same reason thus the word dining room attendant should be used instead. Diane Ravitch, author of The Language Police, has exposed America's bowlderized text book industry beginning with her own experience growing up in the 1950's where text books were scrutinized for being socialist or offending conservatives. Then she delves into the panels of trained bias detectors in the 1970's where they conducted Differential Item Functioning (DIF) to delete test items that were biased based on how different demographics scored. If Caucasians or Latinos happened to perform poorly on a question it was blamed on their socio-economic or sociocultural characteristics and the question was deleted.

      For centuries America's textbooks in all disciplines have undergone extreme slandering of original material that in many cases has lead to inaccurate information, bland text, dumbed down materials,and angry authors (of those still living). Ravitch's book informs readers about the history of censorship regimes that have been employed by the government, major publishers, and test companies.

      How can the language police be stopped? Ravitch argues that "the only strategy to achieve this goal is through competition, sunshine, and educated teachers (pg. 165)." The state-wide adoption process needs to end. States and publishers must publish their bias guidelines and sensitivity review panels along with their curricula vitaes. Any questions or items that are removed or altered need to be released to the public with explanations. Finally, teachers need to be educated instead of relying on textbooks as a crutch. These teachers will reject textbooks that have errors, are bland, are misleading, or are politicized and will make educated decisions about what kinds of readings are acceptable for their students needs.

      "In a perfect world, teachers would be so well educated that they wouldn't rely on textbooks" (pg. 169)." I can personally attest to the importance of this quote as I see textbooks as a supplement or as organizational help to my courses in ESL. Whatever information is in my ESL or writing textbooks I can easily adapt or create my own version to better suit my students interests and my own personal teaching style. Why not record your own voice for listening materials and tests? Make your materials interesting and fresh instead of another rote activity? We should be teaching topics that are controversial and let students explore discussion and communication skills that they will encounter on a daily basis outside of the classroom.

      Teachers should not avoid controversial topics like text book publishers do. Their idea of utopia inside the classroom should not become your own because you have enough common sense and teaching skills to reign students in and avoid problems when learning about or discussing such controversial topics. One of my co-workers gave an amazing presentation in support of using "controversial" topics in classrooms specifically to avoid the boring textbooks and sleeping students she commonly encountered. There is nothing wrong with doing it as long as a teacher has an exit plan and an organized, collaborative, and open environment where freedom of ideas are encouraged.

      I hope you enjoy reading Ravitch's book and if you are a teacher don't get disinterested with it because of the common struggles we face. You may be asking the question "Well what teacher has the time to worry about creating authentic materials or notice errors in textbooks?" Supplementing and changing textbooks won't happen over night, but over a slow process of informed and contemplative decision making starting from the bottom, us.

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  Creative Commons License  Gone Seoul Searching by Marie Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

Friday, June 13, 2014

Korean nursery rhymes for adult Korean language learning

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A book review of Tuttle’s Korean Nursery Rhymes: Wild Geese, Land of Goblins and Other Favorite Songs and Rhymes
                In an effort to get my Korean language skills going again, I’ve been keeping my eye out for easy reads which often includes children’s books. Children’s books are not just for parents and their children; they are also great for language learners. I’m a huge fan of using music in my ESL courses and I wrote my Master’s thesis on student and teacher perceptions of using music in adult ESL. So Tuttle’s Korean Nursery Rhymes: Wild Geese, Land of Goblins and Other favorite Songs and Rhymes by Danielle Wright was an easy pick for me when I wanted to find a book with beginner Korean songs. The nursery song book does a fantastic job presenting some of Korea’s traditional and modern nursery rhymes in a way that makes language learning simple for any age.
                Each rhyme has bright and beautifully designed images along with Korean Hangul, Hangul written in English, as well as English words. Seeing the nursery rhyme presented in 3 different ways is great for slow learners like me, who are learning how to form sentences, and can only pick out a few words in a sentence. I can practice reading my Hangul first, to see if I know any of the words and then I can rely on the English translation. I can also improve my pronunciation by listening to the accompanying CD in both Korean and English. The Korean singer, Ah Young Jeong, has a sweet voice that is characteristic of any young child happily singing a nursery rhyme which helps these songs easily get stuck into your head.
                One of my favorite songs in the book is called “Little Fox” or “yeo-uya.” The song is about a little fox and someone asks him “Little fox, little fox, what do you do?” He replies many different thinks such as “I’m Sleeping” (Jam-janda) or “I’m eating rice” (Bab meoknunda) and the narrator replies “sleepy head!” (jamkkureogi!) and “with what on the side?” (museun banchan?). This song in particular is great for learning how to use Korean verbs and adjectives in a short and simple sentence.            
                Another song that is useful for learning facial features and directions is called “Here, There.” A light pink backdrop with flowers surrounds a mother holding her baby as the baby playfully inquires about facial features. “Where are my eyes?” (Nun en edoi issna, yogi) “Where are Mommy’s eyes? There!” (Eomma nun eun eodi essna, yeogi). A song like this will help you to remember vocabulary like eyes and nose as well as the different pronunciation of “Yogi” and “Yeogi” which are very similar. Getting down the slight differences in vowel sounds is difficult and listening to a song like this one will definitely help you make the round mouth you need for “Yo” sound and the parted lips you need for the “Yeo” sound.
                Sit back and relax to the tranquil melodies as you easily master the Korean language alone or with your little one. Singing along to the rhymes will make you feel accomplished and will absolutely aid in your vocabulary retention. Tuttle Publishing has many more bi-lingual Korean Children’s books like this one. Another similar book is titled My First Book of Korean Words: An ABC Rhyming Book that is also useful for Korean language learners of any age. Check out more of their books at

If you have any questions or comments about "Korean nursery rhymes for adult Korean language learning" please leave them in the comment box below
or email them to 
  Creative Commons License  Gone Seoul Searching by Marie Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at


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Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at
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