Few people out of all the world’s population have the privilege to travel…and exceptionally fewer choose to act on this opportunity or circumstance. My name is Linda Gaida and I'am from Spartanburg, South Carolina, and I graduated from Washington and Lee University in Virginia. After the experiences I had during my undergrad years, traveling to different places in Europe, Asia, and South America, and witnessing varieties of opportunities available to people, I knew three things. First, I wanted to be valuable for others. Second, I wanted to be valuable for myself. And lastly, I wanted to travel or move. As a result I decided to pursue education.
I knew that love, kindness, and empathy abound in this world, but in mostly passive forms. Anger, hate, greed tend to manifest in very active, mobilizing, destructive forms. The big problems in the world are systemic in nature, and we can’t erupt a whole society, nor would most desire to. It’s a matter of learning how to market love and empathy, of pursuing small, individual revolutions, of learning how to learn, of learning how to think, of learning how to teach. Educating.
I had these core values, these choices, and the opportunity to fulfill them with Aclipse, an organization which recruits English speakers to teach in Korea. Education is arguably the most important resource, but as with most things, it’s valued most in places where it’s less attainable. I’ve been a beneficiary of a fruitful and enabling education, and I now intend to pay it forward in South Korea as “Linda Teacher”: my new name courtesy of my students!
Upon arrival in South Korea, I spent a week in Seoul to complete the informative and intensive teacher training course provided by ChungDahm Learning along with other teachers who also just moved to Korea. We were all bound by the solidarity that comes with excitement and nervousness. While the training was nothing light-hearted, it is totally manageable and meant to be empowering rather than discouraging. I recommend viewing it as such! We were placed into small groups, wherein we were taught how to teach, navigate the Chungdahm website, and how to deal with student management issues. Before I knew it the week was over and I was off to my new home.
I arrived in Busan, a city on the southern coast of South Korea, full of exciting uncertainty. Instead of viewing each ‘next moment’ as “Oh no, what’s going to happen next…,” every ‘next moment’ became “Oh wow! What will happen next!?” Some background info: I’m not a natural city-lover…I tend to avoid them. I thrive in less-peopled outdoor environments, with little more than two changes of clothing and beans and rice for each meal. So how could I possibly move to South Korea? Well before arriving, I decided I’d accept all the discomfort that came with being outside of my comfort-zone in hopes of just growing, no matter the direction.
But Busan, and most of South Korea is unlike most cities I’ve frequented. It’s a striking combination of tall concrete buildings and even taller mountains, a vast expanse of family businesses, hole-in-the-wall restaurants, outdoor markets and a vastly larger ocean, waving at all of us. There’s structure without sterility, efficiency without aloofness, modernity without loss of tradition. It’s beautiful and balanced and now my home for as long as it finds me deserving.
Right outside my apartment, there’s an incredible outdoor market. I find food and human interaction so, so fascinating. So what good fortune to live steps away from an abundant venue. Here I've felt the past pass away from me in ways it yet hadn't. Home at its most must be sensation or urge or rumor, because almost nowhere in the world is not home. These plants (pictured below) are cared for by a man named Yong-ju, who is maybe in his 70s. A little ways up, I buy my mushrooms, sprouts, carrots and potatoes from a woman whose name sounds like "Ha-chi-soon" but I've no clue how to spell it and she had no clue what I was asking when I requested its spelling. (Sometimes hand motions just aren't enough but I'll bring pen and paper tomorrow). She gives me a few free mandarins and sweet potatoes each time
(I could go on and on about my environment but as this is a sample blog I’ll stop haha)
As for my job as a teacher at Chungdahm I currently work at Jin branch in Busan, and I’m a part of the April program, meaning I teach younger children, aged from about 6 to 12. What I love most about my position is how interactive it is with the students. I’m not just standing, lecturing at the students, we’re having conversations, we laugh, we joke, we story-tell. But that doesn’t mean I’ve not experienced (already) my fair share of trouble makers. While my patience doesn’t easily run thin, needing to express my frustrations whilst dealing with a language barrier, especially with the younger kids, is challenging. Learning to articulate my feelings in new ways which are understandable to everyone has been entertaining and educative in itself. And more so, learning to listen spaciously is ever-valuable. They teach me as much as I teach them. Just the other day I told my students: “Teacher is sick today. My throat feels like it’s on fire.” Katy promptly replied: “Linda Teacher! My dad’s friend mom die because she was reeeallly sick!” Ah, the perspective she brought. Of course, she was being silly, as evidenced by her giggles, but it’s this creativity and zeal and unbridled thought that truly teaches and keeps me present and grateful. Children all over the world are often brushed aside. I feel they’re seldom viewed as members of society. But in my opinion, they’re the most important members.
Here’s to being taught by South Korea and I look forward to sharing more of my experiences of living and teaching in Korea in the coming months.
Hi, I’m Linda Gaida! I was reared in Spartanburg, South Carolina and graduated from Washington and Lee University in 2016 with a degree in Romance Languages. While passionate about environmental studies and conservation, my interests now lean towards education! My curiosities and studies have taken me to Romania, Portugal, Peru, India, and now South Korea, where I work as an English teacher for CDI in Busan. I've been here for a few days over a month! Deciding to teach abroad was an easy decision to make: while I get to experience a culture foreign to my own, I am able to benefit the global society by teaching children English and helping them pursue their own ambitions. I’m interested in yoga, climbing, hiking, backpacking (anything involving movement), cooking, writing poetry, and learning about the negative effects of animal agriculture in the western world…and I love a good debate! :) So far, South Korea has satisfied my love for all these things, and I'm so excited for all the experiences that await me.