Road to Korea: Emily Shoemaker
Sokcho during last Chuseok holidays
Emily was one of the youth who joined Korea Foundation youth exchange program between the United States and Korea. A few years later, I heard she applied for English teaching job in Korea. From then to now, it looks like she has enjoyed every moment in Seoul. So, I asked her to be my next interviewee. If anyone is interested in English teaching job in Korea, this article may help.
I had two main reasons for deciding to come to Korea. First, I was very interested in the soft cultural power that Korea wields throughout Asia in terms of fashion and entertainment, and I really wanted to experience for myself what was going on here in order to better understand this. Second, in college I was fortunate to experience a 10-day cultural exchange trip to Korea, sponsored by the Korea Foundation. I was intrigued by many of my experiences on that trip and really wanted to come back and live here so that I could understand Korea more deeply.
Now, I am here through a special government exchange program. I knew that teaching English would put me in contact with a lot of different people every day, and teaching seemed like it would be interesting and fun!
If you are applying to be a teacher in Korea, I would advise you to get a TESOL certificate before coming. Also, if you truly want to be good at this job, realize that it is NOT easy to do! I spend many hours working on my lesson plans outside of my normal school hours, but I don’t mind it because I love my students. That is the most important thing – to love your students.
One and only in Korea
Maybe I would say skinship – there is nothing similar to skinship in America, especially between high school boys, so I was very surprised to see this at first!
I spend most of my week at school teaching English. I also lead after-school classes based around English conversation and special projects; this semester, the students are making a promotional video for the school in English. On the weekends, I love to visit cities all across the peninsula. Korea has many interesting things to see and do, and I have a lot of friends living in cities all over the country, so I have gotten to visit many different places since coming here.
Emily at Gyeongju (경주)
I studied abroad in Asia during college, so the culture shock didn’t hit me as hard as it hit some of my friends when moving here. However, I lived in Korean homestays for my first year in Korea, and that required a lot of adjustment! I think the cultural differences I have struggled with the most are first, the relatively less personal space and privacy in Korea compared to America, and second, the floor culture (as in spending a lot of time at home and at restaurants sitting directly on the floor). I think a lack of leg flexibility is common in people who have not been sitting this way since childhood, so I know you have heard about this difficulty from foreigners in Korea before. Other than those two big things, for the most part I did not have much difficulty transitioning to life in Korea!
I love going on walks and jogs, so I spend a lot of time running along a river walk area in western Seoul that goes from Eungam Station all the way to the Han River. I have seen this trail in all 4 seasons now, and it’s a great de-stresser for me to take a stroll near running water. Besides my school and my apartment, this trail is hands down the place where I have spent the most time while living in Seoul.
The longer I live in Korea, the more things I find that I want to do and see. I’ll never be able to cross everything off my bucket list before I leave to go back home for graduate school – maybe that’s a good thing, because it means I’ll have to come back! I think this is one of the best places I could have chosen to live abroad, and I highly recommend it to everyone. In investing my time and love into the people I’ve met here – students and coworkers, homestay families and friends – the ways I perceive the world and experience life have become deeper and richer than I expected.
As far as tips for moving here and teaching English, I will say again that the most important thing is to love your students – do that first and foremost, and everything else will work out. J