The whole idea of coming to Korea to teach English will turn anyone, regardless of age, into a little kid. The anticipation and excitement of traveling to a foreign land will likely cause many of us to lose some sleep. Whether you’re fresh out of college, taking a break from your career, or embarking on a new career altogether, the thought of traveling to a place like South Korea will make you giddy. It did for me. So what happens when you actually arrive and have settled into your new digs and classroom?
It’s many different things to many different people ranging from living a dream to a real-life horror show. One thing is for sure and that is you will have inordinate amounts of free time. For example, I get home from school each day at 4:40 pm. From that time until I fade to nevah nevah land is a long stretch. I usually go to sleep at around 1-2:00 am each night so that should give you an idea.
So what do you do with all that free time to ensure your best chances of having a fulfilling experience in Korea teaching English? I have an answer that can be summed up in one word:
There will be time to spend with friends at bars and clubs to see how Koreans get their groove on, eating artery-clogging BBQ pork, and lesson planning too. But these things will only be sporadic (except for lesson planning) and you’ll still be left wondering how to avoid cabin fever.
I can’t stress enough the importance of having a hobby as you travel abroad for long stretches of time. There are endless things to do and it would be a tragedy if 52 weeks of your life in Korea were spent staring at four walls. I think ample time should be spent with foreigners to keep you grounded and give you a chance to clear your head. There are many things to be involved in with other foreigners such as hiking, jimjil bangs (saunas and hot rooms), nore bangs (singing rooms a.k.a karaoke), temple visits, among many other things. These are great activities to do with your foreigner friends.
At the same time though, I think it would really enrich your experience to look for activities that are authentic to Korea. Or try a familiar activity here in Korea to see how they are different. This is the case with me and martial arts. I practice Judo, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and have dabbled in MMA. Korea has a very different approach when it comes to martial arts. Particularly in the formalized styles such as Judo, Taekwondo, Hapkido, and Kumdo (a.k.a Kendo to the Western world). Did you know you can earn a college degree in Judo and Taekwondo in Korea? You gotta see it to believe it.
Being involved in Judo redirected my experience in Korea and turned it into a completely different creature. It has helped to define my life here. What I will some day walk away with will be memories and experiences that would not have existed without my involvement in Judo.
Among other ideas for hobbies are fishing, calligraphy, learning the Korean language (free of charge!), volunteering, and a whole slew of others. In this video, I run through 10 hobbies that I know will strike at least one chord with everyone out there. Find it here in Korea and own your experience.