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  • slwik058
  • Newgookin

    • 2

    • July 25, 2019, 07:52:25 am
    • South Korea
I'm struggling in Korea
« on: July 25, 2019, 12:21:28 pm »
Hi everyone. I'm not sure if this is the right place for this as I'm new to this site and I'm sorry if it isn't but I'm at the point where I just really need some advice.

I arrived in February with good intentions and attitudes: I wanted to work and learn to become a good teacher, explore a new career path, have new experiences, learn the language, learn the culture and stay here for 2 years or more, I was open to everything but let me be real I'm a sensitive person. I don't like that about myself and I've been working to change but it comes as a result of a hard year: end of a long but bad relationship, the death of my mum from cancer, the same illness of another close family member, the near death of another, depression and extreme hair loss because of these, moving. Then I came here and lived in a new culture and then another family member passed away while I was here so I know that will take time.

Honestly just really don't like my job. I know I'm lucky since I haven't had issues with the school. Most teachers are OK to me but I know they gossip and they don't really take me into consideration with decisions but that's okay. But I have realised it isn't for me and it gives me way too much anxiety. This semester I only had a part time CoT which meant after classes they left. I was doing everything on my own. I only had a full time CoT since early-mid June but we don't discuss classes/materials so I've never had feedback and so I took it hard when things went wrong because it was entirely my fault. Eventually, I stopped taking that so hard but I knew I didn't have a passion for teaching, I didn't really take any joy/ reward in it, and I still felt nervous or anxious every Sunday night and weekday facing going into work but I still gave it my all and prepared the lessons and materials, tried to be fun for the students and as much as possible. But now, from my experiences with summer camp related issues I really don't like my job. The constant anxiety is really not good for me (or anyone) and it's built to a point that I just want to leave. I've cried a lot over this and debated over even asking for help but now I've thought about leaving much everyday for two months. I really feel like a horrible teacher. I can't get into what I call "a Teacher's mindset". I was struggling so much coming up with a "curriculum" for summer camp and I realised that I really didn't enjoy making these plans (as we follow the book in regular classes). And now I'm making camp materials and I'm finding the whole process so stressful and it fills me with a lot of anxiety especially as my CoT and I had an argument which I won't get into but there was a lot of very harsh negative language and condescension which has just added to that anxiety. Because the teachers here have a negative for foreigner attitude so I was too scared to ask for help when I needed it. I'm wasting everyone's time and I'm constantly doubting what I'm doing/ the effects I'm having on anyone's education despite how hard I'm trying. And I'm so tired of feeling this all the time and I'm even having sleeping problems which isn't helping me focus or produce good work.

It doesn't really help that I don't really have anyone here I think. I live in a small rural location so I take buses to get anywhere. While I have a handful of people here I'd call friends or say I'm friendly with it is hard for us to meet because of their jobs, locations and they have other friends too. In my town I think there is one other English native teacher that I've seen twice randomly in shops and the Koreans that I've met often hang around for a little while and then suddenly disappear. I try to go to Seoul when I can on weekends and that really helps to get me out of my funk but then Sunday night comes around and I'm automatically under this heavy grey mind cloud that is just pushing me further and further down and I'm not sure how to get out of it, honestly I'm a little worried depression is returning. 

I don't want to break my contract. I really, really don't want to disappoint my school or myself or the students. It isn't like I miss home either. I actually really like Korea and I think it's beautiful with an interesting culture and history that I'd love to explore more thoroughly. But I don't know how to get through the next 6/7 months of this contract feeling stuck and without sinking deeper. I know a lot of this is my fault for not having strong emotional intelligence, but I'm really trying to tackle them. But any advice anyone could give would be really appreciated. Thank you. P. S. I apologise for using the same words over and over and from rambling / ranting a little.


  • leaponover
  • Expert Waygook

    • 520

    • March 05, 2012, 12:08:16 pm
    • Iksan, S. Korea
Re: I'm struggling in Korea
« Reply #1 on: July 25, 2019, 07:03:33 pm »
It's too late to give you advice such as, "Don't move to a country that's vastly different from your home if you are a sensitive person" because that ship has sailed (or plane has flown).

I don't really share any of the personalities trait with you, but I feel like you surviving the things you have should have made you stronger, not weaker.  I knew personally, coming to Korea I could endure anything for 1 year.  1 year is a snap of the finger to me.  I'm struggling to find any worthwhile advice to give you as you are just so different from me.  I'm filled with cliches like, "don't take things too personally" or "just do the best you can until your contract is up".  If you can't manage that, I don't know how you can do anything else other than leave in the middle of the night.  I mean, it's 6 to 7 months.  They aren't pulling out your nails with pliers or waterboarding you (yet), but if you know you are weak emotionally and it's not going to get any better, do you think there are other options?  In the grand scheme of things your school will survive and your students will survive.  Have to worry about yourself at this point. 

