Central Chargers keep bumping into each other in South Korea.
By chance, five Central High School graduates from Macon are teaching English in Seoul or surrounding towns, and another alum will be moving there later this month.
“I didn’t plan my trip with anyone else,” said Graham Burkhalter, a 2004 graduate who’s been teaching Korean businessmen and women English in Seoul for three months. “It’s really a coincidence that we all wound up here at the same time. ... They have really made the transition a thousand times easier.”
After Burkhalter graduated from the University of Georgia in May, he decided to travel. When teaching jobs in the Middle East and north Africa didn’t pan out, he took a job teaching in Asia.
While there, he’s met up with 2005 Central graduates Matt Snyder and John Davis, who teach English about an hour outside of Seoul.
Snyder, 23, was a student in Central’s International Baccalaureate program and liked learning about other cultures. He’s traveled to 23 countries so far.
How did he end up in South Korea? It had the highest demand for English teachers, paid better and didn’t require a teaching license, he said.
He teaches 70 elementary-age students in a rural area called Seojeong-ri.
“I went from doing presentations in college on financial statements and consulting cases to presentations on fruit and animals,” he stated via e-mail. “It’s a totally eye-opening experience. It’s also really fulfilling to walk into school every day and have kids run up to you in the hall and greet you in their best English and try to hug you.”
Davis, 23, teaches students at nearby Eo Yeon Elementary in Pyeongtaek.
The two friends played soccer together at Central. While Davis was in college at Mercer University and Snyder was at the University of North Carolina, they decided that teaching in South Korea could help them save money for graduate school.
“We had both been studying business and understood all too well that the job market wasn’t looking pretty,” Davis said.
The group knows of two other Central graduates, Hanadi Istambouli and Liana George, who are also teaching in South Korea.
Istambouli, a 2004 Central graduate, has been teaching in South Korea for just two weeks. She teaches about 70 children ages 3 to 12 outside of Seoul. The Georgia Southern University graduate learned about teaching abroad opportunities in 2008 and posted her résumé.
“I think a combination of factors has made South Korea a hot spot for teaching right now,” she said in an e-mail. “It’s nice to see familiar faces or an old friend, but it’s also important to be removed from the norm.”
And Kyle McLaughlin, a 2004 Central graduate interested in anthropology, is heading over to teach in Seoul.
The 2009 UGA graduate had heard about EnglishWork, a teacher placement agency in Korea, and decided to apply.
He’ll be teaching English conversation, reading and writing to 100 elementary children for a year at a Hagwon school, which teaches English only.
He’s also planning to meet up with the other former Central students.
It’s amazing that Central graduates can find each other — even in South Korea, said Erin Weaver, a former Central High School principal and assistant principal.
“Central people flock together. It’s that tie that binds and a club you belong to,” she said. “I’m proud of that diversity, and that shows that they go places and do things, and we believe in that.”