1. Be flexible
Everyone will have a school and living situation that is unique from one another. Your friend’s living space will likely be similar but not identical to yours, they may have involved co-teachers whereas your co-teachers may be in the back of the room working on paperwork. Classes will be cancelled and you wont know until you arrive at the classroom or 15 minutes after the students never come to your classroom. You wont be told that today is a “hiking day” and all you have are blue jeans and a thick sweater. Photo day will come and nobody will tell you (say “cheese”…or “kimchi!”). You will have to set up for the school festival moving around drums and microphones between performances. You will have to join a school volleyball team even though you are terrible at it, and yes you will be THE foreigner player.
Of course, all of these things may not happen because remember, you need to be flexible.
2. Be prepared
Think through all possible outcomes. Honestly, as a teacher, the possibilities in a classroom are endless on both the positive and negative sides. One class may listen to you intently and in the other one student may slap and kick a classmate.
Also, please be prepared for class. At the very least this is the minimum requirement for your job. Show up with enough material for your class period.
3. Connect early
Make friends early. EPIK orientation could be the make or break for this. Even if you dont think you will be besties, make as many connections as possible. Add everyone on Kakao. Go to Seoul with a group one weekend and see how it goes. Worst case, you can drop them later. But what you should really focus on when you are at orientation, along with the coursework, is building a community that will eventually become your support group/weekend gang. They will be your lifeline when the going gets rough because your coworkers at school, in all honesty, will not be the shoulder to cry on when the goings get rough.
4. Keep busy
Sign up for classes. Korea is a country where extra classes are available almost everywhere. Language classes, martial arts, crafts, art, film, volunteer work. Whatever it may be always try and keep busy. Make a planner of different things you want to do in Korea. If your Korean is not great, try and stick with the bigger cities at first and then go more small/local as time goes by.
5. Remember why you’re here
For whatever reason, always try and remember why you are here. Your visa is for being a teacher. Not a youtuber, not an entertainer, a teacher. You are a teacher. Of course, these other things can be hobbies, which is great, but always remember why you are here. To TEACH! More deeper than that, while it may not be so superficial, the difference that you are making in your students lives will mold how they view foreigners. You may very well be the only foreigner your students interact with until they maybe go abroad for university or work a job that involves international communication. However, if your students are less privileged, you may be their one and only foreign interaction. Make it a positive one!
I know this post may sound dark and dismal but i’m trying to be real! Your experience will undoubtedly test you in many ways, but you can make it great with the right attitude and outlook.
Ad astra per aspera