Teaching in Korea

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Teaching in Korea

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During the height of the pandemic I began to think deeply about what i wanted to do if things ever got "Back to normal." I'd spent my entire life in San Jose California, and decided I wanted to get out and do something different. In early 2021 I went through the process of becoming certified to teach English abroad. I was eventually hired by an English academy in South Korea for a one year contract in the fall of 2021. I enjoyed it so much I ended up re-upping for another year. When I arrived I had to quarantine for one week, and my school director (essentially a principal) picked me up from my quarantine facility and brought me to my apartment, paid for by the school as part of my contract. It was an exciting adventure for me slowly adapting to a new culture and learning to navigate the country of South Korea. The attitude towards COVID was much more serious than in the U.S. The outdoor mask mandate was in force until Spring of 2022, and the indoor mandate was not lifted until January of 2023. Even coming from California, one of the U.S. states with stricter restrictions, it was an adjustment. It certainly wasn't a political issue here in South Korea. I can only speak very rudimentary Korean, but from what I could tell, nobody seemed to have a problem following government health advice. It was illuminating to see how different countries citizens can have radically different views to a crisis based on culture, beliefs, values and attitudes towards Science. Many people still choose to wear masks in public places now in the Summer of 2023. Given the tensions with the North, there is a heavy U.S. military presence in South Korea, which made it easier to connect with other English speakers and get a taste of home near the military bases. I even met my lovely partner here, a space force member stationed in the same city I teach and live in. Being shut in is what drove me to get out of my comfort zone and I'm truly glad for my experience over the past two years in Korea. I've met friends from different countries, experienced aspects of Korean culture that I love, and also have had my privilege checked by aspects of living in Korea that I'm not as fond of. I am excited to go back home this fall, but I hope to carry all I've learned about culture and life in Korea with me. In a strange way, I'm glad that at least the pandemic made me think about what I wanted to do and see once I had the freedom to explore, and I can't say enough how grateful I am for the travel I've been able to do.

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This item was submitted on July 14, 2023 by Benny Reeves using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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