Make Your Year in Korea Count Part 1

If there’s anything I’ve learned from the things life has thrown at me, it’s that people have their own reasons for making the choices they make. Moving to Korea as a foreign language teacher is no different; we’re all here for our own reasons, at varying stages in life, and with diverse intentions.

Korean Folk Dance, Buchaechum, Fan DanceHowever, it’s safe to say that most of us are looking for something. Maybe its travel and adventure, perhaps its financial stability, or it could be the chance to change lives through teaching English abroad.

Once you’re finally in Korea it’s easy let the newness, overwhelm, or the culture shock get to you, but it’s so important not to forget why you’re here in the first place. This is the first of two installments to help remind you that teaching in Korea will be one of the best years of your life; make it count! (Stay tuned for part 2 coming soon!)

1. Practice Your Hobbies

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: joining a club or taking up a hobby is the best thing you can do for yourself in Korea. It will help you meet people you wouldn’t otherwise meet, see places you might not know about from the tourism books, and help give you purpose when you’re in the throes of homesickness.

The second reason I think it’s vital to do something outside of teaching is because you’ll be able to develop other skills that will help you in the future; a future that may be lived outside of Korea.

2. Work towards short term goals

Something that’s helped me be sure to stay on track when I’m sucked into the Korean time warp (it exists, I swear) is to define a purpose for my time here. Maybe teaching is your calling, which is great! The reality is, though, that teaching isn’t what most of us will do for the rest of our lives. Make sure you go home with more skills that you came to Korea with.

It won’t be easy, but it will totally be worth it. Stay on top of what you want and where you want to be in a year by defining goals and objectives that you want to accomplish while you’re here. They don’t have to be big, hard, or even very serious. I personally have a bucket list of places I want to visit during my time in Korea.

3. Create a budget and have a plan

It might not always even out the way you hoped it would, but if saving is a priority for you then it’s important to have a plan from the beginning. I’ve met so many people who have no savings after a year in Korea, even when it’s entirely possible to save as much as $1,000 a month.

If you need to pay off student loans, backpack around Asia once your contract is up, or go home with a nice cushion, teaching English is one of the best ways to save up a good chunk of money, but only if you do it right.

4. Make Western friends, but also make Korean friends

Move to Korea, eat Korean food, hang out in Korean bars, and make Korean friends. Sounds easy enough, right? To be honest, it’s really not that simple. More often than not you’ll have to go out of your way to befriend teachers at your school, or even to make genuine friends outside of work. The divide can be pretty strong, especially because of the language barrier.

However, you’ll learn so much more about Korean culture from your Korean friends, (obviously). This is one of those tips that seem so easy and natural, but in actuality you really have to go out of your way to make it happen. Make this a priority… join a language exchange group or befriend other teachers your age. I promise you won’t regret putting in the extra effort.

5. Travel

Being a teacher can be lots of fun, but I promise that by the time your vacation rolls around, you’ll be ready for a break. My favorite thing about being in Asia is that there are so many countries and cultures to explore, and they’re all pretty close to each other.

Use that budget tip towards saving up for a nice vacation to somewhere truly awesome. You’ll come back to the new semester refreshed and ready to teach again, plus you’ll go home with way more unique experiences than you could have imagined. After all, as Michael Kors says, “Travel is the ultimate inspiration.”

What are you most excited about experiencing once you get to the land of the morning calm?


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