March marked the 20th anniversary of my first trip to Korea. I had graduated from the University of Montana in December of 1996. It was the middle of the school year, so my option were limited. My choices were basically work another job and try to sub when I was available or to sub as much as possible. Neither option really appealed to me. And then it happened... I was walking through the education building and came to the announcement board. Someone had posted some EFL teaching positions available overseas in Korea and Japan. I spent the next few days doing some research with at the computer lab and found several options. The pay in general seemed a little better in Korea when the cost of living was factored in to the situation. I wrote an email to one of the recruiters. Within a week, I had signed a contract with a small language school in Dong-jin and my overseas career essentially began without me even really knowing it. The plan at the time was to get some practical teaching experience and then return for the U of MT job fair the following spring. My hope was still to work in Alaska.
The year passed with some great adventures and wonderful experiences to look back on. I returned to the US in late-March and picked up some volunteer work with the Office of Career Services where I had work in my work-study job. The job fair came in May and I was signed to be dorm advisory and sub in Galena, AK. During the summer, one of the teachers would back out of his/her contract and I switched to full-time teaching and living in the dorm. It was a crazy two years in rural Alaska and the itch to travel and live aboard resurfaced in Galena's -40F temperatures.
I was hired to work in Turkey where I met my wife, Aysem. We decided to leave Turkey together and traveled to Saipan to work at Saipan International School. After four years there, we went to a job fair and got hired to work at Korea International School. I was back in Korea and loving it. After a long run at KIS (seven years), we were offered the opportunity to return to SIS when I was hired to be the Headmaster. I thought for sure that my Korea days were behind me for good, but then the typhoon happened and we changed our minds about island life.
We started looking for work and finally landed at Cheongna Dalton School. We were back in Korea! It was like returning home. We have both been happy to be in Korea again and I strongly doubt that we will consider leaving again. In those 20 years, I've seen some amazing changes on the peninsula, but the basics have stayed the same. Korea is clean and wonderfully efficient; the culture is incredibly unique; and the people are diligent, intelligent, and kind. I've left Korea twice before, I don't think I'll leave a third time.