30 Day Challenge: Day 21

What Three Lessons Do You Want Your Children to Learn From You?

If and when I have children, the following are three things that I would hope to instill in them.

  1. Be Yourself – I am very grateful that, growing up, my mom was very supportive of my often alternative interests. I would definitely want to teach my children to throw stereotypes out the window and do whatever makes them happy. That includes personal aesthetic, interests and hobbies, religion, sexual orientation, whatever. If my kid wants to be a green-haired, guitar-playing, Buddhist pansexual: go for it. I’m going to love them just as much.
  2. Be Honest – It’s cliche, but honesty truly is the best policy. Lies will always find their way back to you. Whether it’s telling your parent that you’re at a friend’s house when you’re really at a party or padding your accomplishments/resume to get into a better school. I feel like lying could potentially evolve into other negative behavior, so it’s best to avoid it all together and just tell the truth!
  3. Be Kind/Considerate – Everyone has feelings and you should always take them into consideration. I think it’s also very important to try and understand why someone may be feeling a particular way. Was it something that you did? Something that someone else did? As a super emotional person, I always find that talking about what I’m feeling can help others to understand why, even if it may seem irrational to them. Everyone is entitled to their feelings.

Also, if anyone would like to do this challenge with me, it can be found here.

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The Post-Graduate Struggle

When I decided to leave for Korea, I was under the impression that teaching English there would fix all my problems. Namely, my financial instability and my emotional distress caused by my financial instability. However, the stress of my job ended up taking an even greater toll on my psyche despite the fact that I was making considerably more money than I had been at home.

Since returning to New Jersey, I honestly spend the majority of my time watching Netflix in bed and crying about how much money I don’t have, even though I am currently working. Student loans. Car insurance. Phone bill. Gas. After all my expenses are paid, I have very little left for myself and it tortures me. I am officially back to square one.

In Korea, I had more than enough money to go out to dinner multiple times per week, treat myself to some new cosmetics, or even take a weekend trip on a whim. And that was after I sent half my paycheck home to take care of my expenses! Now, an iced caramel latte at Dunkin’ Donuts is hardly affordable.

The state that I (and many of my peers) are currently in is a sad one. What did we go to college for? To be in debt for the rest of our lives and not find jobs in our fields?  To work somewhere part-time and still live at home with our parents three or four or five years after graduating?

It hardly makes me feel better when I see people working in positions which I know they got because their families have money, connections, or both. The system is truly flawed because of this. I am absolutely certain that there are much more qualified people who could be working in so many of the jobs out there, but are not given a chance because of some petty reason.

Then, of course, there are the jobs that expect you to have five years of experience for an entry level position when you only went to school for four. How is anyone supposed to gain experience if employers are not willing to take a chance on a promising individual and teach her or him the skills necessary to do that job?

It baffles me. It saddens me.Please feel free to add your comments, and perhaps we could get a discussion going.

Three Weeks Later

It’s been three weeks since I left Korea. I’m very happy to be home in New Jersey and able to see my mom and friends. It’s nice to have access to familiar things, as well, such as the lake I like walking around, the boardwalk at Point Pleasant, and even my favorite restaurants. Pizza and bagels were sorely missed.

I just got a job at a restaurant near my house. I won’t have to spend a lot of money on gas and I think I’ll be able to do some saving. In the meantime, I plan on getting certified to teach ESL in public schools here. There are a few tests I have to take, including math, but some friends have offered to tutor me. I’m really grateful for that. The other tests are for oral and written proficiency, which I’m not worried about.

Even though I was only in Korea for six months, it’s admittedly been a little strange getting reacclimated to life at home. It took quite some time to get over the jet lag, and all my days seemed to get mushed together. I got so used to using Facebook messenger or Skype to talk to my friends at home (the only person I texted or called in Korea through my actual phone plan was Hannah), but now I can communicate with them without needing the internet. I also don’t have to bow at people or handle money like a Korean (which I found myself doing for a while right after I got back). I’m also thrilled to have my car again and not have to rely on public transportation when I need to go somewhere.

Anyway, I’m still getting back into the groove of things, and it’s really nice to have found a job so quickly. I hate sitting at home with nothing to do!

I’m also thinking of changing the name of my blog. If you have any suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments!

Big and Little

In life, everything can be divided into two very general categories: the “big” things and the “little” things. For the most part, people have little or no control over the “big” things. These things are constantly present. They may cause you extreme anxiety or you may be completely indifferent towards them. It really depends on who you are and what your situation is.

For me, my biggest “big” thing is my absolutely crippling student debt. This is what I got for five years of education at a relatively well-known, private university in New Jersey (in addition to a lovely piece of paper in Latin, which is still sitting in an envelope, unframed).

Before coming to Korea, this one “big” thing was the reason for all the other “big” problems in my life. I was working two part time jobs with one paycheck automatically going towards loan repayment each pay period. My other paycheck essentially covered gas and I had very little left over to do anything for myself with. Then, there was my car. In addition to gas, I had to have a lot of work done to it over the past year, most of which got put on a credit card.

