The Cautionary Tale of Heather Shambles and How She Fucked Things Up

Unlike Dug, I deserved the cone of shame.

“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.


6 thoughts on “The Cautionary Tale of Heather Shambles and How She Fucked Things Up

  1. Nice post! I think sometimes we don’t realize how immature we are until we grow up a bit. Everything happens for a reason and even if we don’t understand why that is, it helps us grow more. I look forward to meeting you in Seoul!


  2. god this is comforting. i tried to do the korea thing in may 10 after graduating with undergrad as well, but if i’m completely honest i wouldn’t have been able to handle it, for many shared reasons–i didn’t want to research, for one, i had no experience, finances…and also just because i had a lot of growing up to do. there’s no way i could have managed myself in another country back then. i’m excited to meet you soon–it seems like we have much to discuss 🙂


    • I’m excited to meet you too! I hadn’t heard any similar stories from anyone else in our intake before now. I think a tiny part of me posted this hoping that I’d get a reply like this, just so I’d know I wasn’t the only one who needed to do a bit of growing up first 😛


      • i’m really glad you did. i appreciate you being so open, because i’ve been wondering if i’m the only one who’s been, you know, experiencing this line of thoughts/feelings/experiences. i’m really glad to know that the person i can relate to in that vein is also brave enough to be open about it 🙂


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