I’ve lived in Korea for more than a year already. I’ll be honest, there are some things I hate about Korea. But there are some things I love too. My relationship with Korea is one of those that everyone on the outside thinks is destined for collapse. However, the people in the relationship know a secret- the differences are what has kept them together so far. In this case, one person and a whole country.
Seeing as how I first came to Korea 15 months ago, I guess it’s about time I started keeping one of those public records of experience people call “blogs”. I follow several people who regularly write about Korea and it’s culture, and it’s very interesting, not to mention life savingly helpful. So maybe I feel a little guilty for all the “taking” I’ve done and no “giving.” If only I believed in Karma…
I’m afraid I’m not an expert on Korean culture though. Yes, I know 100% more than someone who has never been here, but I am by no means one of those committed expats who has built their whole life here. I can only give my perspective, share my emotions, and show my thought processes. Penny for your thoughts if you disagree- I’m always up to learn- but I’m sharing my life, not a factual guidebook of Korea. I welcome you along for the ride, not the proofreading.
Monday of last week was my first day teaching in a Korean academy (hagwon, 학원). An academy is an afterschool school, where kids go to study something extra. Maybe they want to be a scientist when they grow up, so they go to a science academy. Maybe they want to be a engineer when they grow up so they go to a mathematics academy. Maybe they want to be a businessperson, so they go to an… English academy. Or maybe their parent’s just don’t want them to be the dumbest kid in school. University entrance exams are really difficult in Korea, so high school kids don’t have lives. They only study. Developing good studying habits starts at an early age.
I’m going to refer to my academy by it’s Korean name, hagwon (학원), since I’m not sure academy is the best English translation. As far as I know, no English speaking country has such a thing. At my hagwon, the kids start at a ripe old International Age of 6.
On my first day, I was greeted by a little boy yelling “NEW TEACHER, NEW TEACHER!” at the door of the teacher’s room. I was christened with a nickname, which sounds like Caroro (I’ve looked, thinking this was a Korean word, but no luck… anyone?) and I had a student singing the Imperial March from Star Wars under his breath while he did his class work.
These kids are going to be a blast to teach this year. If only I didn’t have to deal with a few catastrophic problems concerning my job and new home.