Teaching in Korea - Big City or Small City?
Written by Joey Bennett
When you ask most people who are from the western hemisphere what they know about Korea, the answer is most likely, "Not too much"; ironically enough, this is pretty much the same response you will get when asking a teacher who is about to go to Korea for a year. Seoul, Busan and possibly Daegu are the cities most recognized by people who are looking for the perfect school, in the perfect location; Seoul, because it is the capital; because it has the most variety; and simply because teachers have heard the name more than once. Busan is where the beach is - people know that. Why not spend a year of your life teaching in a school that has the glorious vista of a beach in a city that lies neatly on the southern tip of the country? What people should be asking themselves is, "Why not?". Well, the answer is simple - because you would be missing out on what Korea really has to offer: culture.
Large metropolitan areas like Busan and Seoul are great cities, they really are, but they are not exactly what you would call the ideal place to learn about Korean life. They are the result of outside influences, and have therefore been 'westernized' - to what extent is hard to say, but westernized all the same. Seoul offers what any international city should: a wide variety of ethnic restaurants, from Italian to Indian, a bustling nightlife, great shopping, etcetera, etcetera. Busan on the other hand, is a port city, so there are a lot of different people from different countries coming and going. In regard to the beach, on any given summer day, there is around 10,000 people covering it with umbrellas, making it difficult to get yourself to the water - but hey, it's still a beach, right?
But what about the smaller cities that fill in the country side? Places like Kumi, Cheonan, Keumsan, Masan, Gwangju, or Gangneug to name a few - is it because these names are too difficult to pronounce? Or is it because they are simply unknown to most people? I think that it is probably a combination of both, which is understandable. What people often forget about is the reason why they are taking off for a year of their lives. Sure, a lot of people go to Korea to make money, or get experience in the teaching field, but what about the experience of a lifetime, being immersed in a culture other than your own? How much do you really know about Korea and Koreans, their history, their values, the reason they do things that you think are weird or rude?
Life in one of Korea's smaller cities can be much more fulfilling, as I have learned. People are friendlier, the air is cleaner and the quality of life is simply better. To add to this, you find yourself in a setting that doesn't cater to you, rather one that you have to adjust to - and isn't that the whole point? Why would you travel to the other side of the world only to seek the pleasures of home? Why not embrace another culture to the fullest extent? I think if you do, you will find yourself returning home with a lot more than what you left with.
About The Author
Joey Bennett runs Joey's ESL Room, at http://www.esl-teach.com.