I was constantly tired, stressed, and dealing with anxiety. No college graduate beginning their life should feel like that.

When I finally made the decision to come to Korea to teach, I had no idea what a huge difference it would make in my daily life.

Right off the bat, I was provided with a nice apartment at the expense of my employer. I also get inexpensive health insurance (something I was paying over $100/month for at home), and a salary that allows me to send nearly half my paycheck home each month while still being able to live extremely comfortably. I don’t have to be at work until nearly 3 PM, so even though my day doesn’t finish until 10 PM, I can go out and socialize with other expats and not feel guilty about it.

Now, for the “little” things. And personally, I think these are the best.

I have students who shout my name and wave when they see me in the hall and want to hold my hand on the way to class. I have students who insist on sharing candies and snacks with me for no reason at all. I even have students who ask me to tie their shoes and get so happy when I do it for them because they can’t quite do it themselves yet.

I also get to see the progress my students are making in class in their speaking, reading, and writing. This is rewarding beyond words.

Outside of work, some of my “little” things include being able to walk almost everywhere I need to go and, if I do need to take public transportation, it is ridiculously affordable. Eating out is essentially more affordable than buying groceries here, so it’s really nice to go to a restaurant and not feel bad about the bill. Finally, free public WiFi is pretty much everywhere in Korea so it’s really nice not to have to use up my data plan!

So, what are some of your “big” and “little” things?

The Sass Attack

Sometimes, kids can be pretty funny. Today was one of those days.

During my first class of the afternoon, two of my students had arrived earlier than the rest of the class. One little boy had folded a paper airplane and was throwing it around the classroom. At one point, he threw it and it hit my other student, a precocious little girl whom I thoroughly enjoy teaching, in the arm. Without skipping a beat, she picked up the paper airplane and slowly turned around to face him while crushing it in her hand. Then, she threw it back at him, shouted something in Korean, and sat down at her desk, arms folded across her chest. Stunned, the little boy sat down and I couldn’t help but laugh hysterically.

Minutes after, the rest of my class began to come in. One of my other female students skipped through a door carrying (and eating) a family size bag of potato sticks. She filled my hands with them, saying “teacher! teacher! is good!” I ate them. They were good.

I really like that class.

We also had a student bring in a box of sticky rice buns for the office; I’m assuming for the upcoming holiday of Chuseok. It was really sweet. The buns were filled with red bean paste, so they were literally quite sweet, as well.

Today’s pretty good so far!

Just Another Manic Monday

I haven’t worn makeup for the past two days because something has been irritating the skin around my eyes. Anyway, I walked into one of my younger classes only to hear “Who are you? What happened to your face?” This was repeated over and over until I realized that my students were referring to the fact that I wasn’t wearing any makeup. How sweet. I simply had to move on and get my lesson started.

It is generally acknowledged that beauty is highly valued in Korean culture. There are numerous makeup counters in the department stores and beauty shops are to Korea as Starbucks is to the United States. Since coming here, I myself have purchased several skin care treatments due to the fact that there are advertisements everywhere and everyone I see has absolutely flawless skin. They’ve got to be doing something right, right?

(Side note: I have actually fallen in love with everything I’ve purchased for my face so the answer is yes, Korea is absolutely doing something very right.)

I have also been making a serious effort to look like an actual human being when I leave my apartment in the morning (read as wear makeup and put on something other than yoga pants). So far, so good. I legitimately couldn’t bring myself to do it today, though, due to a weekend filled with itchy red eyes. Although, feeling better after today.

Then, during one of my evening classes, one of my female students kept on calling out “teacher!” and frantically slapping at her shoulder. I eventually noticed that my shirt was askew, and my bra strap was showing slightly.

Thank you, students, for your concern about my makeup-less face and messed up clothes. Aren’t Mondays grand?

Tia Teacher!

They call me Tia Teacher. My students, that is.

It was only my third full day, but I’m slowly getting a little more comfortable and a little more familiar with my students. Names will take some time, although there is a small handful of kids with big personalities who I already remember. At the beginning of each class, I have them go around the room and tell me their name as well as one fact about themselves. Today the topic was “favorite foods.” Spaghetti ranked very high on the list among all my students.

At some point during the day, the skies opened up and we had a massive rainstorm. All my kids were walking into class soaking wet, wringing out their hair, and taking their shoes and socks off. It was terrible; I felt so bad because they were damp and unhappy.

On a brighter note, before work I found a new place for lunch called Kimseongsaeng, just a few blocks away from the school. It was predominantly a kimbap place, but I got the bulgogi pork with rice and oyster mushrooms. It wasn’t very crowded and I sat at a nice table in the back. They served me some delicious iced tea, with a familiar flavor that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. One of the waitresses also came by to offer me a fork, but when she saw me using chopsticks she smiled and got really happy.

Bulgogi.

Bulgogi with broth, banchan, and tea..

I think I will go to Busan on Saturday to see a Studio Ghibli exhibit. REALLY looking forward to that!