by Emmy Bjerre-Jensen
When I decided to come to Korea, I was freshly certified with a TEFL and looking to gain experience teaching abroad. I wanted to learn about a culture outside of my own and I wanted to become a better teacher and person through that. Korea seemed like the perfect place. There were plenty of jobs, the salary opportunities were good and it was an Eastern culture that was accessible to an English speaker. What I didn’t expect was that everything I learned would change my life and the way that I think.
I have lived in Korea for almost two years.
Yes, I have felt homesick now and then and have missed some things about Western culture, but I have certainly never been bored or lonely. The reverse culture shock is more strange. You become accustomed to not hearing English around you and you assimilate into the societal norms without even thinking about it. The way people think here is different, the way of life is different, and get ready for the Korean work ethic. If you aren’t interested in hard work, pick another country. In fact, I would highly recommend picking a job outside of education because in this field the most important thing I’ve come to realize is that you get what you give.
One of the biggest culture shocks coming here was that it’s normal to talk with strangers who engage with you. More often than not, they are looking to help you. Grocery stores are still a thing that I have never mastered.
There are things you won’t be able to find here and things that you can find here but you won’t know what it is. The convenience and cleanliness of transportation here still blows my mind. The list of new discoveries and nuances goes on. All you need to know is that if you were brave enough to move to a foreign country, nothing here is going to throw you completely off.
It would be quite impossible for me to communicate my experience through words, I would never do it justice. However, I will say that I am very grateful that I ended up here with my school and the people and the kids. I wonder how my experience here might have been different if I ended up somewhere else. Then I remember that there have been teachers at my school that didn’t get as much out of this as I did. Positivity goes a long way, that’s just a good philosophy for life in general. If you come to Korea, remember it’s important that in order to be a dedicated teacher you also need to be a dedicated student with an open mind.
Welcome each challenge with gratitude and you will be better for it. 어서 오십시오!