From Teaching to Freelancing in South Korea, An Interview With Meagan

Meagan explores the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Japan. Photo Credit: Meagan Mastriani

I first met Meagan about 3 years ago when she was visiting a mutual friend in South Korea. It wasn’t long afterwards that she too moved to the country, teaching English at a private school in Seoul. As many expats do in Korea, she started a travel blog about her experience moving to a foreign country. But what made hers stand out in my mind was her incredible photography skills. Capturing simple moments in an artistic way, she had me drooling with every new post. Aside from her amazing shutterbug skills, Meagan is one of the only people I know who’s successfully transitioned from an English teacher to freelance writer and photographer in Korea, and thus, she is a great person to kick off a new interview series on this site. Every few weeks, I’ll be interviewing people in the travel-sphere who inspire me on a daily basis, picking their brains about all things travel related.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m Meagan! I grew up in Texas and Georgia, so I’m a southern (American) girl at heart. I love coffee, animals and good stories. From a very young age, I knew I wanted to spend my life writing and traveling. I studied Spanish, so I assumed I’d be living someplace like Santiago or Salamanca, but I ended up in Seoul. Now I’m a freelance writer, editor and photographer, living in a big city with a little dog.

What is your earliest travel memory?

My earliest memories of travel are from the road trips my grandparents used to plan for me and my cousins. Mostly I remember the long hours driving, playing my Gameboy and fighting with my cousins in the back seat of the van. But I also remember how exciting it was when we’d get to the border of a new state, and we’d all crawl out and take our picture under the roadside sign. We visited old cowboy saloons, state parks, space observatories and even Sea World. My grandparents knew all the best places.

What has been your favourite travel moment to date?

The semester abroad I spent in Argentina was a whirlwind of favorite travel moments. Watching a soccer game in Buenos Aires, going on a wine tour in Mendoza and seeing the glaciers in Patagonia were incredible. It was my first time traveling on my own, as an adult, and it changed my life.

Seoul, South Korea
A cafe in Seoul, South Korea. Photo Credit: Meagan Mastriani

You’ve been living in Korea for almost 3 years now. What initially drew you to the country?

When I was in college, I came to Korea to visit a friend. I had limited knowledge of Korea and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The mountainous landscape, the flavorful cuisine and the total unfamiliarity really drew me in. It was unexpected, but after a few weeks visiting, I knew I wanted to move here.

You started out as an English teacher and now you’re a freelance writer and photographer. What challenges did you encounter when you finally decided you would stay in the country but pursue a different form of employment?

The initial challenge was finding a place to live and taking care of basic needs like that. When you work for a school, everything is done for you. But when you freelance, you have to do everything on your own—or with the help of very good friends! Aside from that, the biggest hurdle was finding enough work to cover the bills. The first few months were especially challenging, but worth every drop of sweat and tears.

Any tips or advice for people who might want to live in Korea but aren’t interested in teaching?

Network, network, network. In Korea, like in any place, it’s all about who you know. Seek out people who are doing what you’d like to do and see if you can get in touch. Most people I’ve met here are pretty generous and willing to help you out if you ask nicely.

Japan
A side street in Japan. Photo Credit: Meagan Mastriani

You’re an amazing photographer. What types of subjects do you enjoy photographing most?

Thank you! I guess the things I like to photograph are pretty ordinary—city streets, quiet cafes, scenes from everyday life. I tend to focus on the little details that make something average into something special. I’m trying to learn how to distill the essence of a place or a moment by capturing fragments of it.

You were recently a guest on the beautifully shot and produced web-series about expats in Korea called Semipermanent. What was that experience like?

Being a guest on Semipermanent was a lot of fun—but also a lot of work. I had no idea how much time and effort goes into video production. I met the crew at 8 am and we kept shooting until the sun set, nearly 10 hours later. All for a five-minute clip. It was intense. I’ll never watch television the same way again.

Watch Meagan’s appearance at the 10:35 mark:

Any big travel plans coming up this year?

The trip I’m most excited to take is the big one back home to the US. I’m starting to get more and more homesick, and I’ll be glad to return after so long away. I’m also hoping to travel around the country and visit some places I’ve never been, like New York City and Route 66. There are still so many opportunities within my own country that I have to explore.

And finally, what one item must you have whenever you travel?

I wish I had a cooler response, but honestly, my iPhone. It’s a notepad, a map, a camera, a compass and an encyclopedia all in one. I’d literally be lost without it.

Meagan is a US native, living in Seoul as a freelance writer, editor and photographer. She has contributed to various publications including Budget Travel, Honest Cooking and Seoulist. Her greatest loves are coffee, crafting and her dog Bingsoo. Connect with Meagan on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and check out more of her articles and amazing photography at meagan.in.

 

  • Oxide JCHart

    I would love to do something like this. However, I’m concerned about the legality of it. What sort of visa does Meagan have? Does she supplement her freelance writing/photography with teaching?

    I’ve lived here for 8 years (as a teacher) plus one as a soldier waaaaay back when. My friends that are married and on spousal visas make 3x as much money as me because they can do whatever they want, whenever they want. But, I’m nearly 40 and meeting a nice Korean woman who would have anything to do with a foreign ajoshi is pretty much nil.

    I do concept art and character design but make at most $100 a year doing so.

    Anyway, grats to Meagan for making it on her own. I appreciate any advice.

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