Monthly Archives: October 2012

I’m published on Verge!

vergeAs you may know, I will be writing for Verge Magazine as a guest blogger during my time in Korea. Verge promotes the idea of travel with purpose – they believe that changing the world for the better starts with gaining international experience in a meaningful way. To help people gain this experience, Verge publishes extensive resources on opportunities to study, work and volunteer abroad.

I am thrilled to say that my first blog entry has just been posted on their website under the “Globetrotters” category! I wrote this post a couple of weeks prior to my departure, while I was preparing myself mentally for the huge step I would soon be taking. This entry reflects on the decision I made, and explores why I chose to move to the other side of the world to begin this new adventure.

I’m very excited to have the opportunity to write for Verge, and I hope you will enjoy reading my blog series from Korea!!! Click on the link below to view my first entry.

Preparing to Teach English in Korea

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“Are you Asian?”

After arriving in Busan last Wednesday evening on basically no sleep, I somehow still managed to be up bright and early on Thursday morning to get ready for my first day of training at my new job! I rode to school with Jane, and spent the day observing Renee’s (the teacher I replaced) classes and meeting my new students and co-workers.

Off to school on my first day of work!!

I quickly discovered just how lively the school is! Though the kids may be small, they have quite the lungs on them! Needless to say, I don’t think there will ever be a dull moment at JM (or at least never a moment of silence!)

Building my school is in

I spent Thursday and Friday learning all about what I’ve gotten myself into for the next year! I’m happy to report that I think I made a pretty good decision, and I think I’ll be quite happy here! JM is a fairly small English school, with only about 70 current students. I have 3 Korean co-workers and one other foreign co-worker from the States who are all very nice and extremely helpful! If they aren’t helping me with lesson plans or giving me activities to do with my classes, they’re showing me around the neighbourhood or suggesting interesting tourist places for me to check out around Busan. Often, they even bring treats to school to share with me!! I don’t think I could ask for a better group of co-workers, especially when starting a brand new job in a foreign country!

My very own desk!

I start work at 10 every morning, and work until 6 p.m. on Mon, Wed, Fri, and only 4 p.m. on Tue and Thurs! I read at least one book to the kids every morning, and teach mostly phonics, math, and different components of English like sentence and paragraph writing, comprehension and vocabulary. Most of my classes use workbooks that have all the lessons in them for each subject, so I don’t actually have much planning to do! However, I have a bit more freedom with subjects like Art and Music, so I can come up with my own lesson plans or activities for those classes if I choose to, which is kind of nice!

After my first week of teaching, I am slowly settling into my role, and starting to figure out my schedule a bit more.

I get lunches like this everyday at school! Yum!

I’m starting to know which classroom I should be in, and which books the students use for each class. I think I even know almost all of my students’ names, which is a pretty big achievement for me! (I’m normally horrendous with names!) Regardless of how comfortable I may get and how routine my schedule may get, I have a feeling that every day of teaching here is going to be a brand new adventure! What more could I hope for?

In other news, I also moved into my new apartment on Sunday! I’m all unpacked now and settled into my very first home of my own! I guess moving all the way to Korea to live alone for the first time ever may have been a bit extreme, but I do love my place! It’s a small bachelor apartment, and is right around the corner from work, so I just have a quick walk to the school in the morning – very convenient! I’ve also put up about a million pictures on my walls, so I can feel close to home even while on the other side of the world!

My apartment building

And finally, here are some funny moments from my first week of teaching for your enjoyment:

During one of my orientation days last week, a few minutes after meeting me for the first time, one of my students asked me, “Are you Asian??” To which Renee replied, “Are you sure you can see clearly with your glasses? I think you need new ones!!!” The student, however, was apparently dead serious and wasn’t meaning for it to be a joke. Hahaha. This MUST mean I fit in here after all…..right?? 😉

While I was reading a story to one of the Kindergarten classes, one of the little girls who is probably about 3 in Canadian age (Korean children are always a year older because when you’re born here, you’re automatically one year old) walked over to me and started petting my face and feeling my skin for a few minutes as I continued to read. When I couldn’t ignore it anymore because it was making me laugh, I stopped and looked down at her. When she realized I had stopped reading, she gave me a big grin and giggled, as if she had been caught doing something she knows is strange. I couldn’t help but giggle too! It was probably the strangest, yet most adorable moment of the entire week!