It doesn't sound like there is anything awful happening to you.  I mean, I've been here 7 years and feel like a terrible teacher and want to cry on Sundays from time to time.  It's kind of cemented in the lifestyle of being a teacher.  That's the job...  The last thing I'm going to say is that you've acknowledged that your problems are all stemming from you except for the part-time CT (which I actually loved when I taught in PS.  Nobody watching over me....made it way easier to do my job).  If that's the only thing that's fixed you are probably still going to feel lousy.  So if you know you can't make yourself not feel lousy, you have your answer.  www.expedia.com.  Sorry this hasn't worked out for you, but living abroad is a challenge and not something anybody should go at lightly, especially from a Western to Asian culture.


  • Aristocrat
  • Hero of Waygookistan

    • 1839

    • November 10, 2014, 01:04:27 pm
Re: I'm struggling in Korea
« Reply #2 on: July 25, 2019, 08:52:49 pm »
You're going through some really tough times, I can't imagine how tough it would be to lose my mum. Speaking of which, she gave me some advice before I left for Korea "Learn to be your own best friend."
Now, I've always been pretty independent and somewhat of a loner so I didn't struggle with any culture shock or homesickness, but that advice did help me.

The fact that you're struggling tells me that you're completely out of your comfort zone. Think of a really skinny or overweight person going to the gym for the first time and really struggling, yet they've got potential for dramatic results and you probably do too. The anxiety you're feeling is your mind's way of telling you that you currently do not possess the mental strength and skills to deal with what you're going through and you'll continue to feel that way till you deal with it in 1 of 3 ways:

1 - Run home: Probably the worst thing you can do. You've got a rare chance for massive personal growth and by running away, you're robbing yourself of that and teaching yourself to embrace weakness.

2 - Confide in friends/family: While not a bad idea, you're still robbing yourself of learning how to deal with challenges.

3 - Learn to deal with your problems, alone: Now we're talking! You've identified that you're particularly sensitive, insecure and lack some confidence, those are 3 things you can improve.

I have a sensitive side too, which is why I play 4 instruments as my creative outlet. For confidence and insecurity there's no better way to literally change your personality and body for the better than hitting the gym. I'm not talking yoga, jogging or walking, you need heavy resistance training. Heavy resistance boosts testosterone production which literally gives you more confidence in yourself. Yoga or jogging isn't go to do that. As a female, if you're not keen on being around a gym, calisthenics works great too... as long as you're really training at the maximum resistance you can handle (this is vital!).

Best of luck, don't rob yourself of this opportunity to grow into a stronger person.


Re: I'm struggling in Korea
« Reply #3 on: July 26, 2019, 07:07:57 am »
Not much practical advice from me other than to empathise with you.  What you're feeling is completely normal and I'd say everyone has been there.  The first year is tough!  No other way around it but to throw in another cliche...it will get easier as you find your feet.  I really believe that time is the best healer.  Plus the second semester is a million times easier than the first; shorter, chuseok holiday in there as well.  You've made it through the hardest part : )

I was the same when I did my first camp.  It felt like a mountain to climb; no textbook, two weeks, four classes a day.  I found that it was too stressful to try and piece together an elaborate theme.  I just took each class one at a time.  Two classes of learning something (choose a grammar point/conversation expression and practice it to death - PPT, worksheets, cards etc) and then a couple of classes of games (make a trivia quiz etc). 

I'm in my sixth year and I still get nervous and anxious sometimes over my classes and definitely still get the Sunday blues!  Totally normal as teachers as leaponover says. 


Re: I'm struggling in Korea
« Reply #4 on: July 26, 2019, 08:02:03 am »
I went through exactly the same thing during my first semester. Teaching triggered terrible anxiety for me which resulted in interrupted sleep and panic attacks. I have always battled with anxiety but teaching made it much worse plus the new environment. I'm also sensitive just like you so I also relate completely.  My advice to you is hang on.  You being pushed out of your comfort zone and for people like us, it triggers a flight response. I also felt teaching was a terrible idea for myself but I've actually seen how it has forced me to manage my anxiety and sensitivity. I can promise you that even though you don't see or realize it now, you have progressed a lot. I'm just finishing off my second semester here and it went much much better!

