Korean University Jobs: A Golden Opportunity

My term here at a university in Korea just started yesterday after a nice vacation. While it can be an adjustment getting back into the swing of things I have to say I love my job and I am pretty happy to be back at work. Although, of course, there are some things I’d like to improve (who wouldn’t want more money?) I am extremely satisfied in my current working situation. I’d like to share a few reasons why.

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Students’ glittering eyes
My students are extremely hard working but they are also fun, funny, interesting, curious, kind, and sincere. They are a pleasure to work with.They are filled with integrity, academic and otherwise. They are eager to improve and they work at it both in an out of class. They seem to generally and genuinely appreciate my teaching and feedback. We have lots of interesting talks on politics, culture, movies, and the minutia of the English language.

Lots of autonomy, respect, and support
I have lots of support from colleagues and admin but I don’t feel pressure of anyone looking over my shoulder. I make my own decisions without much concern about what non-students will think. Whenever I have a question there are people I can ask.

It’s never boring
For me, working with people, especially bright and interesting ones, with the autonomy described above is never boring. Like TV moms used to say, “Only boring people are bored.” There is always something new to try and new understandings to gain. Simply changing the order of activities in a lesson or topic we have seemingly “done” or “covered” numerous times can offer a fresh perspective. And since there is nothing telling me I need to “do” the travel unit in week 4 and present perfect continuous in week 8 I am free to make decisions based on what I think my learners need. I’d also suggest that maybe only becomes boring when we allow ourselves to stop caring and experimenting. While it may not be rocket surgery there are still plenty of puzzles and things to think about if we choose to be engaged.

Chances for Professional Development
This is something I have been able to take advantage of. I even wrote about the variety of professional development opportunities for English teachers in South Korea here. If we assume that uni instructors have more time then this is even more true.There are so many opportunities it would be a shame for anyone to let their brain or skills become atrophied.

Additionally, I *should also mention I have had opportunities to teach classes outside of my subject area and these were great chances for professional development. Teaching Business Management, Korean Studies and Korean Politics gave me a fresh perspective on teaching and learning and also gave me a chance to work with different types of students.

Opportunities for further income streams
I have heard tell of foreign instructors doing private lessons throughout the year. I have heard of some folks doing teacher training during vacations. I have heard of people doing presentations for money. I know lots of people who publish academic articles and receive money from their universities on a per article basis. Sometimes these payments are quite handsome. I have heard of people editing and doing all sorts of paid employment while working at a university in Korea. I have heard that this can be a nice way to make some additional revenue, especially for those instructors feeling bothered by a lack of raises.

Korean Perceptions of Foreign Professors
I am not one of those (loathsome?) individuals who is always shouting about how he is a professor. I am, however, on an E-1 (Professor) visa. This was seemingly quite impressive to the gentleman at immigration the other day. I mention this prestige factor simply to highlight my belief that Korean people tend to place a lot of prestige on those working in tertiary institutions regardless where the worker is from.

I haven’t really run into much, “You can’t teach X because you are a foreigner” stuff. In fact my experience has been more like, “You can teach Y so you can probably go ahead and teach X, too, right?” This has generally suited me just fine. I feel trusted and respected and this is a great feeling.

The End
I am not saying that I will stay in this job forever  or that I’d want to, or even could. I am just saying it is pretty nice for now. To each their own, though. My sincere hope is that didn’t sound super douchy or like I was bragging too much about the very fortunate position I am in as a foreign instructor at a university in South Korea. I worry that I might have generalized a bit about the context here and I would urge anyone writing about teaching Korea (or anywhere really) to avoid major generalizations about the context because it can obviously vary.  I feel like there is a lot more to consider with this topic but it requires a lot of time and nuance.

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6 comments

  1. jinny

    So glad reading your post. I think you can’t deny that your this golden opportunity is the fair result of what and how you have done here for a long time : you have never stopped pushing yourself beyond the limit and nudging your ss/ trainees/ friends/ people around u toward different views. You have never forced us but helped us to continue to be exposed with new challenges. Good nite !

  2. laurasoracco

    You really are lucky, Mike! So happy to hear all these things about your job. Having autonomy and support is a big advantage! I also like the part about not getting bored by embracing change. Completely agree! Wishing you a great school year ahead.

  3. careymicaela

    So happy to hear that you’ve found a positive niche. It’s a good feeling when you find yourself in a place where you feel appreciated, challenged and motivated all at once. Here’s to a new and exciting school year! 🙂

  4. Pingback: 201! | ELT Rants, Reviews, and Reflections

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