A Year in Seoul - video by Maddy

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Highlights/Lowlights: First Week of Work


  • Moving in to my first real apartment and the first place that has been my very own. Also, finding it fully stocked thanks to the previous teacher (alarm clock, hair dryer, toiletries, cleaning supplies, kitchen supplies, books, DVDs, etc.) I really love being up on the 15th floor, the view from my window, and the cozy size which is perfect for me.

  • Meeting my co-teacher, who could not be sweeter. She has been so helpful while I adjust to my new life, bringing me to the hospital for my medical exam (this was a low light) and even insisting that I walk home with her after the first day so she could give me some traditional medicine her brother (who's a doctor) gave her to help cure my cold. The poor thing often struggles to understand me when I forget to speak slowly, but she is so patient and its so easy to work with her.
  • Starting to teach on my second day. The kids in Korea are so well behaved and so intelligent. The mornings fly by because all I really have to do is act out/draw vocab, play games, and play videos. When I walk to school in the mornings I don't have that, "ugh, I have to work" feeling. My days are so laid back. Teach in the morning, have a delicious Korean lunch with the other teachers, then relax/plan lessons all afternoon.
  • Being able to walk anywhere in ten minutes or less. The grocery store/department store is next door (EMart, another highlight... they have EVERYTHING). My apartment is over a mall. Subway stop, five minutes away. Gym five minutes away. All the restaurants, coffee shops, and bars are just across the street and there is a nice park on the other side. No getting lost for me! And no expensive transportation costs

  • Playing hangman with my sixth graders. They just adore the game and its so fun to see them so excited. There is nothing like a little competition and the promise of a sticker to get kids going.

  • Walking through the hallways and having all the kids yelling, "Hi!", "Hello, teacher!", "Brittany!" in their adorable accents. I don't know if its just in Korea or everywhere in general, but when did kids become so outgoing?

  • The principal taking the teachers out for a really nice traditional Korean lunch on the first day. We sat on heated floors and ate sticky rice wrapped up in these huge brown leaves, a spicy stew, and loads of side dishes. I sat between my co-teacher and the principal, and everyone tried out their English (they're good!) and worried about whether I'd be able to eat with chopsticks.

  • The space heater sitting directly next to my chair in my classroom... also buying a big thick sweater, which I basically wear everyday. Oh yeah, and being able to wear whatever I want to work, even jeans.

  • My cost of living... which is basically nothing. No rent, no bills and everything is really cheap. Some examples of things I've bought. Korean lunch at an average restaurant: $3, Double package of tofu: $1, really nice new yoga mat $7, 3 month gym membership: $66

  • Speaking of the gym... the fact that Korean gyms provide you with gym clothes (hilarious t-shirts and giant shorts) and towels which they wash for you!!! No need to own any work out clothes, and no need to wash them all the time.

Low lights

  • The taxi driver who picked us up at the airport in a huge hurry and all annoyed because we didn't magically appear at the gate as soon as the flight landed (its called baggage and immigration!!). He played Mariah Carey music videos the whole way to my apartment and we couldn't figure out if they were for him or us. Apparently they were for me because once I got out he turned them off (or so I was told). I guess the videos were kind of a highlight...

  • Arriving to work on my first day wearing my "teacher flats" and no socks only to discover all about "indoor shoes". In Korea you need to wear special shoes that have never been worn outside in schools and many other places. One of the teachers graciously gave me a pair of open toe indoor shoes to borrow, not noticing my bare feet. The hallways are not heated so within two minutes I had icicle feet. To make matters worse, at lunch time when we all went to get our shoes before going out, all of the teachers and my principal suddenly noticed my feet and thought it was hilarious. "Feet cold!" My principal was particularly amused. All I could do was shamefully explain that I had no idea about changing your shoes. Let's just say I'll never forget socks again, and I bought myself some comfy indoor shoes.

  • Making the exact same mistake when I joined a gym and wore my gym shoes there. The owner wasn't quite as amused as my co-teachers were. You also need "indoor gym shoes" which you leave in the locker room. At first I was annoyed that I had to buy new shoes, but once I saw how cheap they were I was psyched, no need to go home and change before the gym, because everything you need is already there.

  • Sitting through the first day teacher's meeting... in Korean. It went on for about a half an hour. I basically stared into space and tried not to look too awkward. When they all started joking and laughing towards the end, I couldn't even do the "join in and pretend you get it" because they all know I can't understand a word.

  • Korean medical exams. You have to be examined to get your alien registration card, which you need to open a bank account and get a cell phone. It was very well organized and very fast but shuffling from room to room having blood drawn and x-rays taken is never a fun way to spend an afternoon. Also, I think I failed the hearing test... I sat in a booth and they said to press a button when I heard a noise. The beginning and end were fine but there was a long pause in the middle where I heard absolutely nothing. I don't think that's right...

  • Remarking to my co-teacher, "Tomorrow is friday, the week is over!" and then having her explain to me that in Korea there is school on most Saturdays. Foreign teachers are the only ones who get every Saturday off. She didn't seem to mind, but I felt like a jerk. Obviously, they wouldn't attract many Western teachers with a six day work week (especially not me!) but it is pretty unfair.

  • Missing my Thai peeps terribly... We spent every minute together for 5 weeks and now I have so much time to myself. At least I get to see them this weekend!


  1. Haha I geeked imagining you walking down a hallway and having all these little korean kids saying hi to you thats priceless

  2. uh, i thought that cab ride was a TOTAL highlight! and he did turn off the videos the second you got out... talk about awkward silence.

    and i have now sat through 2 teacher's meetings in korean. they told me i don't have to go....but i feel like i should at least show my face.