How to know you’re getting Koreanized:
- You incorporate this squiggly line at the end of your text messages ~
- You use cute emoticons like this ^^ when texting.
- You feel incomplete if you don’t have soup with your meal.
- You have a steadily growing face mask collection.
- You instinctively bow to everyone you meet.
- You brush your teeth after every meal, even at school.
- You pose with either a peace sign or the small heart symbol.
- You’re used to being pushed around by the ajummas at the bus stop.
- You don’t consider it a night out unless you’ve had soju.
- You don’t get fazed by seeing toilet paper rolls used as napkins.
I’m now halfway through my six-month TaLK contract. Life has been so hectic, I almost lost track of how long I’ve been here…But since I’m at the halfway point, I thought I would share with you guys my experience thus far.
Now that I’ve built rapport and developed a routine with my students, teaching is more enjoyable. I’ve come to adore most of my students. I say “most”, because I have a few extremely obnoxious first-grade boys who still push my buttons every week. But aside from a few pesky kids, the rest of them are wonderful.
When I first started teaching, I knew I would struggle with remembering all my students’ names. Since I’m horrible with names, memorizing 60+ similar Korean names has been a real challenge. After about two and half months of teaching, I sadly only know the names of the really good kids and the really bad kids. I’m still working on remembering the names of the quiet ones who don’t speak up much in class…Ideally, I’d like to know all of their names before my contract ends.
Recently, I had to do my very first open class. An open class is where you open up your classroom for parents, teachers, and administrators to come and observe. I chose to do my open class with my third graders because they’re extremely smart, and the class size works well for most activities. The principle, vice principle, third-grade homeroom teacher, school nurse, and two people from the Seocheon office of education came to watch. All the activities I planned worked out well, and my students actively participated the whole time. I felt so relieved to have heard positive feedback after I finished.
Classroom management has gotten easier since I first started teaching. As I mentioned in my previous post about teaching, I’ve been using an online point-based reward system called Class Dojo to facilitate classroom management. This system has been working well! I use it for all my classes except Kindergarten. I award points to students for volunteering and winning games. Once they’ve reached a certain number of points, I allow them to change their online avatar and award them with sweets. This reward system has definitely increased class participation. Students get super competitive! The only downside is I’ve had a few sensitive students cry because they didn’t get a point…
During breaks, some students drop by my classroom to say “hi” or to hang out. I have two students who regularly come to talk to me.
One of them is a fourth-grader named Su Jeong. Although she doesn’t speak English well, she always comes to visit. To be honest, I’m not sure what any of our conversations are about. She normally speaks to me in Korean with bits and pieces of English thrown in. I then guess what she’s trying to say and respond with something in English. In the end, I don’t think either of us knows what the other one is saying…. But at least we try, right? I admire how fearless she is with using English, even though she’s not the best at it.
The other one who often visits me is a first grader named Ha Neul. Since she just started learning English last year, her English vocabulary consists of the alphabet, shapes, colors, numbers, animals, and random words. Last week, I taught my students Halloween vocabulary. So today, she came to my class and said to me, “Vampire! Zombie!” Another time she came in and said, “cat, dog, chicken.” Then she left and came back a minute later to say, “g, l, pig.” I can’t get over how adorable our random conversations are.
Overall, I’m enjoying teaching here. It definitely pushes me out of my comfort zone, and I love that about it.
What my school day looks like on Mondays:
8:30 a.m. – Wake up, get ready, and eat breakfast.
9:30 a.m. – Walk to the bus stop. (5-minute walk)
9:40 a.m. – Catch the bus to school. (30-minute bus ride)
10:10 a.m. – Arrive at school. Greet the principle and vice principle.
10:50-11:30 a.m. – Teach my first class. (kindergarten)
12:17 p.m. – Head to lunch. Eat lunch silently for about 20 minutes. (Since I can’t speak Korean to my coworkers, I normally just zone off during lunch…)
1:10-1:50 p.m. – Teach my second class. (second grade)
2:00-2:40 p.m. – Teach my third class. (third grade)
2:50-3:30 p.m. – Language exchange with the school nurse.
3:40 p.m. – Catch the bus back to Seocheon.
4:10-11 p.m. – Nap, eat dinner, study Korean, lesson plan, etc.
My teaching schedule is different every day. Tuesdays and Fridays are my short days, while Wednesdays and Thursdays are my long days.
Since coming to South Korea, I’ve spent countless hours on buses and trains. I like to explore somewhere new every weekend. So far, I’ve been to:
Daegu, Andong, Busan, Seocheon, Gunsan, Jeonju, Muju, Seoul, Jinju, Namhae, Sokcho, Buyeo, Gongju
Traveling around South Korea is relatively cheap. The public transportation system here is great, especially if you live in the city. But since I live in the boonies, it can be a hassle traveling far because of the limited buses and trains that stop in my town. I have to plan my trips around the bus and train schedule.
