Many people who have met me think that I have some sort “Asian-thing.” Its not the most illogical assumption made. In truth I am addicted to anime and Japanese culture, I have been to China for teaching twice and I chose Korea as my next journey. However that is not how everything went down. In truth Korea was my third choice!
Like I said before when you make the decision to go abroad you have to commit. So first I decided I wanted to go to Spain. It is a popular European country and I know Spanish so it shouldn’t be that much of a stretch and I have experience as both an adult and kids teacher. I felt I should get in without much difficulty. I chose to go with the Council on International Education Exchange (CIEE) for their Spain “Professional” program seeing that I had a great experience with their Teach in China program. After getting all my references and making it past the first round interview I thought I was a sure fire success. Unfortunately I did not get accepted.
Next on my list to travel was Brazil. Brazil, a land of beautiful people and places. With the advice of one my mothers’ peers I was told that if I moved to Brazil I would never look back. With all of that to look forward to I tried to get hired by a small language school in Brazil. Unfortunately I was told that I could not be hired because I had to have a sponsor of some other kind before I could be hired by that particular school. That is L number 2 I’ve taken and to be honest it was very deflating.
Luckily, the head of the Teach in Spain program ,Luke Beland, is also head of the Teach in Korea Program. After learning that I did not get accepted to Teach in Spain, I kept my tears and imminent depression off the phone call, he informed me that there was still time for South Korea. Sticking to my guns of leaving the country I said lets do this!
Fortunately, the vast majority of the paperwork I had to do for CIEE Spain carried over to Korea. Now was the interview. I was told that I had to smile and sound energetic, even though it was phone interview, and best believe I did! It was not a full three days later that I got HIRED! Elation ensued, dancing commenced, festivities were had. The world was good again.
Fast forward to the day I actually have to leave the country. It was very bittersweet, having to say goodbye to friends and family but going to a new land that I’ve never thought I would go to. I don’t speak Korean and I don’t know how things work. Will I have to fend for myself for a while? How will I get around? Questions like these plagued my mind as I was in the airplane’s middle seat for 14 hours. T’was not the most enjoyable experience.
But that all changed when I landed and got past customs. I converted the random $90 that I had in my wallet to Korean currency and I walked through the gates to arrivals. Wouldn’t you know it my school sent my own personal driver? He had a sign with my name on it and needless to say I felt special! It was 5:00 AM in Korea and I was already loving my first day!
My driver was so nice with his complete lack of English. His English was more than my Korean. He actually, was able to say “Hello” “What’s your name?” “Oh that’s a good name.” and “Where are you from?” Whereas my Korean consist of “…”
My driver drove an hour and a half outside of Seoul to a suburb (well, I would define it as a suburb) known as Uijeongbu to my hotel.He tried his best to converse and he kept offering me snacks. He had mints, coffee candies and a most interesting beverage which I can only call “corn water.” I believe the corn water is an acquired taste.
It was at the hotel that I realized I wasn’t alone. I did not have to “fend for myself”. It was hard to remain optimistic after the first two teaching destination losses. And since I had come to like the life I had made in the states. But like I said before once you make the decision you stick with it and trust me you won’t regret it. My journey in Korea started off so strong and I know the momentum is only going to build from there.