Every single day Korea and it's wonderful culture took me on a journey. I experienced naughty, misbehaved, rude, cocky, loving, caring, hard working, hilarious, smart, lazy, and sweet students as well as teachers every single day. I thought that South Africa is a multi-cultural country, but these Koreans aren't far behind. As a teacher straight out of University, all of a sudden I was faced with teaching these students while discovering what kind of teacher I want to be in the process. Day to day experiences for me was me constantly trying to explain something to either my co-teacher, principle, students, lady at the supermarket, the bank or even just ordering a pizza. This taught me one of two things. 1.) Patience and 2.) How to play Charades.
The school didn't offer me any training or support. If I asked a question, my co-teacher would either laugh at me or just ignore me. Asking for help, was followed by a sigh. I managed to open my own bank account, get my own Cell-Phone, pay my own bills and find my way around. Your probable thinking: "What's so hard about doing the above?". Well try doing it in a foreign language you can't speak or understand. Except for the lack of help and communication from my schools and co-teachers, I had Amazing Schools compared to my friend's schools. My Main School's Principle was extremely nice (maybe too nice if you know what I mean), I got send home early often and were invited to numerous field trips, which I accepted gladly. Something I loved about the schools here, is that you get school lunch at the school. I was open to trying everything. At first I didn't like the food and they ate way too much rice for me. Eating basically the same food every single day, one get used to the food very quickly and after 2 months I was hooked.
Because of the big culture difference, what was important to me wasn't necessarily important to them and visa versa. It was very difficult for the schools to actually fully fulfill my needs. I only approached one of my main school's co-teachers when it was really important, like for example dates regarding Summer and Winter Camps, information about my contract and sometimes transportation around Korea.
As a woman alone in a foreign country it's rare to find another woman who felt save 100% of the time. You hear stories about burglaries and assaults anywhere in the world. But yes, I felt save 99% of the time. Whereas South Africa would be a 50%.
I live in an extremely Rural area so everybody in the town new me. At least 8 parents tried to convince me to help them or their sons with English, but we weren't allowed to work outside our contracts. Everyone was so friendly, the woman at the bank, the cashiers at the grocery market, and the other subject area teachers at my schools.
I came in with the concept of being a "yes-man". Now, a "yes-man" is someone who says yes when asked to do something. That worked for the first 3 months until I realized that 3 months had passed and I haven't had one day of rest. I was so tired all the time. People started getting frustrated with me because I couldn't commit to all of their requests. I decided to take a break from everything and everyone and spent some time on my own. That's when the growth started. I decided what is important for me and not other people. This led to me not having tea time with my Principle every single day, going on trips with him every single day and having dinner with him and his wive every night. This new change could have been taken the wrong way from other people, looking like I'm not interested anymore or don't care anymore. But this also showed me who my real friends are. Sticking by me no matter what. I wouldn't have changed this strategy because I believe that this positive attitude in the beginning gave a good first impression.
The only thing I would have wanted to know is how difficult it is to find grocery items. I would have brought it with me and not pay so much money shipping it here. As a 2 feet tall woman I had to bring a lot of extra clothes, because I heard that it's so hard to find clothes in your size. That is definitely the case with shoes, but I haven't had trouble finding clothes though. I would have brought less clothes and more personal items.
School supplies wasn't a problem. They gave me the textbooks and recordings I had to use in class. Every classroom had a computer, TV, Projector and White Board. I had my own computer with internet and I could print and copy as many papers as I'd like. One of my schools had a color printer.
You have your misbehaved students here and there, but nothing I couldn't handle. You have to keep in mind that what might seem like misbehavior to you, isn't necessarily considered rude to the students. A lot of misinterpretation can happen, so make sure before punishing a student.
This Program broadened my field of expertise. I'm only qualified to teach High School Students in the field of Life Orientation and Life Orientation Psychology. Now I'm excited to go work in an Elematary School and be an English Teacher.
I am very sad to leave after one year. I'm going to miss Korea extremely. I already decided that if I don't find work within 6 months, I'm definitely applying for the August intake again.
I definitely found my passion and that is teaching, especially students between the ages of 13 and 18. If it was up to me, I would make it compulsory to teach in another country to gain experience. You face so much more obstacles than you would in your own community. Culture, language, food, habits, and even the humor (see the pun right here) is different.
In only one year I realized so many life lessons. I know the type of teacher I want to and strive to be. I know exactly who I am and I grew way beyond my 24 years as a woman spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
I'm aware that this is a very long process and that it takes time and that one should be patient. It's very hard to be patient if you don't hear back from EPIK for weeks. I feel that they would receive less e-mails and phone calls if they could maybe have updates more regularly. Maybe after everyday just Post on Facebook that they did 10 Interviews today and number 20-30 is expected to be tomorrow.
They also promised me that they will let me know within one week after my Skype interview whether or not I got accepted. I waited two weeks and when I phoned them, their response was that they tried once and couldn't get hold of me. I felt that they could have sent an e-mail letting me know.
I also only heard about my interview less that 8 hours before my interview. They said that they send an e-mail, but I never received it. They phoned me hours before my interview, asking me if I'm ready. I was busy with exams and had less than 8 hours to organize an arrangement with my lecturers.