Teach Abroad – About the Korean Countryside
At some point in your life, this thought will cross your mind. How long you entertain it is up to your level of boredom in your current position. When I think of moving abroad, even today, I still imagine comfortable living. I picture a spacious apartment located in the swing of things, with a coffee shop across the street, my school not too far away and the convenience of modern day transportation to make everything easier. In fact, I think most of us imagine the best case scenario in order to push through the exhausting application process, and yes, some people are gifted with this wonderful story. I on the other hand, have bad luck and people who have bad luck get put into bad situations. OK, that sounds depressing, it wasn’t that bad. It was however, unexpected
Arriving in Korea was exciting. Half the flight’s passengers were English teachers so we all huddled together at the airport. I applied directly with EPIK so it was a relief to see people at the airport to meet us. We were put onto buses and taken to a city to do 10 days of orientation. I won’t bore you with the details but you share a room with another teacher on a campus residence and you get food, warm showers and classes till it’s practically dark out. The best thing about orientation is that you get to make friends. It gives you the realisation that you’re not alone and there will always be someone to support you. The thing I found dodgy though, was that we were only given our placement locations after signing our final contracts. That’s when you find out exactly where you’re located and at how many schools you’ll be working. I was placed in a small town in the midst of nowhere and my primary school was a 30 minute bus drive away in an even smaller and more remote village. So much for all those teaching ads saying your school would be within walking distance. Liars. Even my secondary school in my town was a 20 minute walk away.
Living in Korea’s countryside is difficult. Mainly because you’re so far away from everything else and the public transport system in and out of these towns are seldom. I lived in a town which had no shopping centre; the biggest supermarket was about eight isles big. If you wanted to go to the cinema you had to take a bus to the next town. That’s where I also went to do my shopping and get my groceries at an actual supermarket. There’s not much to do in the countryside unless you’re one of those let’s get isolated and write a novel type of people. I mean, you could go out running through the mountains, it’s not like there’s anyone creepy waiting for you in the woods. There aren’t a lot of people in these towns. The only thing that might freak you out is your own exhausted reflection looking back at you when you run into a mirror placed along these running paths. Sound weird? It is weird. But hey, at least you’ll know what you look like when you’re out jogging.
Teaching wise, I couldn’t ask for anything better. My class schedule was the standard 22 hour teaching week and I hardly did any admin. My students were obviously very cute and surprisingly well behaved. You will get a bunch of students who are difficult to manage but even my naughtiest kids loved to listen to The Very Hungry Caterpillar. In some of my classes I had a co-teacher but for the most part, I was on my own, which I preferred. The curriculum needs altering so some creativity is required on your part. Overall, it was a fun and relaxed teaching enviroment. I received a lot of help from my principals, vice-principals, co-teachers, and most of all, the woman who made everything easy for me, Mrs Lee, who basically ran the school. Honestly, if it wasn’t for their support I would probably have died in the village.
If the hustle and bustle is something you’re trying to escape then the countryside is for you. You might see the occasional cat on a leash situation and a whole lot of old people walking around but it’s quiet. I found the countryside very relaxing and started hating trips to big cities because I couldn’t stand the rush of things. So whether you end up in a city overwhelmed by the neon signage or in the middle of nowhere, guttered by the empty space of one street towns, any situation you’re put in is up to you to make the best of it. There’s beauty in everything. If you can’t find it in your surroundings, then find it in the people.