I write this to you from my office in my lovely school. I am actually really happy here, but this will be a post listing some stuff that’s not so great about being a Native English Teacher (NET) in Seoul. Hopefully some of my fellow NETs and EPIK Teachers can relate!
- The curiosity. As it’s my 3rd time here, I’ve grown pretty used to the Korean way of life, but forgot that the majority of the Korean population is still unaccustomed to my existence, lol. I expected my kids to touch me and generally be all up on me, but my coworkers too? All up in my hair and eyeing me up and down. One of the 50 year old administrators once said, “Christina, I’m really jealous of your butt.” Lol, thanks.
- Sick days. According to my contract I have sick days. However, according to real life, almost nobody ever uses them and you are expected to go to school even when sick Luckily I haven’t been sick enough to have to face this dilemma, but I’ve heard many stories where schools have been extremely stingy about giving sick NETs days off even though they are very contagious. I need to keep my health up because I don’t want to deal with that mess. Perhaps the substitute system is as big as it is back home in the States? I am just really not looking forward to being pressured into coming into work even if I really shouldn’t be there.
- Isolation. So the first 2 weeks, I tried really hard to be my outgoing self and talk to as many people (in Korean) as I could at work. Come lunchtime, I sit with my coworkers and everybody ignores me. I get it that I’m not fluent in Korean, but I’m trying so at least acknowledge my existence. Now I’ve come to terms that they won’t converse with me if I’m in a group so I just go on my phone and zone out during lunch. That way I get some me time, anyway. For our hwesik (dinner get together with all coworkers), I was really excited to be able to hang out with my coworkers outside of work. I thought that we’d be able to open up, but that was not the case. Nobody looked at me for the entire night. Oh well, free meal. We also had one cultural outing, we saw Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in 4D and went to the aquarium. That was actually quite fun and people talked to me 🙂 Hopefully that wasn’t a fluke.
- DESKWARMING. You know how back home, if the kids are on vacation, the teachers generally are, too? Well, here all NETs are given 18-21 days of vacation per year (which I’m not mad about). However, the students are out of school for longer than 18-21 days out of the year. What do you do outside of those vacation days when the kids aren’t in school? You have to go to work for the full workday anyway, and sit at your desk. Deskwarm. I already deskwarm once a week because I don’t teach on Fridays. Not looking forward to 2 weeks of that in February.
- My Apartment. I love where I live and I love my apartment. However, my bathroom is ittttyyy bitty and I don’t have much counter space. Could be much worse, though, and in the end, I love my studio. It’s cute.
- Am I making an impact? I teach 22, unique, 40-minute classes per week, grades 3-6. This means that I only see each class once a week for 40 minutes. Sometimes I really wonder how much of an impact 40 minutes per week is making. I love all of my classes to death, but I feel like I would be of more value if I taught maybe only 2 grades, 3 times a week. My kids see their Korean English teachers 2-3 times a week, and only one of those days is with me. Ideally I’d like to teach only 5th and 6th grade and build the proper foundation they need for middle school. Regardless, I’m happy to be teaching.
Okay so jk, while writing the above things, I kept thinking about all the things I like about my job and what comes with it 🙂 Leggo!
- Benefits. If you read any blog about teaching in Korea, you’ll know the benefits are fantastic. Flight is paid for to and from Korea, half of your health insurance is paid, you get a pension that you can get back in full as soon as you leave the country, a monthly salary that leaves room for saving, free rent, and the ability to touch the lives of Korean children in a special way 🙂 I mentioned above that I get 18-21 days of paid vacation, for which I’m extreeemely grateful because people who work in hagwons (academies) usually get less than 10 days.
- My babies. First of all, yes, I am one of those teachers who calls their students their kids. This should not surprise anyone that knows me, haha. Anyways, on my most difficult days, they’re the reason I get out of bed. I’m so happy to have such a loving bunch of students. And they’re such ego boosters! I love my lil’ fan boys and girls and am so excited to watch them grow!
Jk again, this post will be forever long if I keep going (it already is tbh, whoops). Let me know if there’s anything I’ve missed or anything you don’t agree with – I’m curious about how our experiences differ. As always, feel free to hit me up via email with anything: firstname.lastname@example.org (response times may vary because I can’t use Gmail at work and I’m never home lol)