I received an email today from a You Tube viewer who is soon heading to South Korea to be a teacher. They asked me some questions about getting prepared for their big move. Obviously there are so many things one can do to prepare in advance of such a life-changing endeavor.
The question I liked was along the lines of, “Looking back on your time in Korea, what would you have done differently?” That is a great question. It immediately got me thinking about some of the bad choices I made so many years ago when I first went abroad to teach.
Now, I have of course made some great choices over the years, but I had had my fair share of “bad calls.” Writing this post in 2012, I am a dedicated and hard working teacher. I love what I do and really feel that I’m good at it. I take what I do seriously and love helping others who hope to become teachers or current teachers who wish to become better ones.
In 2002 I wasn’t the teacher I am now. I wasn’t even the same person I am now.
Let’s just jump into a short list of some things I would have done differently during my first year in South Korea:
Taken my job more seriously! I know for a fact that I wasn’t a very hard worker and didn’t really care much about my teaching. I was having an “adventure” in Korea. I was drinking and having a yearlong party. I was the type of “teacher” who annoys the Hell out of me now. I was the sort of teacher that in my current position in 2012, I would probably fire!
I wouldn’t have partied so much. I was so excited to be so far away from everything I knew. I was having too much fun in bars, pubs and clubs with other like-minded “party animal” teachers. As I look back on those days, I lament all of the amazing things I could have or should have done while in Korea. I was too busy going out and drinking beer to travel extensively or really learn about my host country.
I would have avoided the “human train wrecks.” I associated with too many people who were out of control. I met too many teachers who simply went overboard and felt that there were no boundaries for them. I was hanging around with men and women who drank too much, got into fights and generally gave foreigners in Korea a bad name. I wish I hadn’t spent any time with people like that.
I wish I had traveled more. I lived in three different cities in Korea and explored them extensively, but really wish I had spent more time exploring the more rural areas of Korea and the culture they had to offer.
I wish I liked seafood back then. I like seafood now. I didn’t eat it in 2002. Now that I think about it, I missed so many amazing culinary experiences. Korea has amazing food and I should have eaten more of it.
I wish I spent more time becoming a better teacher. I wish I had taken the time to learn about being a better teacher. I taught some great kids during my first year in Korea and I wished I had done a better job educating them.
Now of course I had many wonderful experiences in Korea during that first year. I went on to spend five years in total there. In the end, I made more good decisions than bad ones.
If Korea or Japan is the place you want to go, there are countless ways to research them these days. Spend time on blogs and watching vlogs. Take your time though. It’s never a good idea to rush into anything and remember, try to do things the “right” way!