Why did you come to Korea?
After "What's your name?", "How old are you?", "Do you have a boyfriend?", "Why not?" and "Do you know Dokdo?", one of the most common and weirdly challenging to answer questions I get in Korea is "Why did you come to Korea?" Why Korea, and not some other country? Why would you fly halfway across the world, leave everything familiar, and take a job here?
Well? Good question.
Before I came to Korea, I'd been considering both Japan and Korea as possible destinations. Thanks to a dumb mistake on my JET application (postmarked by and received by are VERY different, kids), Japan fell out of the running pretty early. However, that doesn't mean that there weren't plenty of reasons why Korea felt like a good choice.
I feel a bit funny putting food as the first point on my list, but these aren't in any particular order, and honestly food is pretty important in my life. I don't want to move someone where I can't eat the food. Not that I'm a picky eater, but I wouldn't want to teach English in, say, a country that only eats Brussels sprouts and overripe bananas. Also if a real country exists that has that diet I am so sorry.
|Well now I'm hungry.|
Before I'd even considered moving to Korea, I was already familiar with quite a few types of Korean food, and I knew I loved it. Just as my old roommates if you want stories of my kimchi mania. There are few foods I have not combined kimchi with at this point. No regrets.
2. Teaching conditions
Compared to other places I was looking at, namely Japan, the type of job I would have in Korea looked more appealing. I want to be a teacher for the rest of my life, and from what I could find out, a NET (native English teacher) in Korea was closer to a full-fledged teacher than in other programs, where it’s common to just be a sort of human tape player, only there as an example of proper pronunciation.
|Lesson planning is serious business.|
|Serious I tell you.|
|Stop judging me.|
Fortunately, this turned out to be entirely true. I plan all of my own lessons, and basically run my own classes, with translation and classroom management help from my Korean coteachers. It's a lot of work, but I feel like it's more rewarding than just being an assistant. I'm aware that not all teachers in Korea have my same experience, but if you want a good chance of being close to a real teacher, Korea is a good choice.
3. Cost of living
Compared to the US, Korea is very affordable to live in. Food is cheap, clothes aren’t so bad, your school pays your rent, the list goes on and on. Got student loans? You’ll be able to save so much money here, you’ll be able to pay them off in no time.
Some of my teacher friends are constantly complaining that they're broke, and I really don't get what they're spending their money on. Going out? Expensive Western food? Maybe it's because I'm such a hermit most of the time, but it's almost absurd how easily I've been able to save money here in Korea, even with all the (what I consider to be) very reckless spending I've been doing. Maybe it's the extra $500 a month in the bank that comes from not having to pay rent, but I'm not complaining!
|Got to avoid that $20 ice cream.|
I'm actually surprised by how short this list turned out. I suppose there are a few smaller considerations