Anytime I ask my students to teach me how to say a word or phrase in Korean, it almost always ends with me getting laughed at to varying degrees! They seem to think it’s the funniest thing ever to hear me try to speak Korean! I don’t blame them, though, because no matter how many times I try, I can’t seem to get it right. Unfortunately, this learning Korean thing isn’t quite as easy as I’d hoped! I do my best to make them laugh and want them to have fun at school, so if my worse-than-terrible Korean skills can do the trick, I’m willing to sacrifice myself for their enjoyment – at least for now! If my Korean ever improves, though, I’ll have to resort to finding some other form of comedy to make them happy. Phewf – good thing I’m covered for now! 😉

My apartment!

Street my school is on

Categories: South Korea, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

My first taste of Korean life

Wow! What can I say? My first few days of Korean life have been so surreal! I don’t know how else to describe it. Everything is so new, different, and exciting, yet I still can’t really believe it’s real. How is it possible that on Tuesday, I was living my normal Canadian life, and now, just a couple of days later, I’m on the other side of the world, eating kimchi for breakfast and teaching Korean children English!?!?! How crazy!

And yet, it doesn’t really seem all that weird to me. How can it be that I feel completely foreign and confused about where I am and what I’m doing in this strange land, while also feeling like I’ve been living here for years, and that eating rice for breakfast isn’t anything out of the ordinary? I have absolutely no idea, but I think I’m just going to roll with it! Maybe it hasn’t hit me yet. Maybe the culture shock I am bound to feel at some point is just lurking around the corner, waiting for me to let my guard down so it can pounce! Haha. I don’t know, but I guess I’ll have to wait and find out!

I think the hardest part of my journey here was actually saying my goodbyes at the airport. Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a big family person! Having never been away for a year before, I was a bit of an emotional wreck, (as I expected I would be!) especially after my sister presented me with a scrapbook of special messages and pictures from some of my closest friends and family for me to read when I am feeling homesick or lonely. Had I not already felt like crying, that book would have put me over the edge for sure! The flight, however, wasn’t as bad as I had imagined! Though I don’t think I slept much, the almost 14 hours on the plane to Seoul somehow still seemed to go by pretty quickly. I never once wanted to run screaming down the aisles, begging them to let me off the plane because I couldn’t take it anymore! This, of course, would have been a worst-case scenario, but I half-expected I would go a bit crazy, since I usually start to feel antsy and irritated on flights that are 5 hours or less!

After a quick layover in Seoul, I was boarding my second flight and final leg of the journey: to Busan and beyond!! Haha. The 40 minutes in the air from Seoul to Busan seemed like a breeze after spending over 13 hours in the air during the first leg! Coming into Busan, there was just enough light left to watch one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen – the sky was a bright orange colour across the entire horizon as the sun quickly dipped below. What a sight! Exhausted and feeling a bit numb, I made my way through the airport in Busan, praying that Jane, the director of the school I’ll be working for, wouldn’t forget about me. I had no idea how I would find her or how I would contact her if she never showed up (let alone how I would ever make my way to the school knowing basically zero Korean!) But I remember feeling eerily calm about this. I guess the exhaustion was doing a good job of numbing me! Haha.

However, there was no need to fear!! Shortly after I made my way through the Arrivals gate, a woman appeared in front of me, asking if I was Allison. I’m saved!!! Haha. Jane took very good care of me! She helped me load all my bags, drove me back to her house, where I stayed until Sunday, fed me some dinner, and showed me to my room to get some much needed sleep! Unfortunately, sleep was not on my side that night (or the next night…haha), but my adrenaline kept me running until the weekend.

Details about my first day of orientation/training at my new school will follow!

Categories: South Korea, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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