UNCP grad broadening her horizons in South Korea

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Mia Baxley
Mia Baxley, 2018 UNCP graduate and former Maynor Honors College student, poses in front of the famous ‘I Seoul U’ logo at Dream Forest in Seoul, South Korea

Of all the career paths Mia Baxley considered while completing her political science degree at UNC Pembroke, teaching wasn’t on her radar.

“It was something I never imagined myself doing.”

That all changed the summer after her sophomore year when Baxley lived in China working as an English teacher at an elementary training school. Her ‘spur-of-the-moment’ decision to teach abroad proved transformative.

“The experience opened me to the side of the teaching profession I hadn’t thought of before,” said Baxley, daughter of Micheal and Tonya Baxley of Pembroke, who are both employed at UNCP. “Before it was over, I knew I wanted to get into something like it again.”

Fast forward three years. Baxley is teaching English–again. This time in Seoul, South Korea. After earning her degree in 2018, Baxley applied for the position through the English Program in Korea (EPIK) and began her one-year commitment.

She teaches grades third through sixth at Seoul Jang-wi Elementary School. While her job is going well, living alone in a foreign country, 7,000 miles away from family and friends in Pembroke, has been quite an adjustment. For someone who had never traveled by subway, Baxley is having to learn the tricks to Seoul’s intricate commuter rail system.  

Her apartment is in Seongbuk, one of the oldest parts of the city with very few foreigners. The language barrier is much stronger there so Baxley communicates using broken Korean and a translator app on her phone.

“Almost nothing is translated in my neighborhood. Fortunately, I can read Korean, so if I need to find something specific I slowly pronounce all of the signs to myself until I find what I’m looking for.”

Baxley is thrilled to introduce South Korean children to a new language while immersing herself into a new culture. At UNCP, she studied international relations with the belief that her calling is to make the world a better place.

“My goal is to be a positive influence on the lives of the kids I get to work with here. I want to teach them more than just how to speak English. I want to teach them to become better world citizens and be the generation we need in order to make the world a better place.”

Upon her return to the states next year, Baxley plans to attend graduate school to pursue a law degree in either international business or human rights.