Tuesday, July 30, 2013

You're going to Korea?! The reactions, comments, and FAQs about my "big decision"

Since I've been telling people that I'm going to Korea, I have received quite the mixture of reactions.  In general, people can be broken into two groups:

Group 1--The Cheerleaders

This is the group of people that have been my biggest supporters and kept me from losing my sanity in this whole crazy process.  They're the people that encourage me, and are genuinely excited for me.  Common responses include:

"That's awesome! Good for you!"
"Great....you should totally travel while you're young!"
"Wow...that's so cool! You are going to have an awesome time!"

To you, the people that fall into Group 1, I am thankful.  There are days I seriously questions this decision, and your support and enthusiasm has allowed me to stay true to what I know I really want.

Group 2--Everyone Else

This group includes those who think I have completely lost my mind, or simply can't fathom why I would decide to leave my cozy life in NH to live in Asia.

Here are some of the FAQs comments, and reactions I've been receiving (along with my responses):

Question: You're going to Korea?  I hope you're not going to the North!

Answer:  Ok, people.  I know sometimes you think this is funny.  Other times, people are completely serious.  Let me just clear this up. North Korea is not really fond of Americans (unless you're Dennis Rodman?)....why on earth would they ever invite American teachers to work in their schools?  They wouldn't.  And they don't. Yes, I am going to the SOUTH.

Question: Aren't you afraid of getting blown up by the North?

Answer: I think sometimes people think I'm just not familiar with North Korea.  The truth is, I have been following the developments with the North for quite some time now.  I've not only followed it myself, but also covered the situation with pretty much every class I've taught since my internship.  And even with that, I am not very concerned about it.  Our media loves to play up the threats by the big, bad, communist North Korea, but if you study the situation closely and look beyond what the news wants us to believe, it seems improbable that they would ever act on any of those threats.

Would I prefer not to be next to a country with a crazy dictator and nuclear weapons?  Of course.  However, there are many reasons I truly believe I won't be blown up by the North--if you would like to have a conversation about it, I would be happy to go more in depth about why I feel safe moving to Korea.

Question: You're going to Korea? Why?!

Answer:  Ok, this is a question I can understand.  I suppose most people don't put Korea on the top of their lists for "must see" places.  However, anyone who has ever looked into the world of teaching abroad knows it's one of the top places to go. Yes, we would all love to go teach in Europe (as many people frequently tell me...that's where I SHOULD be going...), but that's not really an option in the world of ESL teaching for Americans.

There are a few reasons I chose Korea over other countries. I put a lot of research into choosing a country to teach in, and while I was almost sold on Thailand, there were certain realities I had to face. While I wish I could make decisions without thinking about money, that's just not real life, at least for me.  I have oodles of debt from my student loans and I have a car payment that isn't going away anytime soon.  Therefore, I had to choose a country that would pay me enough to allow me to keep paying these bills.  Korea is one of the top paying countries for ESL teaching, so this was a big benefit to choosing Korea.

Furthermore, I really liked the EPIK program because it is run by the government and provides a week-long orientation before you're sent out on your own.  You are also provided with a place to live, vacation time, and medical insurance.  Overall, it just seemed like a much more secure decision than the other ESL jobs where you arrive and are expected to do everything on your own.  I'm really just not brave enough to move to the other side of the world without having some sort of support there.

The other main reason I was interested in Korea was the difference in culture.  My main purpose of wanting to live abroad is to to experience something completely unlike what I have experienced living in the US. Yes, I someday want to travel Europe.  But I was the experience of living in a completely different culture, and you can't get much different from western culture than eastern culture. I can't imagine a better way to learn about the world than by throwing myself into a culture with a completely different history and traditions, and Korea can definitely provide that for me.

Comment: Oh, I know someone who taught in Korea!

Response:  It's no secret, Korea is a hot spot for those interested in ESL teaching.  Most people probably do know someone that has gone there to taught--I do not by any means claim that what I'm doing is unique.  It is important to note that there are many different type of jobs in Korea, and everyone has a completely different experience.  I don't even know completely what to expect, so just because you know someone that has been there doesn't mean that my experience will mirror theirs.

Comment: Oh, maybe you'll meet someone there! Maybe you'll meet your husband!

Response: I kid you not, this is probably the most frequent thing I hear from people.  When I was talking to one of my students about moving to Korea at the end of the school year she looked at me with a thoroughly confused look and replied: "but how will you ever meet your husband in Korea?!"

Ok people, I am not moving to Korea to meet my husband (although I mean, I wouldn't be opposed to it if I met the right person)...but I am 24 and this experience is for me.  It's about exploration, self-discovery, and pushing myself to hopefully become a stronger person.

For now I think I will follow the sound advice from my 8 year old niece.

"Just don't talk to any boys.  And do NOT fall in love!"

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