Em in Asia!

My Experiences Living and Teaching in South Korea



The new semester started today and I — didn’t teach. Eh, I shouldn’t be surprised really, the schedule’s always strange for the first few weeks, but I’m always very excited to see my students, and I’m significantly less excited to spend eight or nine hours sitting at my desk with no real work to do. I was so proud of myself for finishing both of my lesson plans for the week by six pm yesterday, and it looks like I didn’t have to bother.

As always, things change. Some of the students I’m teaching have changed. Some of the ones that I taught last year have changed (puberty/style). We have transfers and sickness, diets and surgery, and the ever popular “serious male student” style – shaved heads. The teachers have also changed. Some retired, and some have just moved to different offices. Unfortunately, my two favorite teachers (one of which being my rockstar coteacher) in my office have moved to other offices, but on the plus side the teacher now sitting next to me is the one who spends his time pouring over maps. He already likes me, so maybe if my Korean improves and I continue being nice he’ll take me on a treasure hunt.

It’s strange, being back at school, knowing that this is my last first day of high school. I’ve now spent almost seven years at high school, longer than most sane people wish to, and being a teacher has really made me remember and appreciate the changes I went through during high school. I went from being a bright but not diligent, shy but energetic, pretty naive kid to… well, me. Emily teacher. I wouldn’t say that I’m quite the same as my teaching persona, but everyday I get closer, and I’m alright with that.

Compounding these feelings of changes is the fact that on Friday I turn twenty-five. I remember joking when I turned twenty-one that that was the last birthday to celebrate, the last big milestone, until twenty-five, when you could legally rent a car. Now that I’m actually almost at twenty-five, I find myself very much at peace with that age. You see, in Korea they use a lunar calendar and consider your year of birth your first year, so I’ve been considered twenty-five for the better part of a year. Twenty-five seems like a good year for me… time to settle down, stop having so many existential crises about My Purpose After College, to really come into my own as an adult in her mid-twenties. Let’s face it, the early-twenties suck.

This year is going to be a year of changes. I’m going to be uprooted from my home for the last year and a half, and the country that I’ve lived in for the last two and a half years. All of the friends and relationships I’ve made with students, coworkers, friends, and other foreign teachers, will become harder to maintain. That all starts tomorrow – the final semester at my school, the last push to take the Korean proficiency exam, job applications. Today I’m just sitting at my desk, marveling at where I am now and wondering where I’ll be next year, after my seventh year of high school is finally finished.

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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.