Bronwyn Anne Pretorius
Teach Enrich Empower
The Highs and the Hurdles: My Life in South Korea
It’s a sweltering Sunday afternoon in Sejong, South Korea, and I am cooling off with an ice-cold brew in my local café. I’m sitting here, thinking about my past four months of teaching.
As singles, couples and groups of friends and family enjoy their beverages and desserts around me, I can’t help but smile at the adventure I am currently embarking on. I, Bronwyn Anne Pretorius, otherwise known as Teacher Bronnie, am a very lucky 24-year old (25 years old in Korean age).
Teaching at two elementary schools is no easy feat. I used to believe that I was tired at the end of a day at university – but I didn’t know what exhaustion really felt like! My typical day starts at 5:45 am, when I wake up to do a quick workout before school in my little apartment. At around 7:15 am, I head to the bus stop down the road and hop onto bus 991. About 50 minutes later, I am sitting in one of my two English classrooms, ready for the day.
I am extremely fortunate to have been placed with a kind-hearted, supportive and witty main co-teacher. She has been a living example of much of the theory I learned during my TEFL course. Nonetheless, as ready as I felt coming to Korea; nothing could quite prepare me for the assortment of challenges I have encountered while living and working in a foreign country.
“The best advice I can give is: be flexible, open-minded and determined.”
Over and above the inevitable language barriers I face within and outside of school, the infamous ‘Korean surprises’, or as my co-teacher calls it, the ‘sudden attacks’, are something I have had to get used to. These ‘attacks’ generally take the form of last-minute changes to a schedule, whether one likes it or not. One such attack happened recently when I was wrapping up my lesson with my third graders. An announcement was first made on the intercom. The next moment, the children were either laughing or looking frightened; placing their books above their heads; and hiding under their tables. Needless to say, I had no idea what was happening. I soon discovered that this was a planned earthquake drill, which I was not aware of. At least I now know how to deal with potential earthquakes!
After four months of teaching a total of 17 different classes every week, ranging from third to sixth grade, I can safely say that I have experienced some interesting things. Children crying when losing a game; being applauded (or laughed at) when I say something in Korean; being told I have pretty eyelids, and hearing how most children seemingly feel “so-so” when being asked how they are, are just a few examples.
A year ago, I was quite certain I would be in South Korea, but never did I imagine what it would truly be like. Coming from a multi-cultural country like South Africa, with immense cultural and social differences, life here has been jam-packed with learning and adapting. The best advice I can give to any future teacher is: be flexible, be open-minded, be determined, and of course – expect the unexpected. Believe me, the tiredness and little daily obstacles are, without a doubt, worth it.
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