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tough time in korea
« on: November 19, 2010, 12:07:59 pm »
hello everyone.  i came here with the august intake of epik teachers and i was really really excited to start teaching in korea.  i studied tesol in school and have lived overseas before so i was really looking forward to my time and korea and came here with (what i think) was a positive attitude.  however, since getting here i have been incredibly unhappy.  i guess i can't complain too much about my school, because even though i haven't been too warmly received, and even though my students are really low level, so teaching can be really difficult, i haven't been treated poorly.  we have a really strict principal, so i have the minimum time off offered through my contract and never get to leave school early or anything, but they are abiding by my contract and paying me on time so i can't complain about that.

however, i'm miserable here.  really, really unhappy.  i didn't know anyone when i first moved to korea, and was surprised (and really saddened) to find that when i left orientation in suwon, that i still didn't know anyone.  i've been living in seoul for three months and still only know about five people, none of whom i feel like i've really connected with.  it's been incredibly isolating, and emotionally taxing.

in addition to this, i've found that i loathe teaching.  even though my school doesn't treat me badly, i really hate my job, hate having to make lesson plans, and be in charge of so many students.  i don't find the job gratifying or rewarding and as embarrassing as it is to admit, i cry every sunday night because i know i have to go back.  so i don't know anything in particular i could try to do to improve that.  i can't really talk to my other teachers and have the situation improve, because the truth is, i hate leadership positions, and feel incredibly anxious knowing that i have to plan these lessons and deliver them and they may not go well and i'll have to think quickly and try to fix it on the spot.  my time in between classes is spent with me feeling nervous and dreading the upcoming class.

so basically, i don't want to leave, but i don't want to stay.  i am absolutely miserable here.  i dread going to work, and i have little relief once i'm done for the day, or on weekends, because i still feel incredibly isolated.  whenever i meet other epik teachers here they tell me how quickly time is going by... i feel like they must be on a different planet than me.  i feel like i've been here for years, and that i'll have to endure still more years of suffering before i can go home.  i'm not homesick, i love living in korea and i love korean culture, but my job makes me incredibly unhappy by it's very nature.

so now i'm at the point where i don't want to leave because i want to fulfill my contract and i don't want to make things hard for my school, but i can't imagine staying until next august without breaking down and crying.  i feel like it's a waste of my youth and talent and passions to stay working in a place/job where i'm this miserable, and i don't want to do it anymore.  so what should i do?  i would want to give my school notice if i were to leave at six month, because as i said, i don't want to make things hard for everyone, but i feel such relief when i imagine finally not having to teach any more.  i would rather desk sit every day here than have to teach another class.

thoughts?  what would you do?  should i leave at six months?

  • cragesmure
  • Super Waygook

    • 300

    • October 01, 2010, 06:57:21 am
    • Yeosu
Re: tough time in korea
« Reply #1 on: November 19, 2010, 12:26:59 pm »
Wow, you really aren't having a good time.  Work can always be a grind, but it sounds much worse for you.  If you really hate teaching, I can't see it getting any better for you.  If you were having a hard time living in Korea, my advice would be to give it time.  I think the best thing to do is to first try a different approach to your classes.  Try to make them fun for yourself.  Failing that, try teaching a different place (hagwon or uni) either in Korea or a different country.  Get out more, meet some people and try to take pleasure in even the smallest things. Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of other options in terms of employment for us here, so if you can't get a teaching job that you like, it may be best to just get out altogether.
Sorry to hear you are having such a bad time of it.  I hope it works out for you.

  • Eros
  • Super Waygook

    • 380

    • September 01, 2010, 02:43:24 pm
    • Korea
Re: tough time in korea
« Reply #2 on: November 19, 2010, 12:29:30 pm »
I really feel for you. An obvious suggestion would be to get a hobby. This will help you make friends and socialize and when you're doing the activity, your mind won't be on teaching.

In respect of the way you feel, nervous, anxious etc. That's more difficult. It's a personality thing and the suggestion, be more confident and relaxed about things isnt any help at all because I'm sure if you could be you would. So I can't help in that respect.

But doing taekwondo, or yoga or something could definately help.

And try to remember the bigger picture. Worst case scenario is not that bad (you can't handle it and leave or whatever). Just put this down to a life experience and move on. 1 year or whatever is a small dot on your overall life so don't be getting too depressed and thinking this is the end of the world.

Hope this helps.

  • Aadi
  • Veteran

    • 78

    • September 10, 2010, 02:27:20 pm
    • Seoul
Re: tough time in korea
« Reply #3 on: November 19, 2010, 12:30:46 pm »
You have a private message.

  • merle
  • Veteran

    • 123

    • May 08, 2008, 08:04:02 am
Re: tough time in korea
« Reply #4 on: November 19, 2010, 12:31:41 pm »
Teaching can be much tougher than anyone anticipated, and it can be more difficult if your students are of a low level as you might find it harder to connect with them. 

What level are you teaching?

