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According to my I’m in Korea post, I arrived in Korea on December 12th, 2009. And since I wrote that post, I’m inclined to believe it tells the truth. Which means I’ve been in South Korea for one year. And now for the requisite look back:
A lot of the people that I trained with have decided, like me, to stay in Korea. Unlike me, most of them are also staying for another year if not longer. My plan is still to go to grad school, so I will (hopefully) not be staying for another year. One of the girls I trained with and her boyfriend actually returned to the US early so she could go back to school.
Of the ones that are staying, some have decided to stay at CDI, others are moving on to other schools and other adventures. Me… I’m an HI now. I guess I could move to another CDI branch and maybe even another school, but if I’m only staying for another few months, why bother? I like my job. It’s a lot more challenging than some other locations (which is why some teachers switch to other locations) but I figure it’s good experience.
As for my experience overall, I’ve have a good year here in Korea. If I had to do it all over again, although some minor changes might be in order, I wouldn’t do anything majorly different. I’ve enjoyed living in Suwon, instead of Seoul or a rural town. I’ve taught great classes. I’ve met great people.
But I feel like since it’s my official one year mark, I should offer some words of advice to people thinking about coming over… Here is what I’ve learned:
- Come here with at least some basic knowledge of Korean. You’d be surprised how much of a difference even that can make. At the very least, make sure you can read hangul. Yeah, it’s really easy to learn how to read, but you’ll be busy with work and/or partying and/or doing touristy things and/or being sick as you adjust to the new climate and germ culture. Do you really think you’ll have time to learn another language ?! (That said.. still slowly working on my own Korean goals.)
- If you’re coming here to teach English, lower your expectations for your place of work. I’ve heard good and bad about every single school, public vs private, morning vs night hours. While there is a lot to complain about sometimes, teachers also need to remember that they’re working for a business, not some charity who’s only goal is to help children (even public schools are a business). You’re gonna have to do work. You’re probably gonna have to do work you don’t enjoy . You’re probably going to have to do work you don’t enjoy a lot of times (OH THE ENDLESS PAPERWORK!) On the bright side, it’s not to hard to find something you enjoy, even after you accept your role in the business culture. The children alone can put a smile on most faces.
- Okay, more fun advice… Have an idea of what you want to do before you get here. I’ve been fortunate enough to have done a lot since I’ve been here but almost all of it is because I knew about it before hand. Some of the things I’ve learned from other teachers, but I wouldn’t depend on that. Again, it’s a time thing. When it starts to get close to the date of that festival/holiday/concert/whatever, you might be swamped at work and not have the time to squeeze in that once a year (or once on your trip to Korea) event.
- That said… Try to enjoy the simple stuff too. You don’t always have to be going into Seoul or on big trips every weekend. Some of the cooler stuff I’ve seen has been just wandering around with no particular goal either in Suwon or Seoul and I’ve just happened to stumble onto a cafe-in-the-wall or an interesting museum or park tucked away somewhere. Vary your routine. Go to different cheap places (when you get here, you’ll know what that means)/parks/coffee shops/grocery stores/cities. Get out and explore beyond the boundaries of where you live. Now I don’t mean the big cities like Busan and Seoul. Go somewhere random and see what’s special about that place.