Leaving home for most is an experience that is filled with mixed emotions. You are excited to take on new adventures while you are entering a world you have researched, asked questions about and done whatever you could to make yourself ready but you still have so many questions. If you are thinking about taking on Korea and the journeys’ it has to offer, you are in extremely capable hands with Adventure Teaching (AT).
I came to Korea with my girlfriend and in late February. We got here with one week left in the school year and the biggest thing that I suffered from was jet leg. Culture shock I think is something that I was expecting to be swarmed with, but it was switching from the Eastern time zone to fourteen hours ahead here in Korea.
Let me tell you a little bit about our day. We have been here for seven weeks, but teaching for six. It has taken us about a month to six weeks to get into a good routine. That is normal. The one thing you need to know coming here, you are not going to be able to walk into your job and be set into a perfect routine, nor are you expected to be. We work at a Hagwon (which is a private school) and our days start at 9 am. The students start arriving at 9:30 and classes start at 9:50. We have 5 periods throughout the Kindy (kindergarten) day teaching things such as reading, writing, math, science, art and PE (gym). We have lunch provided which is nice, because one, it cuts down on our expenses and two, it helps immerse yourself into the culture. Our Kindy classes finish at 2:30 as we see our students off, our Elementary students start to arrive.
Our Elementary classes which go until 6 pm. These students come in from other schools to do extra schooling focused entirely in English. The abilities of these students vary. You can have very high English speaking students to very raw English aptitude. With these classes you could be teaching anything from reading, writing, spelling, speech, to science.
One thing that we learned better when we got here was that Korean ages differ from what they call the international age. In Korea, the day you are born you are instantaneously one. Then on New Years you gain one more year. So, for example, if you are born on December 31st you are one, then the following day is January 1st, you then become two. So when you are teaching your students you are seven, in all reality, they are 5 internationally.
Now that we have been here for a good amount of time, and we have gotten into our groove at school we have really started to take on certain aspects of Korea with some traveling. We are going to Seoul next weekend for the Cheery Blossom Festival! This happens in April, or when the weather allows the tree’s to bud.
Another great touristic aspect is that Korea is a great jumping point for traveling. You can very easily fly to Japan, China or wherever you want or need to go. We have our summer vacation in late July early August and we have planned a 10 day trip to Japan. How groovy is that!
When it came to choosing and planning for this adventure, we were treated so fairly by Adventure Teaching. They were patient and understanding of anything and everything we threw at them. Their response was typically we understand each situation is different and we just want you to have the best experience in a country that we have grown to love, and we want you to love it as much as we did. As I said our situation was difficult. My girlfriend has an education degree so there was a high demand for her in international schools. She had three offers but we wanted to be in the same school. And that’s what we stuck to. When the time came, they found us the job we were looking for. We got hired in Cheongju, which is an hour and half bus ride from Seoul.
Our placement coordinator made herself available to us at all times. She understood our need to ask questions, and she was able to comfort certain discomforts with personal experiences and experiences she had heard from colleagues and friends who had also embarked on Korean teaching experiences. She was honest and did not sugar coat things. So we were as best prepared as we could be. But do your research, however do be naïve and think you are going to be fully prepared, just be as best prepared as you can be. This is a new culture, a new land, a new language and a new adventure that can be the best thing that ever happened to you, just do me one favour (and this the Canadian spelling) have an open mind. If you do you will be opening yourself up to a beautiful culture, once in a life time landscapes and experiences many only dream of, but ones you can make your reality!