I left Vancouver, British Columbia in April 2018 for a teaching job in Chilgok, South Korea. After I accepted the job and started my visa application time flew by. In that time I sorted through my stuff (I sold what I could and donated the rest ), had several moments of deep doubt, quit my job, and had a going-away party. Looking back, I can honestly say I don’t have many regrets, but I will say there are a few things I wish I had done before leaving. These things might be specific to teaching in Korea, but I hope they help you prepare for your teaching journey!
1. I wish I had gotten a haircut before I left. If you’re in Seoul then there’s a good chance hair stylists will speak English and be familiar with foreign hair. Chilgok is about forty minutes away from Daegu (the third largest city in South Korea). Desperate for a haircut I went to a local salon and they gave me one of the worst haircuts of my life. After that I decided I would colour my hair at home and wait until I visited Vancouver to get my haircut. The former part of this plan ended up being a disaster because I wasn’t able to read the directions on the box and ended up dying my hair a very strange colour. When I got back to Vancouver my hair dresser asked me what had happened to my hair.
Of course you can avoid this if you’re willing to travel. Now if I want to get my hair cut or coloured I travel to Busan.
2. I wish I had gone to a thrift store and bought teaching clothes. I had thought this was something I could take care of when I got to Korea, but you know what’s kind of hard? Working a new job in a new country and trying to muster the energy to go shopping.
3. I wish I had bought more jeans. In Korea the style for jeans is quite short. Though they fit my waist they usually end mid calf.
4. Lastly, I wish I had kept my Canadian phone number. Not having a Canadian phone number has made banking a pain and when I visited Canada last year I wish I could have just switched my phone off airplane mode.
All of this stuff is small potatoes. It didn’t impact how much I enjoyed my first year teaching, but it would have been good to take care of beforehand. I hope that wherever you are on your teaching journey you’re having fun.