If you had asked me 10 years ago where I saw myself, I probably would not have answered, “Asia.” I am a firm believer that everything works out for the good in life. And as it so happened, one day, after the third recommendation by a friend, everything fell into place for me to take advantage of teaching in South Korea and traveling in Asia. I took what some considered a bold step. At 28 years old, I packed two large suitcases, a carry-on full of belongings and an insatiable sense of curiosity regarding cultures for what was supposed to be 18 months. Those 18 months turned into a little over 3 ½ years of unimaginable memories. I returned with two large suitcases, a rescue bulldog, a “foreigner family,” more pictures than you could think humanly possible and an even greater sense of curiosity about cultures.
When I was introduced to Don, he lined up interviews with a few reputable schools. I chose to work at a private academy with Kindergarteners and elementary-aged students in Suwon. For as much as I was able to accomplish while teaching the students, they also taught me a lot of things about humanity, education and self-improvement along the way. Some of which, I was lucky enough to teach for the entirety of my time there. And many went on to win local and regional English competitions.
While in Suwon, I also became actively involved in the Suwon foreigner community, building bridges and developing programs for foreigners to get involved and make friends with the local community. Those experiences where incredibly beneficial and taught me about community service, development and a lot about networking. In my free time, there was always something to do and places to see. The Korean public transit system is phenomenal and easy to use. And despite the fears that many had about my choice to go to South Korea, I found it to be a safe, comfortable place to live and work. The best advice that I received and could pass on to anyone considering teaching abroad is to “manage your expectations.” If you have no expectations, you can’t be disappointed and you’ll take more opportunities. A lot of good things come unexpectedly. Would I do it again? Yes, in a heartbeat.
By Katie Eksten, Mass Communication & Public Relations major, University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, Class of 2005