So for countdown number 9, with 90 days left, I am gonna tell you the 10 things you can skip while seoul searching here, teaching English.
10. Being a lazy teacher
See what I did there. You might have thought I was gonna say skip 명동 and 남대문 but no b*tch I am gonna tell you how you not to be a waste of space here.
SO LETS GO:
All teachers I know are lazy at some point and that is okay. We recycle lessons, we beat an idea to death, especially in the beginning we get away with it cause we are experimenting. BUT HEED MY WARNING: You are gonna be doing this for a year, or two, or three or FOREVER. Laziness = lack of effort = not caring about something = boredom. If you are bored your students will be bored and your classes will drag and your life will suck. Make an effort, develop interesting lessons and develop relationship with your students and your experience here will be so much richer. Also a few very pro-active lessons will make a lazy one, especially after a rough weekend, now and then okay.
9. Giving up too early
So many teachers get here and discover the reality of teaching English in South Korea isn’t exactly like the promo video. The apartments can be small, the seasons are intense, and hey surprise, teaching is work – you aren’t always teaching little angels. Instead of giving themselves time to adapt and fight, I have known many people who flee. Heck some people even do midnight runs, just pack up and leave with no word. A neighbour even found a journal of one such person who seemingly descended into madness and the last entry in said journal was a very detailed drawing of a vagina. Don’t let people remember you as that foreign freak who drew that.
8. Downloading everything off Waygook.org
Waygook.org is a wonderful resource. Don’t get me wrong, it has saved my yass a billion times and given me many ideas. If you don’t know what it is, it’s a sharing website where people can upload their lessons. But a problem with it is that you are essentially not honing any of your own skills and if you upload nothing, you are not sharing but pilfering. Rude. Also, you are downloading and regurgitating others work.
Your students and colleagues will think “wow!” if the work is good – no problem! If the work is bad, however, the feeling of being a failure is even deeper cause everyone judges you as if it is your work and you know you are better than this. Personally I made a rule: One week make your own lesson, and upload it if it works, one week trawl the mines of ppts that is waygook.org for that golden nugget. Cause that is what it is, there is a ton of sh*t on there and more often than not creating something that will work cause you know your students is better than stressing about using a lame PPT that you found last minute.
7. Staying longer than you should.
There is a lovely article that does the rounds that calls teaching in Korea a pair of golden handcuffs that basically says: The longer and cushier it gets to stay the harder it gets to leave. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, so I have no regrets about staying for year number three. I will say however, I went through a time of thinking it was a mistake. When the novelty wears off, and the isolation that can come with expatriate life is no longer hidden by the glow of newness, everything can seem like “WHY ARE YOU HERE STILL”. Many people have clearly felt this way too but still chose to renew for another year. So basically go when your gut tells you or risk becoming bitter about a place that isn’t really bad at all.
6. Getting negative about Korea and Koreans
It is very easy to get complainy. While I think some criticism is fair for a place you live in, I don’t think living in a place as a guest for a few years gives you a right to rip it to shreds. Korea has many problems, racism and xenophobia are my biggest gripes (this coming from a South African is rich I know), but so does every place. Remember the system that is so terrible is paying you more than local teachers, paying your rent, exempting you from tax and probably funding your debaucherous lifestyle. Take a breath and get angry about your own horrible politics back home.
5. Letting negative/ignorant Koreans get to you
Of course, the opposite is true as well. There are many so called “micro-aggression” on a daily basis. The “WOW YOU SPEAK KOREAN SO WELL!!!!” after a simple greeting from a colleague you have spoken full Korean conversations to is very annoying . Also, the amount of times locals refused to believe I was from Africa, asked to touch my “permed?” hair (because I am white with curly hair), or worst case scenario asked to “F*ck off “to my own country. Its easy to lose your temper and stereotype and GO ARGH KOREA! But if you take a second and imagine the opposite you might chill the f*ck out.
REAL TALK, before moving here I had no idea Korean even had a unique alphabet or language, of Kimchi or even its horrible history with Japan. I assumed oh another China-like Asian country and was, well, ignorant. Think of it this way: You are here to “educate” after all, so educate people about where you are from while you are educating yourself. It will help you get over the rage as they pet your hair.
4. Going drunk to work.
Each to his or her own, but a very potent memory I have was on a bus. At a stop a very big guy, with a big red beard and drunk as hell, got on. While quietly judging him from the back, I realised he was heading for me and wanted to die. Apparantly we were neighbours at which point I slowly put one and one together as he rambled on about the crazy night he had and now with no sleep was going to teach five classes. Apparantly his school didn’t wanna renew his contract he yelled and all passengers feared for their lives. MMM “I wonder why they didn’t want to keep you around?” Even though it is Korea and everyone dranks on a daily basis, you are working with children at the end of the day. Don’t be that gurl.
3. Sticking only with “Foreigner” friends.
I get it. It’s easy. Birds of a feather and all that. The problem though is, if you are just gonna hang with South Africans, or westerners, why did you come to the Far East? Remember Korea is essentially a busstop for many, foreigners come and go every few months, and if you decide to stay but your friends decide to catch their bus back to the west it’s gonna suck.
2. Sticking only with Korean friends
When I first moved here I was convinced that I needed to have the most “authentic” experience possible and of course that meant no “foreigner” friends. This was also stupid and exhausting. As much as I wished to transcend cultural and language barriers it is just not possible straight away, or at all with some people. Alienating those who have a shared background is just as stupid as alienating those who don’t. Balance people!
1.Not taking care of yourself.
My final rant is amied towards so many people here who are scared to go to doctors, to go shopping, sign up for gym, all because of the language barrier. Rise to the damn challenge people! Forget swinging from vines with Tarzan, this is the modern day adventure you craved and signed up for by choice. If you fail it will suck but when you succeed you will fly! Korea has EVERYTHING for a comfortable life, you just have to wangle wangle a little.
It can be tough out here for a NET but Korea should be a chance to better yourself. One of my biggest ugh moments was when I realised many people, of course not all, are here to seek a continuation of that college drinking life. It’s cool to have fun, and I obviously was no saint all the time, but it will be sad when you move on a fat lazy slob. #sorrynotsorry