Monday, February 18, 2013

Advice for newcomers to Korea from Cheorwon veterans

EPIK teachers come and go every 6 months due to how our contracts are set up. Teachers either get contracted from February to February or August to August, so the time has come to say goodbye for those who are leaving. This time's an especially big exodus, for no less than 4 of us in Cheorwon (plus 2 from nearby towns of Gwanin and Uncheon) will be leaving. Dongsong in particular is losing 3 teachers; all two year veterans at that.

I asked the departing members of the Cheorwon Crew what wisdom they'd like to pass on to the newcomers. Coming to a foreign country to begin a job's a big undertaking, so I hope this advice helps...
  • Say yes to everything. Yes, this includes the 3rd round at the noraebang or doing extra work for classes. The first six months aren't the time to get finicky about contractual clauses. Saying "yes" is how you gain face and build relationships here. All of the things you do will pay off down the road. Nina writes, "Sometimes it's really awkward to go out of your comfort zone, or you're tired or whatever, but now is the time to do it. You arrive not knowing anyone and having all those crazy weird experiences in the beginning help you build lifelong friendships."
  • Coming here to save money is great, but don't over-analyze expenses. Our salaries do quite well in covering utilities and day to day living expenses. Not only that, but Korea offers many cheap opportunities for fun. My dad's fond of saying, "Work hard, but don't kill yourself." Nina echoed this idea by saying "you are in traveled halfway around the world, so go out and have fun!" 
  • Talk to the kids outside of school. Get to know your students outside of class as much as possible. Esther mentions that she enjoyed going on trips with her students because she saw them outside the classroom. They weren't following a script and freer with their conversation, so their personalities could come through better.
  • Remember the excitement of the first week. The land will be strange and you most likely won't know any Korean, but fear not: It gets better. In time you will become more familiar with your surroundings. Those crazy Korean letters will become understandable after a time as well. 
Good luck!

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