Lesson planning can be tough, especially when you are first getting into the swing of things.  This website has a lot of great lessons that, with a little modification, can be really useful in demonstrating how a good lesson can run.

You mentioned that your school hasn't received you that warmly, and that you are miserable and don't know many people.  That can be a really tough and overwhelming feeling, and sounds like that is the root of you being miserable?  One suggestion:  try talking to your co-workers more, asking them questions and getting involved with them.  If they don't speak much English, try bringing in something to eat, and share it with them (baked goods are always nice).  You might find they were just shy before and didn't know how to talk to you, but will start to warm up.

It can be tough to meet people outside of school, but one good way is to find something that interests you, whether it is sports, volunteering, learning how to make pottery or a martial art, but you need to get out and get active. 

I am sorry to hear that things are so tough for you right now, and I hope they get better!  Good luck!

  • isanghan
  • Veteran

    • 92

    • March 12, 2010, 01:47:38 pm
    • 경기도 안산시 상록구 이동 660-4번지 203호
Re: tough time in korea
« Reply #5 on: November 19, 2010, 12:35:05 pm »
As far as meeting people is concerned, I'd personally recommend a group such as Adventure Korea ( It's a great way to meet other people, and you get to see more of Korea while you're doing it!

There are also groups on Facebook for people with different interests who are living in Korea to get together, so have a search there.

  • bern
  • Veteran

    • 201

    • November 09, 2010, 12:48:34 pm
    • korea
Re: tough time in korea
« Reply #6 on: November 19, 2010, 12:43:06 pm »

it's tough but finding a school that doesn't play by the rules in terms of time off and leaving early is a rare thing indeed, if you can build a rapport with your school developing your reputation as a kick-ass teacher who plans great lessons they will be much more amenable to the notion of you needing to 'go to the bank' on a Friday afternoon. It's a tough job and the Korean teachers certainly don't get many breaks from the boss either. My advice would be get the kettle on a soon as you arrive, make the first move and offer people coffee, Korean people love to talk about their family so ask them what their kids are up to, they will definitely be curious about you!

Young learners are a handful wherever you go, I personally love 'em but if you feel nervous or stressed they can tell and will push you as far as they can, try and remain positive and confident, plan awesome lessons and have fun with them.

Having said that, if you hate teaching and planning and dread every lesson there's no shame in admitting defeat and saying this just isn't for me.

Good luck x

Games for Young Learners : m

  • Morticae
  • Hero of Waygookistan

    • 1400

    • August 31, 2010, 12:45:33 pm
Re: tough time in korea
« Reply #7 on: November 19, 2010, 12:45:54 pm »
I've always been a "loner" -- which is why I came to Korea in the first place. The folks at EPIK orientation were nice enough, and they had parties planned in my city and whatnot which I was invited to, but I never went. Sometimes I see groups of foreigners hanging out together having a good time. I have no regrets!

I have no interest in hanging out with other foreigners. Outside of work (not much free time) I am building a network of Korean friends. So when I see groups of foreigners hanging out together, I'm with a group of Koreans. I like it this way, helps you feel closer to the culture.

My co-workers are all much older than me at work, so I can't really connect to any of them. But a "substitute/temporary" teacher came and he's only 7-10 years older than me, so we clicked. And he teaches English. Try to find somebody of a remotely similar age/gender and latch on to them.

As far as teaching, that's just a personal thing I guess. Teaching is the reason I came here. Well, that and making some money. I didn't come here for adventure or anything, that's just an added benefit. I want the experience of teaching to see if it's something I am interested in going after in the U.S. Turns out, I like it!

Lesson planning does suck, but no big deal. A job doesn't likely exist where you love every aspect of it. I feel comfortable in front of the class, and even if a lesson bombs I just trudge through it and do it anyway. Or just junk it and play a game. Hangman, charades, pictionary... you can do these on the spot, no prep or materials needed other than chalk/board. But if you're in Elementary, you might have a more difficult time doing this. I guess you can try Simon Says for the youngsters.

Try to make half of your class a game, the other half a lecture/worksheet. This is fun for me and them. It's not stressful for me (although I do dish out $ for candy), and allows me to work less while it actually becomes quite an effective teaching tool. The game is a fun way to drill the information in for the students.

Best of luck to you! In my honest opinion, sounds like you simply don't like teaching and nothing will change that. Not a problem! I hate accounting. You should probably pack up and leave. Give your notice and go! But rumor has it, the ~3 month mark is the hardest. Maybe stick around for another month before you make your decision.

  • Kurtbob
  • Adventurer

    • 36

    • November 14, 2010, 04:47:47 pm
    • Changyneong
Re: tough time in korea
« Reply #8 on: November 19, 2010, 12:46:41 pm »
I agree with Merle regarding bringing in food. Koreans LOVE to share food. I don't speak a lick of Korean and most of my fellow teachers do not speak English, but we all warm up to each other when food and drink are shared. I made candy apples for Halloween and bought bread and cheese (something most Koreans have never experienced save in pizza form) randomly one day for all to enjoy.

