Why I’m Teaching English in Korea

As graduation draws nearer and nearer so the questions about what we will all be doing post-college grow more and more frequent. It’s salt on the wounds of those people who don’t know exactly what the next few years hold, it’s the moment that years of work for the people who can give a solid answer have waited for, and for those of us somewhere in the middle it can be quite funny at times. Because I have an answer, I just have absolutely no specifics to offer as a follow-up. And so the conversation often looks a bit like this.

Person: “So you’re graduating this semester right?”

Me: “Yep! Pretty exciting.”

Person: “So do you know what you’ll be doing next year?”

Me: “Yea actually, I’m moving to South Korea to teach English.”

 

At this point there’s about three ways the conversation can go. The person with whom I am speaking either;

1. Immediately asks about the unfriendly neighbor to the North,

2. Has a friend, relative, talked to one person one time who taught in Korea and loved it, or

3. Has very obvious confusion written across their face

But that’s a whole other topic for a whole other post.

The point is that no matter what the reaction the next question is almost always the same.

 

Person: “Why?!”

 

And that is what I’m going to try to articulate here. The answer to why I want to teach English in South Korea. The answer that I am always asked for but rarely given enough time to answer. This is why.

The foundation for why I am moving abroad is a very firm belief that there are many equally valid ways to live life and if I stay in the United States forever I will miss out on an opportunity to experience those. The more I learn about other countries and cultures the more thankful I am to be an American, but I think that the deepest level of patriotism requires an ever deeper understanding of why you are privileged to come from where you come from. I hold, very strongly, to my belief system but I’m becoming more aware everyday how much a product of my situation I am.

This true of every single person in the whole world, and it does not in any way invalidate what we believe, but it can narrow our perspectives on certain things. And the idea that I might miss an opportunity to love or understand someone because of some stereotype I hold by accident scares me. The world that we live in now is incredibly globalized and we come into contact with people of different cultures, races, and religions much more frequently than the previous generations. So I’m moving abroad in hopes that I will one day be able to understand my self in the context of the whole world not just in relation to what I have always known.

So if that’s the general reason, why South Korea? The answer to that is significantly less pretentious and weighty. Korean culture is just awesome. It’s fun and flashy and sweet and completely foreign to me in so many ways. The world can be divided into two groups of people; those who know what it means what you say, “what’s  your favorite drama?” (mine is Coffee Prince, although She Was Pretty is giving it a run for its money these days) and those who don’t. You can’t just dip your feet into Korean culture, once you start it’s addicting. And for me it began with Asian culture in general.

My roommate and one of my best friends in the world, is Chinese and the first close Asian friend I’d ever had. So for the first three years of college I had the privilege to learn bits and pieces about China from her and hang out with a lot of her friends who are predominately Chinese and Korean Americans. That’s how I discovered the entire subculture that is the Asian/American community. And I loved it. Then when I started to teach English I had students from all over Asia and it wasn’t long before I had stopped calling them my students and started calling them my friends. It was these friendships that made me realize how awesome teaching in Asia could be and because several of my really good Korean friends (주희, 한솔, 러키, 시은, 선경 사랑해) would be back in Korea, living in and around Seoul it seemed like a no-brainer.

The last, but not least (employers if you’re reading this it’s absolutely the #1 reason. Also, hire me please), reason is the opportunity to teach. Many people go to Asia to teach English as a way to fund travel with little concern for the profession. And it works and that’s awesome. But I’m committed to teaching English and it’s what I plan to do as a career for the rest of my life. And so what better place to start doing that than in a country that deeply respects it’s teachers, places an incredibly high value on English education and is generally curious and interested in American culture. For me, it seems like the perfect storm.

So there’s the answer that I always want to give but rarely have time to fully explain.

I hope this post finds you well. Comments appreciated. Have a lovely day!

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