Out of all my jobs, teaching is the one job that really made me uncomfortable because it forced me to deal with the anxiety and sensitivity issues I have always had.  If it is unbearable, please prioritize your mental health and get out but if there is any little bit of you that still wants to make it work, hang on just a little bit longer and think of this as teething problems of a new job and environment :)


Re: I'm struggling in Korea
« Reply #5 on: July 26, 2019, 01:56:42 pm »
My first year in Korea was genuinely the darkest of my entire life. Horrible relationship with co-teacher that colored practically every aspect of my life. I remember the insomnia, the loss of appetite, the punch in my gut every time I greeted her in the morning and got no reply. I had to plan a two-week camp extravagazna twice a year, complete with 50 page workbook. Pretty standard stuff, except she rejected practically every material I made (PPTs, games, worksheets, workbook pages - you name it) and ordered me to rework them while she did absolutely nothing. Things got openly confrontational on several occassions. So I decided to put my head down and just count the days/months till the year ended. I'm pretty sure I have PTSD (seriously, I get palpitations whenever I hear an album that I happened to be into at the time), but life is unrecognizably better now that I'm in a normal school with sane people (and a bigger town!)

Truth is, petty types abound in Korea, and if you value your sanity you'll limit your exposure to the crazies and actively seek out people who are balanced and rational. They do exist. 



Re: I'm struggling in Korea
« Reply #6 on: July 26, 2019, 02:43:03 pm »
I am also a sensitive and pretty quiet, or introverted person. My first year in Korea was not bad because I had awesome coteachers, but I did feel like a terrible teacher all the time and really stressed about my classes. I would spend nights, mornings and weekends planning and thinking about lessons. I was anxious and did not have any friends. I was the only native English teacher in a tiny rural village, at least an hour away from a city.

There will always be coteachers, principals, and students who do not like either you or your lessons, and then there will be those that do.....as with anywhere.....I taught middle school for 2 years before moving to an elem school just to try that level...I hated it and thought I did a terrible job, but the principal and VP liked me and really wanted me to stay when I left for middle school again a year later...so our perception of our coworkers, students and supervisors attitudes  is not always what we think them to be. Sometimes it just takes you starting a conversation, not necessarily school related or a nice gesture. Showing interest in their lives can go a long way and help them to relax and show a nicer or more interested attitude towards you.

I have been in Korea for 4 years, just signed my 5th contract, and overtime I have developed confidence and am less sensitive, but things still bother me and I still worry too much and overthink things from time to time....however, so much less than before. I have learned to laugh at myself about things. Now, yes there were things that I for sure could have done better, such as taking time to prepare a lesson better or something, but most of the time my mistakes are something I can laugh at...

What also helped me through my 4 years here so far, has been my love for taekwondo, I do it about 3 days per week. Other things that helped, learning more Korean, getting into the culture by reading about history and doing tours, trying the different foods, and even increasing my Kpop knowledge to relate more to my students. I also did the taekwondo with my students, which helped my relationship with the students........if the students are happy, often times the coteachers will relax a little.

Only now, almost in my 5th contract (Aug) am I even really missing home...and that is because I got married and am now thinking more about spending time with family and the possibility of missing more holidays and future kids and also some health issues this year, have really made me want to consider going back home soon. So I completely understand wanting to return home and thinking about the things you are missing.

It is very cliche to say you don't know what adventures you will miss, but it really depends on your goal in the end. If you want to start a teaching career off here and take it back home, if you want adventure, if you want to acquire a second language etc....what is your goal? If your goal is best achieved by you sticking it out for the 2nd semester, then I would say maybe you should stay. The second semester is a lot quicker and easier in my opinion...more holidays, more festivals and fieldtrips.  However, if your health is at risk and you think leaving would be the best then you may need to do that. All the Waygook users give our opinions and experiences....that vary widely...so think about what is best for you.


  • CO2
  • The Legend

    • 4664

    • March 02, 2015, 03:41:14 pm
    • Gunpo
    more
Re: I'm struggling in Korea
« Reply #7 on: July 26, 2019, 02:52:18 pm »
Sometimes it just takes you starting a conversation, not necessarily school related or a nice gesture. Showing interest in their lives can go a long way and help them to relax and show a nicer or more interested attitude towards you.
Yeah, this is super important. If all you do is show up and punch the clock, don't say hi to anyone, are super stern all the time and never go out to hoesik, you're really shooting yourself in the foot.

It's the same back home, too. Some one year contract worker makes no effort to joke around or smile ever? Like hell they're sticking around when the boss looks at their record. They better be HELLA productive.

Being hella productive is not how our jobs work here. Do a good job, no doubt, but also be someone that the brass want around next year.
The joys of fauxtherhood


Re: I'm struggling in Korea
« Reply #8 on: July 27, 2019, 08:07:12 am »
Sometimes it just takes you starting a conversation, not necessarily school related or a nice gesture. Showing interest in their lives can go a long way and help them to relax and show a nicer or more interested attitude towards you.
Yeah, this is super important. If all you do is show up and punch the clock, don't say hi to anyone, are super stern all the time and never go out to hoesik, you're really shooting yourself in the foot.

