I know many of you think I moved to Korea a couple of weeks ago, but that’s not entirely true.
You see, two weeks ago I landed in Korea. I stayed in Seoul where I spent the first five days in a hostel with 25 other English teachers, exploring the city and having a grand ole party of a time.
Next, the government organization that hired us, EPIK, picked up all the teachers and bussed them to an orientation site where we lived in a dorm for a week, went to classes 12 hours a day, and ate cafeteria food for every meal. It was all very fun—and very easy.
Then, shit got real, yo.
Yesterday, after only a few hours of sleep, we were sent to our new cities. In a small auditorium they announced each of our names and our new coteachers walked up to “claim” us. One by one, our cozy group of English speaking friends dissipated in a nervous frenzy of “Nice to meet you”’s and we were taken to see our schools, meet our new colleagues, get settled in our new apartments, and start our new life.
Yesterday was the day I found out that I will be teaching in a low income urban middle school where the students are so troublesome that my new principal is worried about my survival. Yesterday was the day I got the keys to my small studio apartment with a funny smell and no furniture. Yesterday was the day that I finally broke down and cried, staring in the mirror asking myself what in the hell am I doing here. Yesterday was the day I realized how difficult the little every day tasks like ordering food and finding my way around will be.
Yesterday was the day I officially moved to Korea.
Yesterday was also the day that I picked myself up off the tear-soaked heated floor and forced myself to walk down the street. I found some food, sat in a coffee shop to use the internet, and then met up with some fellow teachers who have lived here for over a year.
I met the English teacher at the elementary school that feeds into my middle school and she confirmed that, indeed, I now work at quite possibly the toughest middle school in the entire city of 4 million people. But the teachers I met were overwhelmingly kind, taking me under their wing and offering me as much advice and knowledge as the night would allow on how to teach and survive in Korea. I left feeling bolstered that despite the cards I’ve been dealt, I have an amazing network of supportive people who will become my friends—even my family—as we maneuver our way through this adventure together.
I came to Korea because I wanted a challenge. While this isn’t exactly what I had in mind, deep down I always knew I wouldn’t be the person to land one of those cushy jobs and a fancy two bedroom apartment. I’ve just never had that kind of luck. But the universe has a way of putting you right where you need to be, and I have a strange little inkling that I’m going to make it through this challenge. And if I can survive this next year without being eaten alive by my students, then I’m fairly certain I can make it through just about anything.