Reflecting on My First Year in Korea
This past Friday (7/20/12) was the last day of the Spring semester. Also the last class of my first year's contract. It amazes me how quickly this year has gone by. Being that it was my first year and everything was new, I can understand it seeming like it flew by. Nonetheless, it's over now and I can't believe it. The year has been a bit of everything for me. Ups, downs, excitement, boredom. I've learned so much about being a teacher and how to do my job more effectively. Getting to know the students and what works best with them was (and will continue to be) a great learning experience. I'm looking forward to doing it again as I renewed my contract at my school in Busan.
I've learned that I also LOVE the lifestyle that goes along with teaching English abroad. Before arriving, I heard many people talk about how it is a stress-free life with so much free time. Well, they were right. It is just that. I remember the many years of working in a corporate cubicle job wondering where my free time was. It was a job in itself trying to figure out how to fit in personal activities and just taking care of day to day responsibilities. There simply was not enough time. Now I have all the time in the world. I go to work and the day flies by - each coming with a new experience with either the kids or teachers. When I leave school, I have time to do everything and anything I want - including sleeping!
I've also made many new friends, be it foreigners or natives. Some who will be friends for life. I think that as time goes on, I will look back on all my experiences teaching abroad and the thing that will define all my experiences will be the people. Even the stinkers! They all help to create the experience and make it a lasting memorable thing.
During my first year I've been able to save a nice pocket full of change, train in judo and MMA (mixed martial arts), organize a homeless volunteer group, and begin learning what it means to be a good teacher. Looking forward I hope to make these experiences more meaningful, more grandiose, and more helpful for others.
I can only imagine that if teaching abroad continues to be a rewarding and enjoyable adventure that it would make sense to take it to the next level. By this I mean either getting a Master's degree in ESL or by becoming a certified teacher back in the USA. The latter (becoming a certified teacher) seems to open up the most opportunities by far and clearly increases your earning potential on a greater scale. However, both are great options. They are also huge commitments financially and time-wise. I think after teaching for another year or two I'll know if I want to return home to do one or the other. But I'll cross that bridge when I get to it. For now, it's ALL good. No need to change the recipe at this point.
If you're thinking about travelling abroad - just do it! It's something you won't regret.
ESL, Travel, and Judo!