And in the blink of an eye, (and a shed tear) 2016 has come to a close.
Probably a good thing, as 2016 was filled with worldwide disappointment; politically, environmentally, even the amount of high profile celebrity deaths was enough to take a toll on one’s demeanor. From Aleppo, to police brutality, to all the terror attacks, to Brexit, then finally, as if 2016 could get any worse; Trump happens. But in 5 short days, this year will be behind us as and if 2016 can prove anything; its that ‘life. goes. on.’
My coteacher told me my calendar is really ugly because I cross off everyday after its done, and its really more a kind of coping mechanism. Because even the worst of days only last 24 hours; and how wonderful and comforting is that? Once its over, I never have to think about it again; its done and in the past. Thats not to say its always positive. Sometimes, it suggest the approaching deadline of a task I’ve been procrastinating is closer than I thought; and sometimes it seems as if it takes centuries to be able to completely cross off an entire week. Upon inspecting the crosses, I have officially been living in Korea for over 4 and a half months now. 1/3 of a year. 1/3 of the longest year. I wont pretend its gone by exceptionally fast, because it hasn’t. There have been countless days where I have sat and wondered why time is going by so slow; why isn’t this year contract up? Why does it continue on for so many more months? So many more days?
I never thought homesickness could happen to me. How could I be homesick if I’m in the first place I ever felt at home/ if I left the country I was desperate to leave? I thought I was immune to culture shock. How could I experience culture shock in a country I studied abroad in? I thought I would never ever experience ‘burnout’. “I handle stress so well!!”
I was an unfortunate case; thrown into a school where half the teachers were temporary, and my main coteacher had never been a co-teacher before so she was unsure of what to do with me or what she was supposed to help me with; leaving me to have to help myself. My school immediately gave me as many hours as the contract allowed for (22), almost trying to give me upwards of 24; while offering no help in planning or even what I should be teaching. I remember one day in the beginning, where I was just so stressed from teaching 6 classes a day and going to the post office alone, and having them try to charge me 50,000 won in postage for a package I wanted to send my dad. I walked out of the post office, feeling defeated and unwilling to pay that price and oblivious to why it was so expensive that I completely burst into tears in the middle of a street while walking back to my apartment. Imagine how that must have looked. The only foreigner in town carrying a large box and crying. My days consisted of being overworked, overstressed, overwhelmed, and underfed. It doesn’t help coming home to an empty home and having no one to talk to after 4:30. I am quite lucky that ALL of my students are incredible. I really do love each and every one of them so much. If it weren’t for them, I honestly dont think I would have wanted to stay the full 12 months.
Everyone that comes to Korea to teach has a different story and experience. Some people have absolutely amazing coworkers and coteachers and facilities. Some people have lives in shambles after working one day. Its all up in the air until they get here. Also its very dependent on the person and time of year; for instance the former teacher that you replace could have the exact opposite experience as you. With that said, if any of you reading are wondering about teaching abroad, prepare for the absolute worst and hope for nothing but good days.
Last week, my stress level was so bad. The comments people made about me being vegan a lunch, as if I was a zoo animal really started to have an effect on me. Then just feeling so alone and missing my dogs and dad put me in a really bad place. I told my only friend coworker about how I felt and she was in complete disbelief. She was like ‘Wow Megan, I really don’t know what to say…” I mean, what can you say to a recent college grad who has never lived away from home before? Then…. the following week happened..
Full on burnout. The weekend prior to my downfall was spectacular. I met up with friends, had a sleepover and a pleasant vent session, and it was so therapeutic. I came home feeling so refreshed and happy. Then my throat started hurting, so I drowned myself in Vitamin C and tea. Come Monday, I felt like I had a cold. I told myself ‘all I have to do is teach until lunch then I can take sick leave if need be.
Period 1: Tired with a massive headache.
Period 2: Headache worsened. Texted my dad saying only two more classes before I take sick time.
Period 3: Could hardly stand, super light headed with the most intense headache I had ever had. I had drank roughly 2 liters of water at this point. I told my coteacher I would be going straight home after 4th class. By the end of this class she asked me what was wrong because I looked very pale, and when I told her my symptoms, I started crying, naturally because what better thing to do in the middle of a class of 7th graders! The class became so silent it was deafening.
Period 4: I was told to walk to the hospital. A 20 minute walk. In the rain. Okay, yeah no. Are you retarded? So my friend CoTeacher got permission to drive me to the hospital. They told me it wasn’t the flu, but that it might be a brain tumor… So they forced me to get an CT scan. It was NOT anything with my brain (which I already knew, but now I had a 100$ confirmation….) They put me on an IV that worked wonders, honestly. Then gave me fever pills. I was taken home, and I woke up 16 hours later.
After thinking about it, I know it was a huge case of burnout; when stress gets so bad you become physically ill. Tuesday rolled around and I was allowed to go home at lunch, and I woke up 16 hours later again.
The following weekend was Christmas, and I luckily got to see my best friends here and they’re also having a shitty time, so there’s that. A bunch of them also had the same burn out experience. We’re an unlucky bunch.But as I said, life goes on. I’m feeling much better now. Trying not to allow myself get stressed out over camp next week, but my teachers don’t seem so worried about it, so meh! Could be worse!!
I heard the 2017 school year will consist of about half of the students, half of the teachers, and half of the english teachers. But my travel school will be doubling in size, and english teachers. So 2017 will be 100% different than this one. I’m actually happy about that. I assume it cant get any worse so that’s my silver lining.
In 3 weeks, I’ll be hopping on a plane bound for Okinawa, Japan (country 20!!)
In 4 weeks, I be hopping on a boat bound for Fukuoka and Nagasaki!!
Then in February, Taiwan! (country 21)
I cant wait to give my poor mental health a break!!!!