…starts with a single step.
And a whole crap-ton of paperwork.
So! As you may or may not have heard, I’m currently waist-deep in the process of applying to teach English as a foreign language. That IS a thing you can do, if you’re like me and had absolutely NO IDEA this was something normal people engaged in. When I first heard about it, I assumed it was a college major–you know, you had to have a degree in it, or international relations, or know the language, or SOMETHING. Turns out, the answer is no–pretty much anyone who speaks English, grew up in an English-speaking country, and has a college degree, has a fair chance of being able to teach English as a foreign language. (Although, the qualifications are getting tighter these days, so that’s probably not the case as much anymore.) They also couldn’t care less whether you speak the native tongue or not… But let’s be real–if you’re going to spend a YEAR or more working there, don’t you kind of want to, I don’t know, speak some of the language? Or at least know when a creepy old guy is asking if you’re a prostitute?
(Hint: If a weird dude is giving you eyebrows and elbowing you, asking “Russian-saram?”, the answer is HECK NO and a quick escape.)
For anyone who REALLY missed the boat, I started really thinking about doing this… mmm, back in March? I really got into the K-dramas around then, thanks to a renewed interest in Manga that led me to Boys Over Flowers. Then, while discussing this with a co-worker who had taught in Japan, I mentioned that I was really bored of working at Macy’s but wasn’t sure what my options were. She asked if I had ever considered teaching abroad, taking into account my previous travel experience and my disinterest in settling down. When she told me I could actually teach in South Korea, I had that light-bulb go off. “Ah ha!” my brain said, “This is what I’ve been waiting for!”
So that’s the long and the short of it, I guess.
Since then, I’ve been trying my best to recapture those college days by studying harder than I ever did in university, LOL. Trying to learn Korean out of the blue isn’t the EASIEST thing I’ve ever done, but I’ll admit to anyone who asks that I’m relieved I seem to have picked the easiest Asian language to learn. I’ve already mastered the alphabet, so it’s just figuring out the grammar and memorizing words that I have left to do… So, basically 90% of the work of learning a new language. For anyone else interested, I’m using the free (yes FREE) lessons available online through talktomeinkorean.com They’re an awesome group, and really funny. I don’t know what I expected–I mean, I’ve only been at it in earnest for about five months, and the bit of Spanish I know took four YEARS to learn–but I’m soldiering on.
(Actually, it’s secretly kind of fun to throw random words at my family, friends and co-workers and watch them stare at me blankly, or heave sighs of long-suffering. Though, one of my friends does seem to have picked up a couple of the words I say most frequently. It’s also fun how many people have asked me if I am Korean when I tell them I want to go teach there. Apparently I look entirely more Asian than I ever thought.)
I’ve also started frequenting internet penpal sites, trying to find people who will language-exchange with me. So far I’ve only met one, but she’s SO awesome–she goes by Jenny, speaks entirely more English than I can ever hope to speak Korean, and even majored in English literature. (Ha ha!) I send her messages at all times of the day asking her questions and pestering her to listen to clips of me brutalizing the Korean language, but she is sweet and patient with me. Occasionally, I like to think I help her with things as well. Someday, I hope that more than 1% of our interaction will actually be IN KOREAN, but who knows?
Now I’m also working on getting my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate. This is just kind of an extra thing–it’s not required, because I majored in an English-related degree–but I’ll feel better having it, since I never considered teaching before and have not taken a teaching course in my life. Already it’s proven invaluable, and I’m learning a lot. (Slow-going though, when you factor in the language-learning time, and the fact that my hours recently got amped up at work.)
To anyone who is curious, I’m about 1/3 of my way through the process, which is broken into the following stages:Apply to Canadian Connection, a go-between program. –> Do interview –> Get accepted –> Fill out more paperwork, including an essay and sample lesson plan –> Interview with EPIK, second-step go-between program –> Hopefully get accepted to that, too –> Fill out a WHOLE BUNCH of paperwork, including background checks and getting every-freaking-thing apostilled, which I mean, what is that even –> Get job offer to teach in Korea? –> Possibly interview with them; hope they speak more English than you speak Korean –> OMG VISA PAPERWORK WHY –> I think this is where the plane finally comes in –> In Korea, assuming you don’t have any diseases and you got all your paperwork finished. (Did you?? Can there possibly be anything left about you these people don’t know??)
Yeah, I’m going out of my mind a little bit. Paperwork and I are NOT bros. I mean, of course I’m excited to go, and I know that once I’m over there it will be worth it, but my stress levels spiked by about 100 degrees when I got the e-mail from Canadian Connection outlining all the paperwork and instructions and attachments that I had to get in order between now and February. I’m NOT an organized person by nature or by design. I’m also a deeply-ingrained procrastinator. Neither of these things is going to help me in any way make sure that I get all this shit done.
Well, one way or another. I know this sounds like complaining, but I’m really not. Once all the interview-nerve butterflies and the paperwork-stress go away, I’m sure there is a healthy amount of excitement knocking around in there somewhere. Honest! Love the people. Love the culture. Love the job. Love the journey. HATE the paperwork and the red tape.
Wish me luck, and I’ll let you know how the application to EPIK goes! (Plus, you know, that interview. Gah, interviews!! My mortal enemies!)