On Deciding to Leave Korea

As the last six months of my teaching contract sped by, I had a decision to make: Do I leave Korea or stay in the country seeking new employment? The two main factors in my decision were my desire to return to college and earn my PhD and some uncertainties over whether our teaching program in Korea would be dismantled.

After taking the GRE for a second time and earning a score that made me happy I studied so much, I started to look forward to the journey of returning back to school. I began to think of a life after Korea and what kind of things I would do with my career in Education. I looked forward to returning to the world of research, studying, learning, presenting, and working towards my ultimate career goals. It didn’t  take long, however, for me to realize how lacking I was in real professional experience that would come from working in the U.S. As I read about the types of students who attended PhD programs in Education, I didn’t feel like I was one of those students yet. Sure, I had lived abroad, but what else? I didn’t have any real world experience to draw from .

Of course, there were other things that helped me decide it was time to leave as well. One of my biggest issues about living in Korea (at least where I lived) was the severe lack of dating. As a 25 year old woman, I feel that if I desire to date, I should be able to and I feel that with no shame. There was also the issue of simply being an afterschool English teacher with no hope to progress further than that. No one wants to be stuck in one role for years and year, with no hope to advance further.

Eventually the final decision was made (the uncertainty of the future of our teaching program definitely made the decision easier) and I knew that rather than struggle through an additional six months in Korea, I’d leave on a high note. The process of leaving made me really consider what I wanted to do when I returned to the U.S. and as I stood in my English class one day, I knew that I would want to continue teaching. So I decided to put off my return to the university/grad school scene and apply for an alternative teaching certification program. For the next two years, I’ll be dedicated to helping students learn Social Studies and hopefully building up my own professional network.

It isn’t easy to know when you should leave Korea, but the day comes when you know that even if leaving will be sad, it will be the right thing to do.

 

 

 

What Korea Has Taught Me #2

Oh Korea! We’ve almost been together for a year haven’t we? Our relationship isn’t always perfect but we have great times!

So what has Korea taught me lately?

Korea has taught me that I must have time for myself and developing my sense of self! I must take time to meditate, enjoy the little things, and be very conscious of my relationships with other people.

Yes, I know this sounds silly. I mean, haven’t I always enjoyed life, meditated and been conscious of my relationships? In a way, yes I have, but in other ways Korea has provided me a unique space to really look deeply at these three things.

1. Enjoying Life- I live on an island and it’s considered the most beautiful place in Korea, with thousands of tourists traveling here every year. Instead of looking for a bar or club to go to, my friends and I are happy to head to the nearest beach, climb the nearest oreum (Korean name for a volcanic hill) or mountain, or just walk around discovering new parts of the city or island itself.

2. Meditation- While I grew up in a religious home, in my opinion the art of meditation and journaling was overlooked in my childhood church experience. When my mind feels heavy, I try to take a step back and really survey what’s bothering me and I often do this by writing in my journal. Sometimes I sit down to write one thing and end up writing something else, giving me new insight on the issue that is troubling my mind. Meditation is still very new to me, but taking quiet moments to breathe and think seem to help me reduce my stress levels.

3. I have to be Conscious of my relationships with the people around me- We often take our friendships for granted. I was very guilty of this before coming to Korea. I have an amazing group of friends and coming to Korea (and dealing with tons of new people) made me survey why I appreciate those people I call my friends and what my criteria for friendship is. Not every person I’ve met in Korea is my friend; some people are just acquaintances and some are not meant to be in my life and that’s okay! That’s how life works!  Often times in the age of Facebook will make us feel guilty for not considering someone a “friend”. Let me be the one to warn you: don’t allow yourself to accept mediocre friends into your life. It’s not worth it in the long run and you will be disappointed when those mediocre friends don’t truly care about you. Real friendships are so much more than clicking “like” buttons and posting cute pictures online.  I also learned that sometimes your family relationships will need adjusting while you travel abroad.  I’ve learned to be careful not to let one or two people control how I view my family members and to actually reach out to family members and try to see  things from their points of view. I may not always agree with them, but I will listen to them (unless the conversation takes a prolonged negative tone and then I will cut that off).

 

Living abroad has truly given me the time to survey my life in a way I never had time to do in college or graduate school. As people, we are very busy, but taking time to survey yourself and where you are currently (along with your successes or things you want to change) will help you reach more of your future goals. So stop and relax sometimes because in those moments, you may find your next inspiration!

 

I plan to write more about the power of the journal soon, so check back if you’re interested in how keeping a journal can help you!

 

SAMSUNG CSC
     The Natural Rock Pool- Fun and Scary at the same time!
Seogwipo-si, Jeju Island
Seogwipo-si, Jeju Island

I’m Still Alive! An Update from Korea

Hello!

As the lyrics of one of my favorite Big Bang song says “I’m still alive!” and “I’m living the good life” (link to this song below)!

Spring has sprung here in Korea and let me tell you, it makes a huge difference on one’s mood and overall outlook on life! Not only is the weather beautiful, the flowers and trees are a’blooming! With Spring starting in March (instead of in late April, which was the case when I lived in Ohio for two years), I got to celebrate my 25th birthday with warm weather and the purchase of my second camera! For years, I’ve been dragging around my point and shoot Kodak (circa 2009) and I decided that for my 25th year of life and the rest of my time in Korea, I needed something a little more up to date.

