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Keeping a positive attitude will be one of the most pivotal points in making your experience teaching in Korea a memorable one. With the right attitude, you can make the best of your time. Contrarily, if you don’t keep your attitude in check, you may be in for a rough couple of months.
Obviously, you are aware that you will be going to a different country and that you should likely expect to encounter what is referred to as culture shock. Things in South Korea are done very differently than they are in your home country. It will serve you best to go with an open mind, and to expect to encounter things that you may not necessarily agree with. The methods of doing things may not always be to your liking. Again, one must realize that one is in a different country, and therefore should expect things to be different. It would be futile to believe that you are going to affect much change in centuries-old traditions or habits. The best idea is to be curious as opposed to judgmental.
When you first arrive, you will likely be in a euphoric state where everything around you is new, and your curiosity will know no bounds. This often lasts for a couple of months, but afterwards, you start adapting to your new lifestyle, and things become more routine. It is at this stage where many people begin to feel homesick, or have a decline in their positive attitude. It is helpful to try and be aware of how you’re feeling as often as possible. Notice if you are becoming negative, irritable, or sad. If so, you should take special care to search out the positive in the situation, and to try to re-kindle your spirit of adventure by getting out and exploring, bringing back those sensations of unfamiliarity. Even after spending many years in Korea, you can easily hop on a bus to a remote part of the country and realize once again that you are in an exciting place where new adventures always await you.
It should also be noted that not everyone experiences culture shock, or feels homesick. It is just as likely that you will have no problems at all. In fact, reading about what may happen can also do you a disfavor, since it may set up expectations you would not otherwise have had. Attempt to go into this venture with no pre-set notions of what should be expected. Create your own experience, but be constantly aware of how you are feeling. Take the pulse on your attitude as regularly as possible in order to be sure that it is healthy.
A critically important point is to be careful with whom you associate. This cannot be emphasized enough. During your stay in Korea, you will meet many, many people. There are lots of interesting and dynamic personality types that are attracted to this opportunity. Unfortunately, there are also a handful of very negative people who are often more outspoken than their more positive counterparts. Beware of these people. They enjoy nothing more than complaining about Korea, and why they are unhappy being there. What they have not fully realized is that they were not happy where they were before either. They have not yet learned that you can be happy anywhere you go in the world. The only thing that stays the same wherever you go is the fact that you are there. These people seem to especially like complaining to people new to the country. They will bad-mouth Korean culture, food, schools, or anything else that they can think of at the time. They will try to befriend you to “warn” you about things. The best way to handle these types is to politely nod a few times and then make your way to another part of the room. If you happen to be unfortunate enough to have one of these people working at your school, again, do your best to ignore them and not encourage their babble.
Remember, there are many great people for you to meet. The creation of life-long friendships, and even romantic relationships, are more the rule than the exception. Surround yourself with the types of people who are there to enjoy themselves and who help make your experience even greater. Also, attempt to be a leader in this aspect. Be positive about things, find the aspects of life overseas that you enjoy, and promote them to yourself and your friends. This will help ensure that you make the best of your time.
No matter where you go in the world, it is not difficult to find things that you dislike. Korea is no exception. Frankly, it would be easy to name some aspects of Korea that are less than desirable. However, the same applies to the U.S. and Canada. It all depends where your focus is. Try this little experiment to prove it to yourself. Read the following instructions one at a time. Only read one number at a time, and don’t look ahead to the next until you have completed the previous one.
1. Take a good look around the room and try to find as many things that are the color green as you possibly can. Find them all, everything that you can that is green. Spend 30 seconds doing this. You will have to remember them.
2. The next step involves closing your eyes. You will have to close your eyes as soon as you finish reading the instructions for this step. So, what you should do now is close your eyes right away and try to remember everything that is blue. No peeking. Start now.
Did you have a difficult time trying to remember? If this experiment didn’t work so well because you read ahead and saw what was going to happen, try it on a friend. The instructions were originally intended to be given verbally rather than reading. That is the power of focus. Whatever you focus on will be all you see. In this example, it was likely difficult to recall any blue because you had focused only on the green. If you spend all your time focusing on the negative, you will have a horrible time. If you spend your time looking for the optimistic aspects, you will have a wonderful experience.
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