This is my fourth week as an English teacher at my two middle schools.
That first day feels incredibly far away.
So many changes.
I can feel myself growing stronger in many ways – stronger than I could possibly have grown at home, no matter how much I pushed myself within that bubble of my own community, my own culture, my own country. There really is no way to describe it. I never thought of myself as the type of person to do something like this – it was always for other people to do and me to read about, hear about, experience vicariously.
But (on the basis of my 1 month’s experience, which clearly makes me an expert)* I highly, highly recommend doing this type of thing. Maybe not Korea, maybe not teaching ESL, but in some way throwing yourself into the deep end, purposely and in the face of fear, just to force yourself to start swimming.
And I am seriously the last person that would normally advocate this – because, as I’ve sort of mentioned before, I’ve always lived a very safe life.
You don’t have to be outgoing. You don’t even have to be adventurous. You can be like me – a cautious, quiet, introverted person who hates thrill rides and the unknown – and you can still do this. So just in case someone stumbles upon this post and is saying to him/herself, “That’s all fine for her, but I could never do it” – yes, you can! If you have the interest or desire, even if it’s a battle between interest and fear, you can do it! I hate uncertainty and I came to live in a country where uncertainty is the only thing you can be certain of.
So if I can do it, you can do it. Trust me.
And it will change your life.
On a practical note, here are some of the things that have crept up on me in the last 4 weeks that are now completely normal (which would be completely abnormal for my past self back home):
- Kimchi is freaking delicious. It’s refreshing and not that spicy. It’s the perfect accompaniment to every Korean meal. Never for a minute did I think I would ever say these words. Also, pretty much everything my school cafeteria serves is amazing.
- My endurance for walking has increased immensely. I don’t like taking the bus because A) it’s intimidating (the buses here are a bit like the Knight Bus from Harry Potter… you’d better get on that thing quick, and once you’re on, it’s a wild ride) and B) I feel like it’s a waste when I can walk to my farther-away school in 20-25 minutes. Still, it’s a long way to walk on a cold morning or after a long day – but it’s gotten easier.
- My on-and-off, lukewarm-to-cold shower has become less of a dreaded event and more of an accepted inevitability. Best to just suck it up and get it over with! It’s just part of daily life now.
I guess all this just shows our ability as humans to adapt to almost any circumstance, provided there is some willingness to do so. Not that my situation here is a hardship by any means; I’m living quite comfortably as a whole, but it’s a pretty big contrast with what my life was like back in the States, nevertheless.
*Please understand my sarcasm here. I’m still a Korea noob. I have a lot to learn and I’m sure some of my thoughts on this experience will change over time, but this is how I feel for right now, and I really wanted to express that.