LIFE UPDATE #1: Settling In and Learning the Ropes

Hey fam (and new friends)! Eric and I have now been in Korea for three weeks, and are finally getting the hang of things. Our school, called CBFLIS (Chungcheongbuk-do Foreign Language Institute for Students…say that 5 times fast) is so unique and so different from the typical public school in Korea.

For one, we get to teach the core subject of our choice. I’m teaching art, and my husband Eric is teaching Earth Science. Through these subjects and other activities like arts and crafts, dance, sports, and a final presentation play, we help our students learn new English skills. Second, we get a new batch of students every 2 weeks or so. We have different programs throughout the year, and the current program is for advanced middle schoolers for a period of two weeks. Students have to apply for a spot in our school, so they are all already motivated to be there and want to speak to us native teachers and practice their English. Unlike other public schools in Korea, our school has many native English-speaking teachers, and we have a lot more influence in how we run our classes. Also, since our school is a bit like an overnight camp, the class sizes are small (10 students), students stay in dorms and we teachers live on campus as well. It’s tough for someone like me being out in the middle of nowhere, but the school gives us a free shuttle to the city on the weekend and extra allowance money for meals. So far, we’ve already begun to figure out the city bus schedule and even took a trip to Seoul last weekend, so I don’t feel too abandoned yet. I do miss walking out to a café or convenience store whenever I want, though. And having easy access to public transportation. But it’s only been a few weeks, so I still have time to find my niche here.

teaching in korea black teacher


art class teaching esl in korea

Our second week here (which was our first week of teaching) was incredibly stressful—I can’t even sugarcoat it. We got thrown into the most intense and hectic program of the year, after thinking that we had everything necessary for our teaching schedule—we had made our lesson plans, created our class workbooks, and sent the school our class materials list weeks before we arrived…but, something I had forgotten since my last stay in Korea is that things will get thrown at you and change at the very last minute, even if you planned and confirmed everything in advance. I really had to learn everything on the job and improvise like there was no tomorrow.

Last weekend we went to Seoul for a wedding, so we didn’t have much time at home to just reset and catch our breaths. From there, things became a bit more manageable, but another unique thing about this school is that since there are many different programs throughout the year, you’re never really done learning the ropes until you’ve been there for a whole year. In a few weeks, we will have the program for intermediate middle schoolers, which is slightly different; a few weeks after that, our advanced course for elementary school starts, which is very different from the previous; then there are day camps, programs where we travel to different local schools, and programs where we teach students with their parents. So the whole year will be a bit of a learning curve, but thankfully not as stressful as these first two weeks.

music sculpture seoul south korea

Visiting Seoul for the weekend

Heading home from our friend's wedding in Seoul

Heading home from our friend’s wedding in Seoul

piano staircase musical stairs seoul subway

Playing with musical piano stairs in Seoul

I didn’t think our jetlag would be so bad, but our sleeping schedule didn’t adjust this past week. When we first arrived, we only had one week to get it together before we had to teach (not as long as it may sound). The day after we arrived, we were running errands with two of our sweet and funny Korean teachers, Sing and Young. We got our medical checkups (required for everyone who is teaching in Korea), got groceries (our apartment was empty and the school only serves lunch), got prepaid Korean SIM cards for our phones, and went to Immigration to apply for our ARCs (Alien Registration Cards). We tried to open a bank account, but apparently Korea has made their laws more strict about foreigners opening accounts with just a passport, so it wasn’t until yesterday that we got our ARCs and opened up our bank accounts, meaning…we get paid soon!

Tomorrow we start another 2-week session with a new set of advanced middle school students. We still need to get wifi, but we have desktop computers which we’re using. To the family reading this, we miss you already and will talk to you soon!!!

About Atembe

Atembe is a Cameroonian-American who is exactly 27 years old (because saying "20-something" is SO 2016) and currently teaching kiddos art and English in South Korea. In her free time she's dancing, drinking too much celebrity tea, living vicariously through characters in her favorite TV comedies, or [sometimes] letting her husband Eric beat her at Wii. Catch her on Twitter or Instagram via @sothisisfate, and for a faster response, tweet her a "TAR!..."

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