My Overseas Job: Teaching English in South Korea for 8 years

by Julia-Louise Missie
(New Brunswick, NJ)

I had always wanted to live overseas, and after graduate school teaching abroad was the next step. So, I decided for no particular reason to live in Korea. After all, it was only going to be for a year. Living in Korea at first was exciting, but not at all what I expected. It was harsh and eye opening in the different way of living and working. I thought I had made the biggest mistake of my life the first month I was there. I didn't' know the language, couldn't read signs, or know if I was buying simple items for cooking like salt or sugar. I ached for the familiar surroundings of home, my friends, my family, comfort in the everyday life of an American.

Choosing to live overseas is different from taking a trip or going for a short time, and I was committed to the decision I made to live in Korea no matter how much I missed walking through a shopping mall at home.

So much of me has changed since then. I have changed. Travel should never be familiar or routine. It is out of the ordinary that makes it so inviting. It is the hard parts of it that make it great.

Choose the uncomfortable part of a journey and it will change you forevermore.

Ed. Note: Isn't it amazing how perspective can change if you just give it a chance? I've been in that situation before. In fact, the first few weeks of what turned into a round-the-world journey I was utterly convinced I'd made a dreadful mistake but in this case, thank heaven for pride, because I was too proud to go back. Of course things turned around but for a moment there I was terribly unsure.

Even further back, years ago, I had been living in Canada when I was offered a job in Europe. I mean - who wouldn't, right? But after living a seedy hotel for a month (the job was in Geneva and there was a housing shortage, at least housing I could afford) I was aching to go back to my old job and friends and life. But I remembered my huge going away party, and pride was clearly going to play a role in my life because I certainly couldn't backtrack now.

Both times were life-changing events. If I had acted out of fear, I would have gone back and missed the amazing experiences I had as a result. I'm glad you didn't give into your homesickness and gave it a try. It sounds as though you too feel you made the right decision.

You might also find these stories interesting:
Teaching English in South Korea and Elsewhere
Teaching English in China
Teaching English Abroad

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Teaching Overseas
by: JoAnne Simson

Julia-Louise Missie, Wow, that's a long time teaching in a foreign country! Why did you decide to stay for so long? What did you learn there? Are you back yet? What did THAT feel like?

I taught in South Korea for two years, on American military bases. It is a fascinating country with a tragic history. I'm currently writing a book on that stay, which will focus on the country and its past.

My travel blog is Solo Women at Home and Abroad

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