Val Hamer: Life After EFL

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Are you Planning on Teaching Abroad Forever?

If you answered “no” to that question, then this post will be an interesting read for you! My own interest in what happens to ESL/EFL teachers abroad who go back to their home countries began a couple of years ago. That was the point when I decided to leave Korea after 10 years to return to Canada. Although it might seem a bit odd to people who’ve never lived abroad, the prospect of moving back home was really scary. It would have been far easier to just stay in Korea!

Life After ESL

In order to alleviate some of my fears, I decided to write a book, Life After ESL: Foreign Teachers Returning Home. Having no experience myself, I interviewed 50+ former teachers to find out their advice for moving as well as what they were doing for work back home. The results were illuminating to say the least.

I also like to feature in-depth stories of former EFL teachers here on this blog. Some of the favourite ones I’ve done so far include Shaun Dell, Stephen Mayeux, and Heather Douglas.

Next up is Val Hamer. We became friends when working together at a university way out in the rice fields of Chungcheongnam-Do, South Korea. We are both writers of sorts so we always had lots to talk about!

Anyway, keep on reading for her story! Thank you Val for being willing to share it with us. Please check out her company website, Opportunity Plus for more details about her and contact information.

Life After EFL: Val Hamer’s Story

Val Hamer

After nearly 16 years teaching in Asia my vague plans to return to the UK ‘one day’ morphed into an urgent plan, as my father fell seriously ill. I had expected to have at least another year to formalize things, make that extra bit of cash, have time to sell my stuff for a reasonable price etc, rather than have to pack and leave in a matter of weeks.

Luckily I already knew I wanted to work for myself, and having dabbled with freelance writing for a few years I had formed a limited company, and bought out one of the businesses I worked for, around six months before I left Asia for good. The plan then was to let that tick over, then build it into a decent income source once I left. Meanwhile I took the chance to expand the business; creating a new arm, Opportunity Plus offering life enrichment events and workshops. I can’t say it’s all been smooth running in the last 6 months, but it has been a very good opportunity to learn a lot about how businesses work.

A Few Mistakes

I have made a few financial gaffes, like paying too much for accountancy services, been ripped off by a client who never paid, and been let down by business service providers whose incompetence has cost me work. Still, the positive reactions from the first wave of clients help me stay committed to building Opportunity+ into a viable venture.

Some Challenges

The thing I have found most challenging is probably the isolation of working alone. I miss banter with colleagues, and for a good while I compensated by spending too much time socializing rather than working hard. If I could persuade the local supermarket I’m not way over-qualified to work a couple of shifts on the checkout I could scratch that itch.

Advice about Moving Home from Val Hamer

My advice to anyone thinking about making the move home would be to save as much cash as possible; a decent financial cushion gives you the breathing space I think is essential while re-acclimatizing. If you plan to work for yourself make the most of any free resources aimed at potential and established self employed folk in your area, and be strict about your work-social life balance from the start.

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One Comment

  1. John Kenmuir

    Jackie, I won’t write a complete post here, but I have been an ESL/English teacher since 1994 (and a volunteer teacher before that while completing my BA) and was wondering if you’d be interested in my story. I have taught in Canada (I’m Canadian), South Korea, China and Saudi Arabia. I currently live in Mexico where I am continuing to sate my travel bug and begin a career as a freelance writer. I’ll try to keep in short, if you’re interested.

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