There are also various tour groups that plan trips around South Korea almost every weekend. I’ve joined two trips with a tour group called BangawoYo. Each trip generally costs around $70-80 and includes some meals and a night of lodging. These trips are a great way to travel because you don’t have to plan as much.
My travel vlogs:
My Korean is not as good as I hoped it would be by now. Lately, I’ve been trying to study Korean more consistently. I would like to be able to hold a conversation within a year.
Here are ways I’ve been learning Korean:
- Language exchange every Mondays and Tuesdays with the nurse at my school
- (We’re currently practicing the dialogues in this Real-Life Conversation E-Book.)
- Language exchange in Gunsan (I’ve only been once, but I’m planning to go more often.)
- Talk To Me in Korean Grammar Textbook Level 1
- Survival Korean Book
- Free online Learn to Speak Korean 1 course by Yonsei University
- Eggbun app – language learning app
- HelloTalk – language exchange app
- Tinder – using it as a language exchange app…
During my first two months in South Korea, I was mostly concerned with learning survival Korean phrases. But now, I’m trying to concentrate on learning Korean grammar so I have a solid foundation to build upon.
To sum it up, my Korean still sucks, but it’s improving. I can proudly say I definitely know more Korean than I did three months ago.
Before coming to South Korea, I was worried about the prospect of making new friends. Luckily though, making new friends here has turned out to be way easier than I thought. I’ve also made best friends along the way. My besties here are like my sisters now.
But anyways, making foreigner friends is extremely easy here because there’s a huge expat community. If you’re in a big city, it won’t take long before you make new friends.
How I’ve made new friends:
- TaLK orientation
- Meeting other English teachers in my town
- Tour group trips
- Hanging around “the playground” in Hongdae (Seoul)
- Tinder (^^;)
- Language exchange
Once you move into your new town or city, it should be fairly easy to connect with the other English teachers who live there. Before I even got to Seocheon, I was added to the local English teacher Facebook group. It’s definitely nice to have friends who live in the same town.
Tour group trips are great for making new friends! I’ve made several friends on the two trips I’ve been on. The only bummer is most of the friends I’ve made on these trips live in Seoul, which is quite far from me right now. I’ve found that the majority of people who attend these trips are English teachers. This makes it easy to connect because there’s already a common bond.
If you live in Seoul, I think the best place to make new friends is the playground. The playground is where many foreigners and Koreans chill and mingle with each other. Everybody who hangs out around there is generally friendly and open to talking. After 10 minutes of sitting there by myself one night, I ended up with several new friends.
While Tinder is known to be a “hook-up” app in the United States, Tinder in South Korea is a bit different. A lot of Koreans use Tinder for language exchange purposes, so it can be a good way to make new friends. I’ve also made new friends through my Tinder acquaintances.
Another great way to make new friends is by going to language exchange meetups. I didn’t list that on my list because I’ve only been once. But I know numerous people who have made friends through these.
Most of my friends here are foreign English teachers. I do have some Korean friends, but they’re mostly male… I’ve found that it’s harder to make female Korean friends.
Where do I even start with this? If you’ve been following my blog the last couple of weeks, you probably already know the dismal state of my current love life. Dating in Korea has been a strange experience, to say the least.
Here are the links to my Korean dating stories if you haven’t read them yet:
To update you guys on my love life, I’m no longer talking to “Sean“, a.k.a. soulmate or creepy ass stalker dude. He vanished out of my life as fast as he came in it.
I haven’t had the greatest experience with dating Korean guys. The one commonality I’ve noticed with all the Korean guys I’ve “dated” here is that they’re very quick in expressing their feelings to you. They will make it seem like they’re madly in love with you to get you into bed. Before you get mad and say, “NOT ALL KOREAN GUYS ARE LIKE THAT!”, I know. I’m just saying the ones I’ve encountered have been like that.
In the U.S., it was easier for me to spot the guys who wanted to “hook up”. But in Korea, it’s hard to tell… The guys who I thought wanted something serious ended up only wanting a “foreigner fling”. Some Korean guys are definitely masterful at hiding their intentions… (Again, not ALL Korean guys are like this obviously. I’m sure there are some sweet ones out there.)
For the next three months of my TaLK contract, I plan to study Korean more and to work on finding a new job up in Seoul. I finished my online 120-hour TEFL course last week, so I can start applying to new teaching jobs now.
Although the TaLK program is continuing, I’ve decided not to extend my contract because I want to get out of the boonies… Since I’ve spent almost all my life living in the boonies, I think it’s time for me to move to a big city. I’ve been going up to Seoul a lot lately, and I’ve fallen in love with it. I’m excited about the prospect of moving there next year!