Well, the past few weeks have been a bit of a roller coaster. Since I got to Wausau, WI I’ve been researching jobs in Budapest, Hungary. I have wanted to go to Hungary for years now. I got my CELTA teaching certificate so that I can go to Budapest and teach and live there and just be immersed in the European culture. This is where I wanted to be. I dream about Europe constantly, imagining my life there and the people I would meet, the cute little cobble stone streets, the cafés, the piazzas, the gorgeous European men… I can’t remember a time when moving to Europe hasn’t been a goal of mine. And this was my time. I researched jobs and sent out 40 resumes and cover letters to any language school I could find in Budapest. This is how everything has gone down:
A day after I posted my resume on Dave’s ESL Café I got a call from a man in Greece wanting to interview me, asking if I was interested in teaching in Athens. Umm… of course I would be interested in living and working in Greece! It wasn’t Hungary, but I mean, it’s Greece. I had an interview with him the next day, and let’s just say that it was the weirdest “interview” of my life. He said that he was Dr. Paul Lowen and the medical director of a school there that works with handicap children. The first half of my day would be spent teaching English, and the second half would be spent doing some exercises with the children to help with their physical development. He was giving me examples of what kind of issues I would run into with the kids – example: sometimes they would have trouble focusing their eyes, or sometimes they would start to choke because the muscles in their mouth and throat weren’t completely developed. So he had me look in the mirror and do some exercises with my eyes, and then asked me to look at my throat, and then stick my finger down my throat… which I didn’t do because I thought it was a bit weird, but pretended that I did. He also asked me questions about culture shock and my travels and how I do being surrounded by new things – such as new types of food. I said that I’ve tried a ton of food, half of which I wasn’t exactly sure what I was eating, but I would say that I’m adventures when it comes to my cuisine. He said that in parts of Malaysia people will eat live mice that are about the size of your pinky. Gross. But I said that I respect that that’s a part of their culture, it’s just not really something that I would enjoy doing. So that’s where the conversation ended – for the time being. He then called me back like eight hours later when I was getting ready to go to bed and chatted again for an hour. You know what we talked about the whole time? Eating live mice. For an hour. I pretty much sat on the couch the whole time going, what in the hell does this have to do with teaching? But I was thinking, well, he is a doctor and maybe he’s just really smart but socially awkward and this is some psychology thing that could somehow be related back to the kids. But the whole time he kept explaining the medical reasons of why you could in fact eat a live mouse, and how it’s actually really good for you, and had me explain back the medical reasons of how the muscles in my mouth and throat could overpower the little mouse, etc. And then asked me what I would say to the mouse if it could talk and asked me to not eat him. what. the. fuck? Basically, the whole point of this hour-long chat was that it would take courage and determination to eat a live mouse. What?? So then, this is where it gets weird (like it hasn’t been weird enough up to this point). I asked for the school’s website and he said that they didn’t have one because the school also serves as kind of a safe house for some of these children. OK, so I asked for the email address of a teacher at their school, and he seemed all thrown off by that and mumbles something about he’ll see what he can do. And then asks me about what all my yearly physical exam entails (I’m sorry, EVERYONE knows what type of exam a 25 year old woman gets every year – especially if you’re a doctor), and to top it all off asks me to take 8 different pictures of myself. One picture of just my head with my tongue in and another with my tongue out. Then one from my shoulders with tongue in and tongue out, one from my chest on up and one from my waist on up. And on top of those, one passport size photo and one full body shot. I told him that this was a really weird request and asked why in the hell he would need these, and he gave me some bullshit about how he can tell my medical past from these pictures. Right. Get real. And this is where I ended the conversation because he was obviously full of shit and creepy. Then after I did some emailing I contacted the woman who runs the CELTA center in Athens, and she has never heard of this school or doctor. Awesome. I hate to imagine why this guy was actually calling. Needless to say, I won’t be working in Greece.
So after the creepy Athens incident I was contacted by a language school in Hungary (who I had sent my resume to, so I knew they were legit) and set up a Skype interview. The interview was normal, short and sweet, and the next morning (this past Friday) I opened my email to find a job offer from that school. I got butterflies and felt this huge sigh of happiness and relief– until I read, Monthly Salary: $600. It was like my heart dropped into my stomach and knocked the wind out of me. I came to the realization that, in reality, I can’t afford to move to Europe. Between my student loans, some credit card debt and rent, that would be my $600 right there. Actually, $600 wouldn’t even cover all of that. And then there’s money I would spend on a flight, transportation every day, food, having a life/enjoying Europe… there is no possible way I could live on $600 a month. Even if I made double that I would still be living very paycheck to paycheck. So, with this truth slapping me in the face I burst into tears. I had been fooling myself the whole time thinking that I could make it in Europe on that kind of money when I have so many bills. My dreams! I sat there for a minute thinking, “but… but… I’m so ready to move to Europe. I don’t understand why it’s not working. I GOT THE JOB AND NOW I HAVE TO TURN IT DOWN?! That’s just unfair…” I took the weekend to be upset and wallow in self-pity and grieve for my loss. No longer would I be walking down those dreamy cobble stone streets, swirled in a beautiful foreign language with Shannon and Scott (who are both moving to Budapest), sampling all the gelato I can stand, and sitting in cafés reading a book or writing – being very European of course drinking some very strong espresso. Crushed.
So, on Monday I started researching where else I would like to teach in the world and where it paid the best; however, it didn’t take long because I already knew what that answer would be. Which is why I will be moving to South Korea by October. See, South Korea has been in my mind as long as Hungary has, except every bit of me has fought going there. These two countries are completely polar opposites, and if I want the European experience why on Earth would I go to South Korea? Because they pay amazingly. And they pay for your flight to Korea and back home when you’ve completed your contract. And they provide you with free housing. AND THEY PAY AMAZINGLY. But on Monday my heart still wasn’t in it, and when I got some sample interview questions about why do you want to live in SK?, all I could think was, I don’t want to move to your stupid country! You’re weird and I can’t imagine living there for a year! So of course I started to cry because I want to feel good about moving to another country for at least a year, and I was upset that I wasn’t… happy. At all. So I decided to sit outside, take a breather and think about why it would be good for me to live in South Korea. Because really, the worst thing about this whole situation is that my dreams have been put on hold for about a year and now I have to live in another amazing country and make huge money. Boohoo. So I started to break it all down money-wise and after I was done my thinking had changed completely. I was like, of course I’m moving to South Korea! How could I not?! I figured out that I could save a whole year’s worth of rent and student loan payments so I could move to Europe and not have to worry about those bills. Plus have extra money in savings. I also figured out that if I lived and worked in South Korea for three years I could completely pay off all of my student loans. THREE YEARS. Of course I’m moving to Korea! So I’m now completely excited to live there and have that experience. I ordered Fromer’s South Korea Guidebook, a South Korea Culture Shock book, and Korean for Beginners CD’s on Amazon and I can’t wait to start reading them.
All in all, it’s been a bit of a crazy ride. Although a part of me is sad to not be going to Europe right away, Europe will still be there when I’m ready for it. For now though, I definitely feel like I’m supposed to be in Korea. I fought so hard and so long against going that now God/the Universe/call it what you want is like well, you couldn’t just accept it long ago that you need to go here so now you don’t have much else of a choice. OK, Universe, I get it now. I give in. Let’s go to South Korea and see what life over there has in store for me.