“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure." ― Paulo Coelho
Having come from a difficult job, organizing and managing children’s mental health treatment, I was pretty well shaken up. It was a very stressful job, and I had low self-esteem because of it. I felt as though nothing I could do would be good enough, and my direction in life was uncertain. I needed a different perspective. I considered joining the military, but decided against it because of the intense environment, and long contract. I did know however that I wanted to see the world and I knew that this would be the best time in my life to do so. Deciding to, and traveling to teach in Korea, I had a great number of fears. I was afraid I wouldn’t be successful in my new career, whether I was making a good choice, whether I could be a good teacher or not, and if I would be accepted by my new coworkers. These fears were resolved through time and effort, but I know that a lot of people struggle with them when choosing to move to a foreign country.
My first step in deciding my life choice was a quick Google search. I had known that there were companies looking for teachers in Korea, and I wanted to check my options. After being completely overwhelmed, I had applied to three. The first one that emailed me back was very curt, and almost rude. Their tone seemed underwhelming compared to the huge life choice I was making. It really did not help any anxiety I had about leaving my job. I had a decently paying job, and was able to pay my student loan debt consistently. I didn’t want to whisk away my chances of survival just because I was feeling like it. The second email I received was much more of a sigh of relief. They were very professional and friendly, so I decided to go with that company, which ended up being Aclipse. The third company’s email came a month later, by which I was already preparing for my new adventure. I had a phone interview with Aclipse, which I was sure at that time I had messed up. Nonetheless, I was accepted to make a video introduction, which took roughly forty-seven takes. After that, it is all a blur, waiting for documents, buying tickets, and finally flying across the ocean with butterflies in my stomach.
When first arriving in Korea, I was excited and nervous. I met one of the teachers I would be training with at the airport. He seemed really nice, and we were both really into playing music. It helped me to feel a bit more comfortable in Korea, just from having this start. Once we got to the hotel, we checked in, and began to explore our new realm. The hotel provided by Chungdahm is right in the heart of Gangnam, so there was a lot to see and experience. I felt so excited, and reassured that I had a made a good choice.
On Monday, training week started. We all knew that there was a chance we wouldn’t make the cut. So we dressed our best, took good notes, and studied each night after our training sessions. It was intense, fun, and scary and I developed good friendships through it all. However, after more than two years of experience in the company, I know that it shouldn’t be as scary as it seemed at the time.
First, everyone wants you to succeed. If you put the drive into learning the material, and get used to class management, you can succeed. The trainers are there to give you the best information that they can. While the trainers are teachers themselves, and most still have to teach their classes, they are willing to put the time in to help you. They have the experience and knowledge, and they have been taught how to put this information in your head. It's good to remember that only the best Chungdahm teachers are chosen to become trainers so if you listen to them and take what feedback they give you, you will get better, and you can be successful.
The most difficult aspect of training week for me was figuring out how to match the timing of the class. With there being a certain amount of material needing to be covered, it was easy to lose track of time. The trainer constantly corrected me on this, and gave me some wise advice. He told me to watch the clock, and have a purpose to each question I ask. As simple as that. Instead of continuing on with getting the students to participate, set a goal. Once the goal has been met, continue on to the next goal. Also, try to match the goals with the time. And when it came time to teach in the classroom, I was better able to manage my time.
Once I had passed training, Chungdahm got me a taxi and I went on my way. When I arrived in Yeongtong, which is just south of Seoul, I was greeted by one of the teachers at the branch. He was kind, we had a meal together, he showed me where my housing was, and where to buy basic goods.
While this isn’t exactly what happens at all locations, it usually is something similar. Teachers are always apt to helping other teachers and they are just as nervous about meeting you. The majority of teachers are excited when new people come in, and hope that you are someone that they can relate with. You are a new face. Just be friendly, try to talk with others, get food together, or maybe offer to play board games together.
When I first met my coworkers, I was very surprised with the different locations they came from. So far, I have had coworkers from: the U.S., Canada, Ireland, Scotland, Britain, South Africa, and Australia. Getting to meet so many different people with so many different backgrounds was a bit overwhelming, but they all proved friendly. I have at many times been invited to game nights, outings to singing rooms, and Korean barbecue. They even celebrated my birthday with me three times.
So, don’t be nervous. You will survive! If you have a college degree, and a decent head on your shoulder, Korea is a great place to be. If you’re interested in teaching in Korea, please click the button below. You will never regret traveling, but you will always regret the adventure you never took.
Neil Frazer has been teaching with Chungdahm for a little over two years. He comes from a small town in Wisconsin, named Spooner and graduated from Olivet Nazarene University with a Bachelor's of Social Work. After traveling to Korea in college he quickly fell in love the culture, food, and quality of life that Korea has to offer and immediately knew he wanted to come back. He looks forward to sharing his experiences of living in Korea and working at the Pyeongchon branch, near Seoul.