Em in Asia!

My Experiences Living and Teaching in South Korea

Off the Grid


Don’t worry everyone (family + spambots), you haven’t been missing my blog updates, I just haven’t been writing them. It’s a combination of travel-filled vacation time, taking an intensive Korean course, and having either a sprained wrist or tendonitis (I’m not sure which). Also the things I find myself most wanting to write about are Korean culture or school, and up until just recently (with my Korean language courses) I haven’t been experiencing that as I’ve been traveling with American friends.

To give you a quick summary, I went to China for 20 days with my friends Felicia and Amy, then came back and taught a winter camp for a week. After that I went to Busan (the San Fransisco of Korea, an absolutely gorgeous south-western coastal city) for a little less than a week. After that I spent the weekend in Seoul, went back to Y for a few days, had a tea party with my friend Joelle in Hongseong, and then came back to Goesan for an intensive Korean language class named CLEA (Critical Language Enhancement Award) where I’ve had class for 6 days a week, 6 hours a day, and not really been sleeping. This language class ends in 8 days, and then I go back to SGHS for my 2nd semester teaching, which I’m excited about but also nervous.

China in a nutshell: Amazing, but really really cold. I went to Beijing, Shanghai, Luyoung, Kaifeng, Xi’an and Chengdu. In Beijing I saw the Forbidden City, Great Wall, Sun Temple as well as other things, in Shanghai I did some shopping and saw the Bund, in Luyoung I saw this amazing place called “Longmen Grotto” which is an area filled with miniature caves much like Cappadocia in Turkey, except the caves are cut into and there are 10,000 Buddha images of ranging sizes all over the caves. In Chengdu we saw pandas! Xi’an we saw the terracotta warriors, and in Kaifeng there was a really amazing night market. Traveling in China was so different than traveling in Korea… Korea is so small that there isn’t a SINGLE night train with sleeper cars! China is so large that we only took night trains, or flew. Knowing the language while traveling makes a huge difference! It became very tiring to try to travel in China because we couldn’t speak, read or write, and we couldn’t even copy down things to show other people, because the script was so hard to duplicate. Basically, while I would highly recommend China for anyone to travel around, I would choose to live in South Korea over China in a heartbeat. Traveling really made me appreciate how much I’ve grown to love South Korea.

In the same vein, I did decide to apply to stay in South Korea for another year. I’m enjoying teaching but I’m also really invested in learning Korean language, and enjoying the culture. My biggest regret with Turkey is that I didn’t get involved enough with the culture and I didn’t stay for a full year… 6 months was just too short. F*bright is really an amazing opportunity, and I feel like a year’s too short of a time in Korea. I’m still dealing with some culture shock and I feel that it’d be a little bit of a letdown to finally adapt and then leave. I’m not sure if I’ll stay at my school or go somewhere else, but I’m excited for next year.

As this blog post was supposed to be a short study break and turned into a long one, I must go, but expect more entries the first week of March when I’m back at school.

화이팅! 사랑해요!

posted under Travel
2 Comments to

“Off the Grid”

  1. Avatar February 21st, 2011 at 8:18 am Elisa Says:

    wow – what a trip! It’s great you’ve had so much time to travel (although I’m sure it feels too short). And congrats on staying a 2nd year … good for you! Other than the language, did the culture/people in China seem really different from in Korea? I’m curious what you thought. sorry for such a broad question though.

    Hope you’re doing well!

  2. Avatar March 3rd, 2011 at 1:47 pm epotosky Says:

    Hi Elisa!

    The culture did seem really different actually. Though China seems to have both more ethnic diversity and more tourism than Korea, I get stared at a lot more. I think it’s that it’s a lot less rude to stare, but it was really off-putting and made me feel very freakish at times. Also Korea is a lot more foreigner friendly, both the script (which is easier to copy down, and also almost everything that’s touristy or government-related is labeled in both English and Korean) and Korean people in my experience are way more willing to help you if you don’t know where you’re going… but that could just be because I can speak some Korean. Also Chinese people seem to be much more patriotic… there was at least one statue of Mao in every city that we visited, and the color red is everywhere. Korea is also very patriotic and has a lot of nationalistic pride, but not quite to the same extent that China has. Last, the major Korean cities in comparision to major Chinese cities, seem to be more Western. There’s a push in Korea to westernize and so there are Starbucks and bakeries everywhere, where those are less common in China. In the countryside in Korea it’s definitely not like that, but in Seoul, Daegu, Busan etc it seems to be that way.

    Now I’m back in Yesan!

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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.