Em in Asia!

My Experiences Living and Teaching in South Korea



Compared to many of the other ETAs I’m relatively isolated, or at the very least it feels that way. I’m definitely not as isolated as Megan up in North Korea (just kidding parents, she’s just relatively close), nor as isolated as some of the ETAs that are further south, but relatively speaking I’m isolated. I’m the only F*lbrighter in my county, there’s Joelle who is one county over and 20 minutes away by bus but after that it’s Sam who’s 40 minutes, Katie who’s… something, I’m not sure (she’s more rural than I am and her bus system’s a little wonky – haven’t attempted that trip yet) and everyone else is an hour away or more. I try to keep it in perspective by reasoning that for many of the city ETAs who are technically near each other it can take up to an hour for them to meet because they’re on opposite ends of the city. However the city ETAs seem to have a “crew” if you will, and seem hang out together rather frequently, or at least once during the week. Maybe it’s because I’m in a rural location but we here in Chungnam don’t seem to a crew. Even though I’m only an hour from Cheonan, which again is about the same amount of time it takes many city ETAs to meet, we don’t have weekly Cheonan meetings. I’m not bringing this up to complain, just to state a fact that during the week I don’t see people. Joelle and I are trying to change that and make a once a week coffee sanity date, but thus far it hasn’t worked too well. I do end up seeing people on the weekends a fair amount because I travel, but it’s these long weekdays that are difficult. I’m really lucky in that I really like everyone that’s placed close to me, however they’re a little difficult to get to. When I have a really rough day at school due to either students misbehaving, or a cultural misunderstanding, it’s sometimes difficult coming back to my apartment and knowing that I don’t really have a “crew” that knows what I’m dealing with in terms of students, or understands my American perspective, that I can call to meet up and decompress. I just have to either be content with videochat/email/gchat etc, theoretically (I haven’t done this yet – too long of a trip to make on impulse) check and see if Joelle or Sam are free and navigate the rural bus system (i.e. sometimes the buses don’t. freaking. come. I hate the 7:20 Y-H bus. Also buses don’t run very late… I’d have to leave Sam’s place at 9 at the latest, and Joelle’s at just after 10) or just suck it up. I’ve never been good at isolation, I’ve always been a people-person, so this is a very good experience for me. A difficult one, but a good one.

What this does mean is that I value my time with people more, and I see people I probably wouldn’t otherwise. If I had a crew I’d probably stick with them at least a little bit (it’s easier to stay within your city than to go to another one, right)? As practically everyone is an hour away from me that means that it’s almost as easy to go meet people across the country as it is to go to Cheonan (the largest city near me).

So what am I doing this Friday night? I’m going to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night with Joelle the rural way – Instead of partying under big city lights, or meeting up with my crew, I made chocolate chip cookies and we’re going to pop “V for Vendetta” into Joelle’s laptop and chill. And honestly? I’m really, really excited.

posted under Rural
4 Comments to


  1. Avatar November 6th, 2010 at 3:50 pm Elisa Says:

    I know what you mean! When I was abroad there were other people from my program in my city, but I wasn’t very close to any of them, and on weekends I usually felt pretty isolated. But it sounds like you’re much more isolated than that … it’s hard not to have people to talk to. But on the plus side, a 20-minute bus ride isn’t too bad! I’m taking the bus to the metro station every day now, which is about 15 minutes, plus then a 45-min Metro ride to work.

    Anyway, yay for blogs because I love reading about what everything’s like for you there! The school sounds really intense. How do you like teaching so far? Miss you, hope you’re doing well!

  2. Avatar November 7th, 2010 at 9:15 am epotosky Says:

    Oh my God Elisa you just made my day, thank you for proving to me that there is someone out there that reads my blog. I just had a really rough day and it’s nice to know that there’s someone checking up on me. I basically just got home (it’s 10 pm on a Sunday) and need to start/finish my lesson plan so I’ll update you on my life later, but thank you thank you thank you.

    I love teaching, I swear.

    Miss you too!

  3. Avatar November 25th, 2010 at 5:36 pm Kate Mulvey Says:

    I’m going to prove that there are at least two people that read your blog. I am considering a move out to your area and wonder what your impressions of the campus are. I’ve heard that it is isolated, but beyond that not much. I have read a few reviews of the JWU campus and they were not good! Can you give me any positive feedback about teaching there? I’d love to hear what someone who is there thinks of the campus, the people, the housing or anything you can tell me.

  4. Avatar November 26th, 2010 at 7:56 am epotosky Says:

    I actually don’t live at JWU (double checking by JWU you mean Jungwon University in Goesan, Korea, not Johnson & Wales University right?) anymore, I now live in Yesan which is about 2 or so hours west of JWU. However I did live there for 6 weeks this summer, and I am going back for a month in February for a language class. As for faculty I have no idea because I didn’t take any classes through the school (my F*bright orientation was there so I took classes through that program). The campus is gorgeous, and the housing is really nice, but you’re right it is very isolated. It’s located in Goesan which is a very small town, but there’s a bus station and you can get to Cheongju (a fairly large city) within 1 hour and Seoul within 2. Also the students are really really nice ^^.

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안녕하세요! My name is Emily and when I started this blog I had received a 2010 – 2011 F*lbright grant to teach English in South Korea.  I then decided to apply to renew my grant, so I am now staying in Korea until July 2012. This blog is not an official F*lbright Program blog, and the views expressed are my own and not those of the F*lbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.

I graduated from the University of Mary Washington with a degree in Philosophy Pre-Law and Classical Civilizations, and found myself 3 months later teaching English at SGHS. The town that I taught in, SG, is a small town of 12,000 people, an “읍” (eup) rather than a “시” (shi – city), and though it was sometimes hard teaching in such a small town I really enjoyed the unique experience of being the first foreign teacher SGHS had ever had. I lived in the largest part of the county which is significantly bigger (40,000 people) than the town the school is situated in, but is also considered rural by Korean standards.

During my second grant period (2011-2012) I decided to change schools and I currently teach at CPHS which is located in an even smaller town than previously, in Jeollanamdo.

This blog is meant to serve as a reflection not only of being a Native English Speaking teacher in Korea, but also of living as a foreigner in rural Korea.