It's the same back home, too. Some one year contract worker makes no effort to joke around or smile ever? Like hell they're sticking around when the boss looks at their record. They better be HELLA productive.

Being hella productive is not how our jobs work here. Do a good job, no doubt, but also be someone that the brass want around next year.

Yeah this is so true. 

I think about some posters here who constantly seem to have problems/altercations with their coworkers.  Then when you look at their posts in general and their personality you start to think well yeah,  I'm not surprised you have problems with your coworkers because you sound like a bit of a knob.

Just be nice.  Smile, laugh with people, say hello to everyone.  It goes a long way!


  • slwik058
  • Newgookin

    • 2

    • July 25, 2019, 07:52:25 am
    • South Korea
Re: I'm struggling in Korea
« Reply #9 on: August 05, 2019, 12:00:21 am »
OP here! I really have no clue how this site works or how to reply to individual people so I hope you all see this! Firstly, I want to say a big thank for your replies. They were exactly what I needed at that moment in time to help me take a step back and take a breath. When I made this post I was definitely in my worst mindset since arriving in Korea and feeling completely alone I wasn't able to process these things at the time. Since reading your replies, I've managed to reach out to some people and discuss these issues and I've sought out help for my depression and emotional issues. I've got a long way to go but I feel much more centred now that I've taken an active step to help these. I think that perhaps my "honeymoon period" here in Korea had simply ended and reality hit me hard and I realised what I'd done and where I was and that this involved language barriers, lots of unknown daily cultural things and I was just going through my culture shock while realising I didn't like the job I'd committed to simply because it doesn't suit me or my personality. Maybe a year or so ago it would have worked but after this year and the changes I've gone through I think it just doesn't work and that's okay with me now.

As I said in my post, I don't want to quit and I've fully committed to sticking out this year. Several people have said semester 2 is easier and shorter so it goes by quicker and honestly, after reaching the 6 month mark and now that I was able to process these issues a little and start to heal, I feel like I could stick it out. At the very least for personal growth. Then, I'll simply say goodbye to teaching and consider this as a wonderful experience that simply wasn't for me in the long term. And I'll move on or explore Korea more on my own, which is what I've realised I'm happiest doing here (being a tourist rather than a resident). It took me a long time to come to terms with this since it means that my goals have ultimately changed, but that's fine. That's the way the cookie crumbles sometimes. Also, apparently UK teachers don't get access to the money they've been putting into their pension? So, this has also kind of pushed me towards leaving after this year instead of sticking it out for one more year, as I know that the second year is easier with experience under your belt. I know this is a smaller matter, I feel a little weird about working and putting money into a scheme which I won't get back which just doesn't suit what I want to do in the long term.

Thank you for your kind words and personal stories, too. Realising that people have had similar thoughts, experiences etc. is actually really comforting although I'm sorry you've gone through your own troubling times but reading how people found coping mechanisms has been helpful. I'm (selfishly) glad to know that I'm not alone in this and that some of the feelings I've been having are actually quite normal and that many NETs have gone through something like this.


  • LIC
  • Super Waygook

    • 342

    • February 15, 2019, 04:39:00 pm
    • NE Hemisphere
Re: I'm struggling in Korea
« Reply #10 on: August 06, 2019, 09:51:01 pm »
With relatively few exceptions, Korea sucks. Leave. Walk away after your next paycheck. Send me a PM and I can set you up in a SE Asian international school where you're working with good people and not teaching idiots who don't want to learn. And not working with racist uncaring people who truly don't want you there.

I can help you there's no need to go through the Korean nightmare. It is not worth it.


  • fruitloops
  • Adventurer

    • 34

    • July 22, 2019, 12:00:41 pm
    • Gyeonggi-do
Re: I'm struggling in Korea
« Reply #11 on: August 07, 2019, 09:09:44 am »
You know with a the tens of thousands of posts like these over the years, why isn't there any kind of organized body or institution representing NETs to present these sort of cases and situations to the Korean government or ministry of education?   

If a country wants to really improve something, it would be in their best interest to listen and learn as much as they can about the
people they are hiring and bringing in and find out what is working well and what are things they can improve on.  What is the point of
having tens of thousands of disgruntled english teachers (including myself) and never have any sort of progress or solutions for it?

While there's probably 50 happy stories/experiences for everyone 1 bad one, still, there should be some sort of consortium group where these things can be presented to, discussed, debated instead of just sliding it under the rug and pretending it's not an issue and just look to hire fresh new young and innocent faces so that the process can just repeat itself again.