Friday, March 4, 2011

What's it Like to Move to South Korea to Teach English?

Before we left the states, we were asked many questions about our decision to pick up and move to South Korea. I could not answer most of the questions, because I did not know the answers. I mostly answered these questions by saying, "I don't know, I think everything will be just fine, I am very excited." Now that I am here,  I think that I am able to answer most of the questions.

I want preface this by saying that I am not doing this to be rude, I am genuinely answering questions that I simply could not.
Main Question: "Will you be safe?"
Answer: Yes! Actually, I feel as though I am much safer here than at home. Crime rates in Korea are very low (as reported by US website and as experienced by yours truly). When talking about safety in a book with the kids at our school, they could not understand the concept of unsafe. They repeatedly said, "teacher, here is very safe". They didn't know about robbery and when explained could not understand why anyone would rob someone. Adults here will also tell you that crime is very low, only authorities own guns, and Korea is very safe. I have never felt unsafe here, whereas at home I felt unsafe much more often.
Next Question: What will you eat?
Answer: everything. My dilemma here is more trying not to gain weight, rather than worrying about what I will eat. There is a bakery on every block, pizza, delicious chicken (baked or fried), delicious fresh fruit and vegetables (cheaper and better than at home), Korean BBQ, and many other delicious things (see food blog).  Sure, I miss some food items from home, but overall I am very much enjoying the food here.
Next Question: How will you live without a car and all the other many boxes of  personal items that you are putting into storage?
Answer: I have no need for those material things here. Why do I need a car when I can take a bus, cab, train, or subway anywhere in the country? Public transportation here is cheap and efficient. Cab fare is about $3 per trip. For example, we took a cab to the train station (15 minute drive) and it cost around $5. A bus to Busan (one hour) costs $6. No car payment, gas, or insurance is a very wonderful thing! No hassle or stress of driving. It makes me sad to think that such an amazing country as America has such terrible public transportation (expect in the biggest cities). As for all of the stuff in boxes at home, most of it can be given away, as far as I'm concerned. Take it to goodwill. I don't want a big expensive house with a bunch of stuff in it. I don't need all of those material possessions. I live in a small apartment with the bare essentials, everything I need to survive and be comfortable. I am happy with just this, my two suitcases full of personal belongings and the things that were furnished.
Question: How will you get by without knowing the language?
Answer: We are getting by just fine. Gesturing works wonders, we can order food, go to the grocery store, pay for things, navigate the two largest cities in the country, make friends, have workplace interactions, and teach our students successfully with only knowing a minimal amount of survival words.
Question: Will you like your job?
Answer: Yes! So far I really do. So far, this is the best job I have ever had. The hours are good, the pay is good, and I get to spend the day with some of the sweetest and cutest children in the entire world and teach them how to speak my native language. I leave work feeling happy almost every day.
Question: Won't you get homesick?
Answer: Yes, of course I do! Especially since I believe that I have the best family and friends in the entire world! I miss them daily. I am able to get through the sad times by communicating with them regularly and by knowing that they are happy for me and that they enjoy hearing about my amazing experiences. Being away also makes me appreciate them so much more and cherish every skype or phone call with them much more than I ever did before.
Question (mostly asked by myself) Why don't you want to do what everyone else is doing (settle down, buy a house, have a baby, start a retirement fund)?
Answer: That's just not for me, maybe not now, maybe not ever. Right now, this is what I want to be doing. This is my dream, what I have wanted to do for a long time. To travel, see the world, and experience new things. I don't really see much point in buying a house right now. To me, buying a house  is just debt to be repaid and Steve and I cannot settle down and live anywhere for more than a year anyway, it seems. I am not ready to have a baby now. I am happy for those that are ready and I think that being a parent is a very honorable decision and an extremely difficult job. For me, I am not ready to make such an important decision and long term commitment if I still have questions. Retirement savings, blah, blah, blah. Who knows if I will even be able to enjoy that money by then. I don't want to put all of my hopes and dreams into something that may or may not happen 35 years from now. I want to do those things now!
Please feel free to ask any other questions and I will gladly try to answer them now that I am here and may be able to answer more easily.

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