Back when you first decided you wanted to come to South Korea, breaking the news about your teaching-aspirations to your family was very emotional.
And it was hard to say good-bye at the airport.
But you took the leap, knowing full well that you had no control over where
you’d be living or what grade level you’d be teaching.
You just hoped and prayed you’d be sorted into a good school.
When you arrived, your co-teacher helped you get all set up with your new bank account…
Around your school and in your neighborhood, you’re kind of a big deal.
But it hasn’t gone to your head. You’ve quickly realized the actual responsibilities that come with filling young, impressionable minds with knowledge. “You’re an English teacher, Harry.”
The good thing is, that means you get to teach students all the cool slang
you know but never really get to use at home.
Sometimes the lesson goes over really well.
And you have kids participating left and right.
Unfortunately, you also have days like this:
And students like this:
But at least those moments are better than when you lose control of the class.
Those are the days that make getting out bed in the morning a struggle.
So to avoid the chaos and to make things easier, you learn some basic Korean expressions (e.g., how to say “Please repeat” or “Please write it down”).
All of a sudden, you’ve unlocked the door.
You establish a bond with your students, and you reach a point where you’d do anything to protect them…especially the ones that are your favorites.
As you continue to gain experience, you spend less time struggling with instructions, and more time on the subtleties of English, such as pronunciation.
School lunches are always a gamble. However, you continue to hope for the best.
Usually you’re pleasantly surprised.
Other times you’re unpleasantly deceived.
You develop the ability to tell when your co-workers are talking about you.
Then out of nowhere they invite you to join them for dinner and drinks…
…where you foolishly try to fit in by drinking too much and
eating food that is way above your spice tolerance.
Here, you to try to use what little Korean you know with them, sometimes to little avail.
Lucky for you, they find your efforts impressive and endearing,
and they readily accept you as one of their own.
When you’re not in school, you have more time on your hands than you ever thought possible.
And you know that if you do nothing but stay in your apartment all weekend,
you’ll start to feel like a prisoner in your own home.
So you hop on the KTX…
…or take a death-defying ride on one of the city buses…
–seriously, they’re terrifying–
and off you go to discover all the wonderful things that Korea has to offer (e.g., festivals, hiking, delivery McDonald’s…
…and super fancy, magical commodes).
It’s during these expeditions, though, that you feel like all eyes are on you.
Most of the time it doesn’t bother you. But some days you wish you could just blend in.
The culture shock can be quite overwhelming.
But, from squatter toilets to people of all ages hawking up loogies in the street,
literally nothing seems to phase native Koreans.
To chronicle these mind-blowing daily occurrences, and to deal with homesickness…
…you start a blog.
And you become good friends with other foreigners.
Thanks to them, you always have someone to turn to when the going gets rough.
And together, despite any scaring experiences…
…you don’t just “come out the other side.” You grow up.
And you realize how happy you are to have crossed over from your previous muggle life.
To my fellow English teachers, I salute you in your
ongoing quest to live and teach in South Korea.
And to those who are thinking about joining us, here is your formal invitation:
Hope to see you soon!