As I reflect on the last year as an employee of Ewha American Language School, I am affronted by a barrage of emotions, memories, and conclusions on my experience. When digesting my time at the academy some words that come to mind include: growth, adaptation, humility, unique, impactful, patience, and enduring. I still can’t believe that my year contract has come to an end and in just a few weeks, my time in Korea will conclude. Like most things, it’s flown by. I suppose looking back I naturally chunk everything into seasons. So, in an effort of self-reflection, let’s regress to fall of 2010.
My first few months in Korea were undeniably the hardest. Like many of us who live abroad for large spans of time, the beginning is the challenge. If you can make it past the beginning unscathed, then you can survive for months, years…My biggest challenge was twofold. The first was learning to live alone. I spent many nights in the first couple months feeling very lonely and removed. I missed my friends, family, and what was comfortable. God really blessed me with not only a great social circle in the months to come but also peace in my solitude. The second challenge was at work. I had to adapt fairly quickly to a system of teaching very unlike what I had experienced throughout my time in college. Also, getting along with my boss became a thing of its own and I was forced to deal with someone who didn’t openly show their appreciation for my hard-work. The first few months were tough but I knew there was light on the horizon.
Winter brought about a change in the atmosphere in the work place. In some ways, the day-to-day seemed to be getting more relaxed. Of course, any time I felt as if I could push my limits a bit, it was shoved not so delicately back in my face. Through this time I grew less frustrated and bitterer with my circumstances. I was quick to compare my situation with my friends’ schools that seemed to be leagues better. And they probably were, but that’s not the point here is it. I needed to be reminded over and over that God put me in this place, this school for a reason. Maybe I didn’t realize it at the time but I was being sharpened. As the months grew colder I learned some important lessons in biting one’s tongue, keeping your head down and letting the little things roll off your back.
Maybe it was the onslaught of visitors I had; perhaps it was the taste of summer in the air, either way spring practically flew by. Things finally seemed to be leveling out at the school and I certainly had found my groove so to speak. I remember going to work on Friday asking myself where the work week had gone. I feel I should give myself a bit of credit for figuring out “the system” at work. The system included agreeing to everything my boss told me, appeasing my students with a delicate balance of book work and English appropriate games, and finishing everything way ahead of schedule. In fact, I feel as if I spent less time trying to get away with playing games with the kids and more time just talking with them openly about their lives. I especially enjoyed this liberty in my older more advance classes. In many ways I felt as if I had a responsibility to talk to these students about issues that their parents weren’t discussing with them. Spring felt more rewarding than months prior and furthermore I was actually starting to really enjoy my life teaching overseas.
I feel as if I had been unconsciously counting down the days ‘til I finished from the first day I rode my scooter without a jacket. I knew the end was near and so did my boss. In some ways this was a good, in some ways this wasn’t so good. For instance, it was great because I could count the number of times I’d have to make tests and evaluations on one hand which would give me a feeling of finality. Then again, my boss did everything she could to eke out of me whatever she could before I was gone. “Can you make these extra tests? Can you teach this extra class? Could you leave school later than the other teachers to accommodate some students?” But you know what, I agreed to everything with a smile because I knew deep down that it wasn’t going to last forever. I went to work, worked, and came home.
Now that it’s all said and done I can honestly say that I would have done it again. The goods, the bads, every bit of it. I was impacted deeply in my time with the students, coworkers, and even my bosses. It was a time that won’t be replicated in my life again and I’m thankful to God that he brought me not only to Korea to teach but specifically to my school, my apartment, and my neighborhood. He knew exactly what he was doing and I can’t help but think that my future rests comfortably in His hands. While I feel every bit satisfied with my teaching experience in Korea I know that I wasn’t perfect. But you live and learn and that’s what I’ll do with these reflections.
IN OTHER NEWS!
I’m currently living with my friends Jacob and Candace in their apartment which has been great. Now that I’m only working at my kindergarten in the morning I’ve had a lot more time to read, run, and do other relaxing activities. I’ve also been busy preparing for my trip through Thailand and Cambodia which I’ll be sure to write more about as it approaches. In my last few weekends here in Korea I’ll be trying to spend as much time with friends as possible and taking advantage of all the final opportunities to experience Korea. My prayer is that these last 3 weeks would be fulfilling, relaxing, spiritually challenging, and a time of transition.
Please continue to pray in these ways:
~Travel to Thailand and The Philippines. Pray for God’s will in the planning.
~I’ll be seeking employment in the States upon my return. Pray that the Lord would provide a job if it’s his leading.
~Many Korean people have no idea who God is. Pray for those I come into contact with to thirst for real truth
~That the Word would continue to be spread in the hard to reach places and where Christians are not free to worship
~Discernment, wisdom, and patience for God’s will
~Finding ways I can be Jesus to my friends, students, co-workers, and perfect strangers