I thought I was prepared. I’d done my research and learned a few key phrases in Korean on the 18 hour long plane ride from my home of Tampa, Florida to Seoul. Yet, I didn’t know what I would find on the other end.
This wasn’t the first time I’d been abroad. Hell, it wasn’t even the first time I’d LIVED abroad with nothing more than a suitcase and a backpack to carry what was left of my belongings. I was hopeful and nervous, and overcome with emotions as I sat in that plane.
In my head, Asia was uncharted territory to what I’d known and I was worried of not being able to acclimate. Many times before I could use my wits, blend in with the crowd, and negotiate for things in the native language, but in Asia I would clearly stand out. I told myself I was being a coward and that I wasn’t the first person to make such a change. After reading countless internet articles on how to become an ESL teacher and looking for help I was finally ready.
Arriving in Incheon I was completely blown away by the grandeur everything this airport set out to do. There was a ice skating rink, a Kpop show going on, and countless amenities for passengers that I captivated. I thought all of Korea was going to be like this giant show with many lights and animated people. Boy was I wrong! After taking my 5 hour bus ride I’d finally arrived in my home for the next year, Mokpo.
I’d gotten pretty lucky as far as apartments go. Here in Korea many teachers arrive to their place with nothing, not even a pillow, but here I was with a couch and fresh new bedding! Sweet!
The next morning I woke up to my manager handing me some food and waiting to escort me to the school (which was literally right next door).
My first week was a lot of confusion, stress, and by the end of it I’d finally broken and cried. Unlike many schools, I was given a “training” during my first week, but it wasn’t training at all. I was supposed to pioneer a new program created by the school to make more money (Business and education is not something I’ll get into on this post but I will in the future). The woman that was my “trainer” did nothing but jump around with the kids and teach me a few songs to use to keep the kids entertained. This was a disaster. I won’t complain about it too much but to give you an idea of my schedule when I began it looked like this:
Arrive at 9am and plan from 9-10
Intensive Red Class (Basically English and full immersion) for 2 hours with 3-4 year old babies. If you know anything about children, then you know how difficult it is for them to focus for 2 hours straight.
Kindergarten 1pm-3pm (50 minutes of alphabet and dancing)
Elementary Hagwon 3pm-5pm
I had no time to plan, breathe, shit, think, nothing. This would continue for the next 3 1/2 months until the 6th teacher arrived (she didn’t get her visa in time so myself and the other new teacher had her students). I’d almost given up after the 1st month and said the money wasn’t worth it. This was especially unfair when I compared to my other teacher friends in Mokpo who’d only teach for 2-3 hours a day.