I've been back home for a while now. I thought that writing this post might be a bit better to do after giving myself a little time to readjust to life in The States! I think some of my biggest takeaways from this experience have been that:
a) There are many generous and kind people willing to help and believe in you if you are willing to do the work and be flexible.
I met and got to know so many wonderful people in South Korea and every one of them seemed genuinely interested in my success as a teacher. I did find that as long as I was professional, flexible, and willing to work my experience was very positive!
b) It is important to have a sense of adventure and go out of your comfort zone every once in a while (disrupt your patterns).
Often, I find myself in a pattern and do the same thing every day. I had to make a point to go somewhere new almost every day! I tried my best to use what Korean I knew/know when I could and not just hope that someone spoke English. I felt that it was important to do things that I would not get to do once I was back home.
c) Meaning can bypass language but language is still REALLY important!
I am by no means fluent in Korean. I still can't hold a conversation in Korean but I can do a few things. I can order food and ask for things as well as generally communicate in situations where I need something. A lot of my communication in the first few weeks was pointing and saying "please." In the classroom, I learned a few words to help with management and to give some instructions. In these situations, I was usually able to get my meaning across even if it was without language but I still felt the want and need to learn more to really effectively communicate with the people around me.
To any anyone interested in study abroad, I would definitely say, "DO IT!" It is definitely worth it! The experience of living in a foreign country and experiencing being fully immersed in a culture that is different from your own is invaluable. It broadens your own views of the world and can help make you a more global citizen. Additionally, it is really fun! I immensely enjoyed my time abroad. I had some of the most fun and rewarding experiences of my college experience. I also had to challenge myself to do more than I might have done than if I had stayed in the U.S. for my student teaching. I feel that I have grown more confident in myself as an individual in the world.
As to things I might have done differently, I would have wanted to learn a bit more Korean beyond what I needed for my basic needs. Once I learned how I would fulfill my role within the school, I was easily able to adjust my mindset to really commit to what was expected of me. Overall, I felt really prepared for my experience and through this experience, I have started planning for the next five or so years of my life. I can definitely see myself returning to teach in Korea again in the next five or so years. I can also see myself going abroad to a different place to teach. I would just love to continue to travel the world and eventually reach one of my personal goals of travelling to all seven continents (I have currently been to three of seven!).
Overall, this entire experience has been very positive but if I had to describe it in just a few words I think it would be: This experience has been a personal test of patience, willingness to work, and ability to enjoy the small moments that life throws at you. It has been a reminder as to why I enjoy teaching and why I want to be a teacher. It has played a part in affirming my aspirations to become a teacher and reminds me that the work is always worth it. It may take a while for things to happen and it may be tough but it will be worth it in the end.
These are the chronicles of my time before, during, and after student teaching in South Korea!