Teaching in Korea; Buckle Up for the Emotional Roller Coaster

Teaching in Korea; Buckle Up for the Emotional Roller Coaster

by Christopher Kwarciany, Greenheart Travel Teach Abroad Participant in Korea

Teaching this past week was somewhat exhausting.  There was no particular reason.  It just felt like a very long week.  Luckily, Korea is a small country that is easy to travel.  This means plenty of opportunity for diversion.

A friend working in a different village about an hour away was able to visit this past weekend, a lifesaver after a long week.  On Saturday we, and other people he travelled with, went to the Andong Folk Mask and Dance Festival, one of the biggest festivals in Korea.  We also explored some of Andong (the city I live in), where we ran into many other foreign teachers that live in the area.  This of course led to lots of drinking Saturday night.  Sunday we went to the nearby Andong Folk Village.  My friend is an excellent photographer, so I let him take all the pictures.  Unfortunately that means I have none to share.  Other than having no pictures, it was a great weekend.

But here’s the thing about living in Korea, it’s an emotional roller coaster.  After my friend left, I suddenly felt sad that I did not have more Korean friends.  I thought how we visited all these fascinating places that are important to Korea, but as foreigners that do not speak the language we did not come close to knowing what was going on around us, let alone fully appreciating it.  I feel if I had more Korean friends, perhaps I’d better understand my surrounding and culture.  Not wanting to dwell on the negative, I tried to focus on the fun I had this weekend. Yet this made me terribly homesick for my friends back home!  So great things can easily turn bittersweet in Korea.

The roller coaster continued as I turned to teaching.  Sunday night, after my friend left, I needed to prepare a lesson for the next week. The week is a testing week, where students take mid-terms Tuesday through Friday.  I only needed to prepare for Monday.  Fortunately that is my best day.  Now I applied my American logic and figured it was mid-terms, the students are probably stressed out and want a break.  So I planned a fun lesson that I was really looking forward to presenting. Apparently Korean logic dictates studying trumps exhaustion.   I get to school, and one of my co-teachers informs me three of my classes are cancelled so students can study.   Excitement, then sudden disappointment, again.

This is fairly par for the course.  I, and any other foreign teacher in Korea that wishes to survive, accept this and move on.  But it is something to consider if you are planning to teach in Korea.  Be prepared for an emotional roller coaster!  As long as you can deal with the low points, I feel the high points are worth it.


Interested in teaching English in Korea? Learn more here!

5 thoughts on "Teaching in Korea; Buckle Up for the Emotional Roller Coaster"

  1. LaDonna says:

    Hi! I’ve been enjoying your blog! I’m completing a degree in June and have been giving some serious consideration to doing Greenheart’s program starting September of next year. The church organization I attend has churches in both Busan and Seoul, so I’m hoping to teach in either of those locations. One question I did have is about cost of living (food, etc.) and how much you are, realistically, able to save each month. Basically, I’m hoping to be able to pay off some of my accrued student loans, while at the same time immersing myself in another culture (I’m from Washington state).

    1. Hi LaDonna! I passed along your comment to Chris through email, and am hoping he can get back to you with answers to your questions. I can also connect you with our program manager as well to give you more specific on the program. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      1. LaDonna says:

        Hi! Thank you, I would appreciate it. I have been looking into the program online and it’s awesome reading these blogs on here 🙂

  2. Christy says:

    Korea can definitely be frustrating. I have only been here for about 2 months and I can see your frustrations perfectly. I have had classes canceled after spending a couple of hours in preparation for them for no apparent reason. That is just Korea though! It is definitely worth it in the long run!

  3. Eli says:

    Hey there. I’ve been offered a job in Andong, and am weighing the possibility of going there. My question is general, but what is it like? Do you recommend it?

    I taught previously in Thailand and had a great time. But I’m wondering if Korea might be a bit bland… What do you think?

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