Teaching with GOE 6 Months In

I am just about to hit the six month mark of teaching with GOE in Korea. I thought I’d give an update as to what my life is like and my future plans.

The Pluses

I love living in Korea. My trip to Japan last month only confirmed it. It wasn’t that I didn’t completely enjoy Japan (I definitely did!). It was that I found myself missing Korea. That special Korean exuberance I’ve become used to was just missing. Where was the drama over pigeons being too close? The disgustingly cute couples? The overwhelming helpfulness? Oh, and lets not forget how cheap things in Korea are. My credit card bill for Japan was slightly heart-attack inducing. I truly love living in this country.

My apartment is amazing. Despite nearly breaking myself to cart all manner of things to my new home, I don’t regret it. My apartment, with a few choice purchases, makes me truly happy to go home. I have gotten in the habit of loudly announcing “hello home!” when I walk through the door.

The pay is great. I can hardly spend over my budget. Every time I think I’m spending too much somehow it’s always right within my limits. I’m managing to travel and save money, something that had not been an option in university.

The vacation time is incredible. Because I didn’t really start to use any until last month I didn’t really have an opinion on it. But wow, it’s great. To have two weeks of downtime after a 10 day trip to Japan to ready myself for another 2 week trip to Italy? And to know I’m going to have 6 days in Taiwan in May? And another two weeks in the summer? Wow!

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The gorgeous view of the river from the Jinju fortress. One of my craziest experiences of my entire life.

The Minuses

The actual…job. Now, this is colored by the fact that I teach at two schools. I absolutely love my one school, it’s further out in the country and it’s beautiful. The kids are amazing and well behaved. The other teachers are super nice. And I feel like I have support from my co-teacher there. At my other school, which I am at much more often, the kids are, in short, a nightmare. The kids are so poorly behaved it prompted my mother to ask me if I wasn’t sure I was working at a reform school. Add to it a co-teacher who doesn’t care, a creepy co-worker who made advances on me, and a weird teaching system in general (I only do the game at the end of class which does not seem like the best use of a foreign English teacher). I increasingly dislike this school, and love the other.

I don’t mind teaching. But I don’t love it either, so the negatives come down a little harder.

Banking in Korea is it’s own special circle of hell. So much so that it is one of the leading reasons I might never come back. I don’t know if I could go through all of this again. I’ve spent more time in a Korean bank in six months than I have in my entire life back home. They messed up my name 3 times, messed up my US account number, their English help service can’t help with many branch-specific cases so you need a Korean co-worker, and nothing ever works. You can’t use debit cards abroad, there’s specialty processes to use it online or even make international purchases that are needlessly complex and make me want to die. I am not exaggerating. The amount of stress I’ve had to deal with due to Korean banks is unacceptable.

You are the “other.” You will never fit in, in Korea. Being the novelty is fun for a couple weeks and then it gets a bit annoying. In places like Busan, where they’re a bit more rude to begin with, there is the assumption that you’ll do something wrong, like not stand up for an old person to take your seat. If you don’t conform to Korean staples of society they have a tendency to assume you hate it here. For instance, I bring my own lunch to school because I can’t do shellfish, which is in many of our school lunches. Due to this, over the past six months I have heard non-stop “I guess you don’t like Korean food.” I’ve even made Korean dishes to bring and it doesn’t matter. They’re always bowled over when I speak Korean or eat some offered rice cake. It’s one of the single most annoying things I’ve ever had to put up with. “Wait, you can read Korean?” “Yes. I’ve already displayed this 20 times, I went to Sogang University, and it’s like the easiest language to learn to read ever ARGGGGGHHHHHH” <<My brain.

The boredom. This is my single biggest con and the main reason I can’t do this job for another year. I spend around 3-4 hours every day sitting at my desk doing nothing. This is the time to “prepare” lessons, but I can do that in around 20-30 minutes. I have said since I was little that working an office job is not for me, I’m simply too bouncy. I thought teaching would keep me from boredom but alas, ’tis not so. I’m slowly being driven insane by the amount of desk-warming I have to do everyday. If you like to be doing things in your life, this is not the job for you.

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A beautiful fall scene featuring the tomb mounds of Gyeongju! Gyeongju was my favorite place in Korea.

The Future

I won’t be staying another year. Despite having only a few cons compared to so many wonderful things, I have too many opportunities and jobs I want to try over another year of desk-warming, banks, and bad kids. I’m an ice skater, and as I approach 24, my window to do something with skating is rapidly closing. When I taught at a skating camp directly before coming to Korea I discovered they have 2-8 month contracted show tours. They’re all over Europe or US theme parks. Some travel around the area, others stay put. All pay pretty reasonably. And they’re far more active. So I think that’s in my future.

Maybe I’ll come back after that, maybe I’ll finally make it to graduate school, I don’t know. I do think I’ve done a pretty good job of exploring what Korea has to offer. It’s not a large country and I’ve already seen a lot and plan to see more. I imagine that by the end of my contract I’ll be ready to move on. I am so glad to have done this. I’ve learned so much about myself and I blossomed into the type of person I’ve always wanted to be. I am truly living out my dreams. But the dream has changed a little.

I highly recommend this job. If you are fresh out of university and not sure what to go, but want to travel? Korea is a wonderful country and the pay is excellent. Everyone’s situation is a little different – If I had my countryside school all the time I might have a completely different view of whether I should stay another year or not. It’s worth a try.

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A scene on the Kdrama set in Suncheon

And that’s my experience Teaching with GOE in Korea so far! I’ll have future updates 😀

Check out my other posts on teaching in Korea:

Why Teach English in Korea

My Teaching Schedule in Korea

Programs Besides EPIK to Teach in Korea

GOE Orientation Experience

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