Fancy seeing you here!
First things first, let’s all acknowledge how responsible I am for posting weekly *pats self on back*.
Okay, now that that’s over, I’m currently sitting at my desk wondering what to do with my day as I thought I would be busier because the new semester starts in 3 days. As all hell breaks loose around me, I figure I’ll reflect on the last 6 months in Korea. Here’s what I’ve learned during my first semester of teaching in Seoul:
- Fight for your vacation time. Getting my time off to go to Malaysia was much more difficult than expected. After already booking my flights and registering my vacation time in our school’s system, my Vice Principal tried to tell me that I couldn’t take 10 (school) days off. EPIK teachers in Seoul have 21 days of vacation time that they must use and we only have 2 breaks in which we can use them. So using almost half my vacation time during winter break made sense to me. Things got complicated and my supervisor had to make a bunch of phone calls to the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education (SMOE), and we confirmed that I was indeed correct. Next battle will be trying to take my remaining 11 day (equivalent to 2 school weeks +1 day) in the summer time where the break is only 3 weeks long and I’m supposed to teach summer camp for all 3 weeks….wish me luck….really don’t know how this will turn out.
- ~Korean Surprises~This could honestly be it’s own post. Some of my friends and I use this term when venting about work stuff all the time. Last minute class cancellations? Last minute extra class to teach that day? Surprise, we’re going to have a hweshik (see below) after school today! The moral of the story is, expect the unexpected. Information will usually end up getting to the foreign teacher last. Be flexible!
- Post-work dinners aren’t fun for the foreign teacher. Otherwise known in Korean as hweshik/회식, I was originally super excited eat big dinners with all of my co-workers. I looked forward to interacting with teachers I hadn’t had the chance to yet and just mingle outside of the workplace. Turns out that I ended up eating in silence and being extremely bored. Teachers literally avoided sitting next to me until someone was forced to because there were no more seats. Nobody looked at me or talked to me the entire time. And in Korea you can’t just up and leave whenever you’re finished eating, you have to wait until the Principal makes the first move and dismisses everyone. It was so unbelievably awkward. However, we did have one cultural outing where we went to an aquarium and saw a 4D movie, that was a lot more fun! It’s not all bad 🙂 One last note, my hweshik are dry but lots of my teacher friends have ones where there’s lots of drinking – that may make a difference, haha.
- Expect to feel left out. Going off of the previous bullet point, work isn’t awkward, but when I’m not teaching, I’m often left to myself. A lot of the teachers here think I’m quiet and shy, but anyone who knows me know that’s the exact opposite. I’m just not too keen on putting in a lot of effort into people and not getting it reciprocated. This is actually totally fine with me though, because the kids can be so draining that I appreciate the solace of being left alone during my free periods.
- You’ll grow. I’ve grown a lot as a person and definitely as a teacher during these past 6 months. My whole life I’ve been told that I should look into teaching due to my personality type, but I always shot down the idea. Turns out i’m not too bad at this and the kids here are great. I’m learning how to get command of a classroom and do not have the stage fright/anxiety that I normally experience when speaking in front of large groups of people. Other than that, I feel like I’m really seeing where I fit in this world and the potential I have to create change.
Wait, is this post really negative? I didn’t mean it to be, whoops. I’m thoroughly loving my time here as an English teacher and would highly recommend it to anyone – but I guess I was trying to be realistic. Don’t have your head in the clouds and expect all rainbows and butterflies, but also don’t expect for everything to be miserable, haha. You can live a great life as an English teacher in Seoul!
Fellow teachers – what have you learned in your experience? Prospective teachers – what are you looking forward to?