“I remember you were going to do this whole Korea thing a few years ago. What happened then?”
Here, I shall function as a cautionary tale. Three years ago I found a random recruiter through a Facebook ad. He promised everything would be sorted out and that, once I had all of my documentation, he would find me a job.
And then nothing.
I’ve still never heard back from the guy (but he follows me on Twitter, so… I don’t know), so it’s not like I missed out on anything.
What did I do wrong here?
1. I didn’t do any research.
This guy was looking for people for private schools (hagwons) rather than for public schools. I didn’t know the difference.
2. I wanted to go an easy route and skip out on the paperwork heavy process.
I now laugh at myself for that. How did I think that was possible? Seriously. So. Much. Paperwork. And so much waiting. And so much patience. And it’s necessary. I feel like an idiot just thinking about it.
3. I didn’t look at other recruiters. I didn’t look at all my options.
This should fall under answer 1, but it’s more serious than that. EPIK only uses certain recruiters. Many of these recruiters also hire for private schools/academies, or directly for MOEs/POEs. Some recruiters hire for other countries as well. This time around, I’m aware of my options, both job and country wise.
4. On a more personal note:
I don’t regret that going to Korea fell through for me all those years ago. In the time in between, I’ve grown up a lot. I was 21 the first time I tried this. I had a BA in English and no experience. I shudder at myself.
In the intervening time, my father died. Without going into too much detail, his death meant that I spent the last two years doing a fuckload of growing up. I had to learn what it means to earn my own money, how to spend it, how to save it, and how to live within my means. I learnt how to shop for groceries. And how to not cry when seeing the price at the till sometimes.
But in the intervening time, I finished my Honours. I worked at two places that have given me experience that I will need for teaching in Korea – Sparrow Consulting and TUKS. Both of those jobs, by the way, wrote me beautiful letters of recommendation, and without either, I doubt I’d have been granted an interview, let alone have been placed in the city I asked for.
So much of my work at Sparrows entailed ‘translating’ things into plain language that I learnt how to make myself very clear. I learnt how to think about the language level of my readers (hence, of my students) when I write (hence, speak).
And for my year at the Unit of Academic Literacy? I learnt how to teach. I learnt by making all the mistakes that one should not make. I learnt that teaching can be the most miserable job in the world, but also the most rewarding. I learnt that there is no shame in asking for help. I learnt that it’s perfectly reasonable to hate your job and yourself, but that there is help out there if you learn how to ask.
I can only imagine my 21 year old self in Korea. I can only imagine her sitting here now. I doubt she’d have been granted an interview. If she had, I doubt she’d have passed it. If, by some miracle, she had managed to get to Korea, she wouldn’t have coped. She’d have flown home.
So why didn’t this happen for me three years ago?
I was a child, and I needed to grow up. And now that I’ve grown up, I’m going for the right reasons. And with the right experience. And I will not fuck things up this time.