I have also found that by frequenting the same places close to your home you will soon make friends/acquaintances. I began going to a local coffee shop two months ago and I am happy to say that I am friends with the owner, his friends, and acquaintances. One of them even helped me join a local gym and we go together every evening. There are other guest teachers in my area, but I find I am having fun with my new Korean friends, even if theres a lack of communication. Its just about being around others and not feeling hopelessly alone.

Hope this helps,

Re: tough time in korea
« Reply #9 on: November 19, 2010, 12:59:29 pm »
I agree with Kurt.

It took me FOREVER to find anyone, but once I did everything changed for the better.

Give yourself time and try to enjoy where you are. Keep your head up and don't lose hope.

Re: tough time in korea
« Reply #10 on: November 19, 2010, 01:02:02 pm »
I used to stress about class too. Some students are at a really low level AND there is almost no discipline. But then I found this site!
It's made me so much happier (and the kids seem happier too).

It used to be, even after school I would stress about the next day's lesson. Now lesson prep is just downloading a bunch of power points and finding a good movie. The movie is key. I'll watch it myself, and think "wow, this is stupid", but the kids love it, and they really quiet down. It only needs to be tangentially related to your topic, and it needn't require any knowledge of English.

  • anacapa1425
  • Waygookin

    • 21

    • November 12, 2010, 10:19:30 am
    • Paju City, South Korea
Re: tough time in korea
« Reply #11 on: November 19, 2010, 01:23:39 pm »
I can commiserate with you tough time. I have spent two weeks at my school and now find that I am dreading waking up in the morning to come to work. I'm not as far along as you are and am still hopeful that things will fizzle down and work themselves out but for now it is just awful. My students English is so poor that most of them do not know more than Hi, how are you. I couldn't get students to repeat after me today in class. Very frustrating. Maybe we should meet and you can have a new friend and we can vent some of our frustrations? If interested send me a message and we'll try and figure something out.

Re: tough time in korea
« Reply #12 on: November 19, 2010, 01:42:19 pm »
Sorry to hear you're having a tough time. As many people on here have said, having a social network, be it korean or other native teachers is a great way to help you relax and enjoy you're time here.

Personally I think that if you hate teaching that much, this probably isn't the job for you. I enjoy the teaching but I certainly don't love it and I can't see that changing. I see it as a good job for a couple of years but I don't want to base my life around it.

If you feel like you want to leave, then I would recomend trying to time it with the March EPIK intake. If you go back to your home country and need a reference from your school then you don't want to be leaving on bad terms. I assume that the school would need to let EPIK know a month or so before the intake so give them a bit of notice. As someone else said, in the great scheme of things, 6 months isn't a massive amount of time and you'll have proven to yourself that you can stick something out even if you're not enjoying it.

  • metro
  • Waygookin

    • 21

    • September 16, 2010, 01:46:53 pm
Re: tough time in korea
« Reply #13 on: November 19, 2010, 01:44:09 pm »
I sent you a private message

  • ah000
  • Adventurer

    • 59

    • May 26, 2010, 06:55:04 pm
    • korea
Re: tough time in korea
« Reply #14 on: November 19, 2010, 01:48:24 pm »
There are a lot of English speaking churches in Seoul.  You can meet other foreigners there and Koreans who can speak English.

Outside of Seoul is here

  • jh64487
  • Adventurer

    • 58

    • September 16, 2010, 01:40:27 pm
    • Seoul
Re: tough time in korea
« Reply #15 on: November 19, 2010, 01:55:51 pm »
Meet up groups my dear.  Completely changed my second year here.

My first year I felt the same way but starting my second year I went on one of these trips and now i got friends all over the city.

It's still lonely working in public because we're all so spaced out, and only one to a school, but going on these trips helps a lot. 

  • lee-rae
  • Waygookin

    • 22

    • September 02, 2010, 02:57:48 pm
    • Seoul, South Korea
Re: tough time in korea
« Reply #16 on: November 19, 2010, 02:04:54 pm »
Another private message has been sent!  :)

Re: tough time in korea
« Reply #17 on: November 19, 2010, 02:07:26 pm »
you guys have been AMAZING.  thank you so much for your kind words and support.  it's truly appreciated :)

  • aureiden
  • Waygookin

    • 11

    • October 04, 2010, 12:38:19 am
    • Seoul, S. Korea
Re: tough time in korea
« Reply #18 on: November 19, 2010, 02:34:08 pm »
if you are that miserable, you should leave.  why would you do this to yourself?  why fulfill a contract that is making you so unhappy?  if anything, an employer would think you're a coward for putting yourself through this just to be able to show that you stuck it out. 

if you wanna stay for the culture, then find something else to do.  otherwise, i see no reason for you to stay.  please just do whatever it takes to take care of yourself. 

  • sheila
  • Moderator - LVL 2

    • 1480

    • November 23, 2009, 08:32:58 am
    • Gangnamgu, Seoul
Re: tough time in korea
« Reply #19 on: November 19, 2010, 02:34:28 pm »
and another message.... check your inbox shortly.
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