On To My Seventh Year in South Korea
(A Personal Essay)
This year (2019) marks my seventh year here in South Korea. I am forever grateful to God for this opportunity, to Gyeoungju University where I taught in 2013, and to Hanseo University where I have been teaching since 2014.
When I decided to accept a job offer from a university here in South Korean way back in 2013, I was ready mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually – and of course professionally. I majored in English and I am licensed teacher. I didn’t come here not knowing what to expect and what to do.
I calculated the benefits I and my family would get from my being employed here (in South Korea) and weighed them against the challenges and sacrifices I need to face and make. There’s no measuring scale to determine if getting all those benefits was worth all the difficulties and hardships I could be contending with and the fact that I would be away from the warm embrace of my wife and son.
Some of my friends and loved ones considered my move as risky personally and professionally. I had a flourishing career as a school administrator and I might start from scratch again should my working in South Korea not turn out well.
I was aware of such risks but I know how to play my cards well. What I consider as my strongest suits are my strong faith in myself and in God. I fully know what I am capable of doing and I know how amazing is God’s grace. I never doubted my abilities, more so His grace.
What made my resolve to work here strong (aside from the personal reasons I mentioned in an essay where I explained why I decided to work in this country) was when I read the contract sent to me after passing the interview. It indicated a working period that is approximately 60% less than what is required in the Philippines yet the pay is (approximately) 300% higher than my pay at that time. More than the salary though was the difference in the number of hours that I would be required to render work – 12 hours of teaching and 4 hours of office. I could use the extra 24 hours (on top of the weekend) to pursue my other interest – writing.
But the downside was – I was not used to being away from my loved ones. I was not used to not seeing my wife and my son for a very long period of time. I also couldn’t cook and I hated doing the laundry and cleaning the house.
I was also told that homesickness and boredom could kill me.
But the die has been cast. My resignation as principal of that school at that time was irrevocable and so was my decision to pursue a teaching career overseas. Even the tears of my wife could not drown my resolve to accept the job offer of Gyeongju university.
And here I am… on to my seventh year as an ESL teacher here in South Korea. There’s no trace of regrets whatsoever for the decision that I made in 2013 to come over. I can say that I have gained tremendous personal and professional growth since that time. True enough I was able to use the spare time to write not only stories, poems, and essays but research works as well. I had the studies I conducted presented in international conferences and published in “indexed” journals.
Now I am maintaining two websites – Hardpen’s Portfolio and Mukahang Poet – where I publish my works in both English and Filipino. Had I not worked here, I doubt if I could have written those studies I completed and created and maintained my two websites.
I also learned to cook and I have no choice but do my own laundry and house cleaning.
What about homesickness and boredom?
I am too busy with my work and my writings that I could not find time to be bored. And when I am not working or writing, I either go to the gym or hike in the mountain or watch movies and NBA games.
And why would I feel homesick when upon waking up in the morning I would call my wife, either through Facebook messenger or Skype, and we talk all day and night when I am not busy working and during weekends. Even if we have nothing more to talk about we don’t end the video chat. That way I could see her and my son moving around our home while I also do what I ought to be doing. I could hear them talking, my dogs barking, and our neighbors’ roosters crowing and hens clucking. Hearing all the sounds in our neighborhood that I got accustomed to make me feel as if I’m home.
Consider this – we have approximately a total of 5 months off between the two semesters. That allows me to visit my family in the Philippines after every 4 months and two weeks and stay with them for at least 40 days. I just have to make sure that I would be able to attend the spring and fall commencement exercises. We’re paid for 12 months in a year which means that even during semestral breaks we receive salaries. That’s a huge blessing.
For those considering ESL teaching in countries like South Korea, Japan, and China, you wouldn’t regret should you try. Just make sure that you really are qualified to teach. It is a disservice to the teaching profession should you assume that because you could speak English you could teach it even if you are not trained to be a teacher.