So what does this mean? Well now I can take tons of picture AND VIDEO of my adventures around the island and on my trips around Korea. Hopefully, I’ll be dragging my new Samsung camera off to Japan in September (Yay, Harry Potter World!). While most kids in the West are gearing up for summer break, I’ll be teaching throughout the summer and hopefully extending my teaching contract by six months.

I’m planning to write some blog posts about my experiences as a first generation college student! I realize that many students feel confused when they are the first in their family to tackle the college life and I hope I can provide a few helpful tips about staying debt free (or at least trying to) and building skills during one’s college career that may seem silly at first, but come in handy later. Also, I’m in the process of preparing to retake the GRE and apply for PhD programs for admissions in Fall 2016.

And hey, there might be a few YouTube videos coming up to better illustrate what I choose to do in my free time in Korea, so keep an eye out for those links!

The promised Big Bang song w/ English Subs (maybe I’ll talk about Kpop a little more since these guys just had a comeback?)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=of2GzuZGxo0 -Still Alive

Adventures in Korea: Deciding to Move to South Korea as a Black Female

My name is Tabitha. I’m 24 years old and I currently live in South Korea. Ever since I moved here, I’ve wanted to tell my story about coming to a foreign country as an African American (Black) female working as an elementary school English teacher.  Now, I’ve been in South Korea for about six months and I’m ready to talk openly and frankly about my time here:

Let’s start from the beginning: Six and a half years ago, I was a freshman in my college dorm surfing the internet with my roommate. I had already been an anime fan for years before that, so Japan was quite familiar to me and I hoped to visit the country someday. Korea, however, was a complete mystery to me. It wasn’t until my roommate and I discovered the world of Korean Pop music (aka Kpop)  that I became interested in South Korea. At the time, the mega Kpop groups such as DBSK (also known TVXQ!), Super Junior, Shinee, Big Bang (and later 2NE1), and Girls Generation were taking the Kpop world by storm and I was hooked!  For me, music is not only a beat and lyrics, but a look into a culture. I was fascinated at how Korean groups were formed after years of training and composed of six and more members and how this correlated to facets of Korean culture. And let’s  not forget the amazing choreography in the music videos, something we haven’t seen in American music in a very long time!

It wasn’t long until I was introduced to the idea of working abroad as an English teacher by two Canadian bloggers, Simon and Martina, from the popular YouTube channel Eat Your Kimchi. Not only were they working in Korea and earning an income, they were free to travel throughout the country and be immersed in the culture and language of Korea. No one I knew personally had traveled abroad unless in the military, so the idea of working and living in a foreign country seemed like dream to me.  As a first generation college student, I had simply entered college looking to earn a degree, possibly attend graduate school, and get a well-paying job. The idea of living and working abroad was a new and novel idea.

Now let’s fast forward, six years later. I was completing my master’s degree in Educational Policy and after doing a little more research online, I finally decided that if I was going to live abroad and teach English, I had reached the ideal point in my life to do so. I originally wanted to study abroad in Korea as an undergraduate but decided that my educational goals, friendships and other relationships were more important at the time. I felt that if I didn’t go to Korea in 2014, I would never have a similar opportunity to do so again.

After telling people I was applying for a one year teaching contract, I got comments like, “Oh you’re Black, Koreans don’t like Black people,” and “Are you going to date a Korean guy?” and “Which Korea are you going to again?” and “That’s so far away!”  Of course, there was my all time favorite comment: “That’s great but when are you going to settle down and get married/but are you going to ever get married/have children?” (insert side eye right here)(that last one is a “perk” of being from the South).

Despite all those comments, both positive and negative, I boarded a plane in Little Rock, Arkansas on the morning of July 29, 2014 and made my first international flight to come to South Korea. Now, not only do I live in Korea, I live on the lovely island of Jeju. Jeju has a culture all it’s own and most Koreans only visit here once or twice in their lifetimes. I actually joked with one of my friends saying, “It would be just my luck to get placed on Jeju. It’s the one place every couple goes in K-dramas (Korean dramas).” and of course, I got placed here, much to my friend’s amusement.

My school is quite small, with only about 60 children across six grades. My job is to teach English after school to students from grade one to six. My school is also in a rural area. Children in South Korea living in rural areas don’t often have the same access to private English academies and foreign (native English speaking) teachers that children in the urban areas do, so my teaching program is focused on bringing quality English teaching to children in rural areas. The children at my school are just like any other group of kids: they love to have fun, they to play games, and they have different levels of interest in learning English. While I will admit that I was nervous to be a Black teacher in a small school, the students have adjusted well to me and ask me a million questions every time I change my hairstyle. Teaching is not the easiest job, but it is challenging and there is nothing quite like seeing your students master new vocabulary and new phrases in a second language.

Of course, you’ll be wondering what it’s like to live in Korea as a Black Female, so stay tuned for my next post.

*Next time: Black and female in South Korea: Fascinations and Frustrations*