Our graduate Jasmine tells us about her day to day life in the Republic of Korea.
On weekdays I wake up at seven am and start getting ready for work. At eight I go outside and get on my bike. It takes me roughly twenty minutes to bike to work. Occasionally I’ll walk. My apartment and school aren’t in the bustling parts of Jinju so the commute to work is quite scenic. My school is actually surrounded by farms!
Jinju has four distinct seasons. The summer is extremely hot and humid. The fall is crisp. The winter is cold, but it’s a dry cold. I’ve yet to experience the spring, but I’ve been told it’s quite mild. Aside from a few rainy weeks in typhoon season the sky is clear.
When I get to work I have a half an hour before my first class starts. I use that time to gather my teaching materials and put the finishing touches on my lessons. I always teach first period (9-9:45). Most days I teach four classes and then I use the other three periods to plan my classes. From what I’ve heard, many foreign language teachers at public schools co-teach but I lead all my classes. This means I’m pretty busy. A lot of teachers complain about desk-warming but I can honestly say that’s not a part of my job. I do have co-teachers but their involvement in my lessons is usually limited to classroom management/translation. Occasionally I’ll teach alone. This is largely due to the fact that my co-teachers are also homeroom teachers and have a lot to do. Additionally, my students are very well-behaved even when there isn’t a Korean teacher in the room. As such I try to prepare my lessons so I that I don’t need any assistance or translation. Usually one or two students in each class speaks very good English. If the class seems confused I’ll have that student translate (even if the teacher is there and available). The culture at my school is very supportive and after the student finishes translating his classmates will clap for him.
On Tuesdays there is a staff meeting from 8:30-9 so I try to get to work at 8:20. There are often special events at my school so sometimes my lessons get cancelled. So far this year I’ve had my lessons get cancelled due to a school festival and several sets of exams. I also cover classes for my co-workers when they ask but they don’t ask very often. We get lunch at school which is usually rice, soup, and a few sides dishes. Honestly, it’s usually really good. Then school ends at 4:30. I almost never have to bring work home with me so my weeknights and weekends are totally free. So far this year I’ve gone to a lantern festival, visited the best cat cafe, gone to many other cute cafes, biked along the river and on on the weekends traveled to Daegu and Seoul.
I’ve started taking Korean lessons on Sunday. Originally I was told there were no Korean lessons in Jinju except those meant for people who were planning to permanently immigrate to Korea. Those lessons seemed like a commitment I wasn’t ready to make so I posted in a Facebook group for foreigners asking if anyone knew of any tutors and I lucked out. I actually met a woman who was studying to be a Korean teacher to foreigners. I highly recommend joining the Facebook groups based in your city. Often people will have really helpful recommendations. Also, if you join the groups before you move you can ask if anyone has heard of the school you plan to work for. I also recommend getting a bike. It has saved me so much time. I wish I had got one last year. Anyway, this is more-or-less what my day-to-day life is like in Korea. I hope this helps you decide if you want to go abroad and teach!
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