I’m back with an update from the boonies!
It’s officially been a month since I arrived in South Korea. To say a lot has happened since my arrival would be an understatement. It’s crazy to think about how much can happen in just a few weeks!
For the last two weeks of my life in South Korea, I’ve been trying to settle into my new home in Seocheon, a.ka. the boonies. Before I elaborate on what’s been going down in the boonies, I’ll tell you guys a bit about how I got there.
Getting to the boonies…
After the national orientation, I hopped on a bus with 12 other TaLK scholars who were placed in Chungnam (my province). The bus ride to the Chungnam Office of Education took about four hours from our orientation venue. Once we got to the office of education in Chungnam, we were lead into the room where our mentor teachers were waiting for us.
My mentor teacher wasn’t able to come, so a guy from the Seocheon Office of Education came to pick me up instead. When we were all dismissed from the room, we left with our respective mentor teacher.
I was nervous parting with my orientation friends. After two weeks of orientation with 180 TaLK scholars, I would finally be off on my own. The thought made me feel slightly queasy.
It took about an hour and a half to get to the elementary school where my actual mentor teacher was waiting for me. The car ride was rather awkward and felt longer than it actually was. Neither of us knew what to say, so we sat there silently, staring into the distance. About halfway to our destination, my temporary “mentor teacher” asked, “Do you like to listen to music?” I said, “Yeah!” as I nodded my head, waiting for the music to consume the awkward silence.
Once I agreed to music, he switched on an American rap song. Unfortunately, the music only seemed to exacerbate the awkwardness. Halfway through the rap song, he switched to a k-pop song. As the k-pop song ended, we sat in silence again the rest of the way there.
When we got to the elementary school, I met the vice principle and my actual mentor teacher. After some brief introductions and a quick tour, my mentor teacher drove me to my new home.
When I packed for South Korea, I didn’t consider the possibility that I would be living on the third floor of an apartment building with no elevator.
*Note to anyone moving to South Korea*: Most apartments don’t have elevators…so avoid packing 70+ pound suitcases like me.
Luckily, the day I moved in, I ran into another English teacher who lives in the same building. He kindly helped me carry all my extremely heavy luggage up three flights of stairs. Later that evening, he gave me a brief tour of Seocheon.
Living in the boonies isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. In fact, Seocheon is already starting to feel like home.
Although Seocheon is quite rural, it has (almost) everything I need. The only thing that sucks is there’s literally nothing fun to do here. Bars? Nope. Clubs? Nope. Movie theatre? Nope. Bowling? Nope. Shopping malls? Nope.
Most English teachers who live in Seocheon travel to Gunsan on the weekends for shopping and nightlife. Gunsan is about half an hour away and is the closest big city to Seocheon.
Seocheon is fairly small. I managed to figure out my way around town in just a few days. My apartment is in the central part of Seocheon, so most places are walking distance from me.
Since moving to Seocheon, I’ve met a lot of English teachers here. There are about eight English teachers who live in my town, which is kind of surprising considering how rural Seocheon is. But most of us who live here don’t actually teach in Seocheon. We teach in even more rural areas. For example, I teach in Hansan, which is a extremely rural town that’s about 25 minutes away by bus.
I’ve only hung out with the group of English teachers here twice. They’re all really nice and have been super helpful with answering all the questions I had since settling in.
It’s definitely strange going back to school as a teacher and not a student for the first time in my life. I’m still getting used to students calling me “Teacher Jasmine.”
Teaching has been an interesting experience so far. I have some adorable students who make teaching enjoyable, as well as some trouble makers who make me cry a little inside.
Since I don’t speak Korean or have a Korean co-teacher, classroom management has been difficult. My first-grade class is literally like a zoo. I don’t know how these kids have this much energy, but they do. I’ve struggled to get them to listen because they don’t understand much English yet.
I’ve recently implemented a point-based reward system to facilitate classroom management. I use the Classroom Dojo online system to keep track of points. Once students accumulate a certain amount of points, I give them a reward. This system works fairly well in some of my classes. However, one of my 1st graders started crying when she didn’t get a point…
The most difficult part of teaching so far is lesson planning. Since I only teach after school classes and not a curriculum, I’m allowed to teach anything I want. My first two weeks of teaching has been trial and error. It’s hard figuring out what the students already know. Sometimes the stuff I plan is too easy for them, sometimes it’s too hard. If it’s too easy, students won’t pay attention because they already know the material. If it’s too hard, students will give up and start chatting with their friends. I’m still struggling to find the happy medium.
Although I only teach for about 15 hours a week, I’m at school for a lot longer because of the bus times. When I’m not teaching, I just stay in my classroom to do lesson planning. Students will often come in during their breaks between class to say hi or attempt to talk to me in English. My younger students will just talk to me in Korean, even though I don’t understand any of it.
Thankfully, I’ve gotten along quite well with the other teachers and school staff. Most of them don’t speak much English, but there are a few who I can actually talk to. I’ve had some bonding time with them playing volleyball and at school dinners.
*Note* Volleyball is huge in Korea. If you’re teaching English here, there’s a good chance you’ll be asked to join the school volleyball team.
VLOG (apartment tour)