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My Winding Path to Korea and Korean

Over the years, people have asked me how I came to be in Korea. What brought me? Why did I stay so long? What does the future hold? In response to those questions (and a previous blog post), I thought it would be worthwhile to reflect on the decisions I’ve made that have led me to this point.

The following are presented in reverse chronological order.


February 2013

My decision to get serious about learning Korean can be traced back to a few things:

  1. The birth of my children (Jan 2011, Nov 2013). An increased number of mouths to feed is directly proportional to an increased need for a greater income.
  2. Unrest at my job – based on income level and opportunities (though the work itself, working hours, and coworkers are great).
  3. Looking for opportunities in my field of study. ESL isn’t my passion and I want to have a good resume and portfolio when I start looking into returning to America.
Decision rating:

★★★★★ Great decision! (Well, so we hope.) Born out of necessity and desire. Logical.


November 2009

My decision to take this job came from:

  1. My desire to get married to my wife (Dec 2009).
  2. A need for better working hours (for my wife’s sake) and a more reputable place of employment (for my in-laws’ peace of mind).
  3. My desire to stay in this city in Korea.

Decision rating:

★★★★☆ Good decision. Born out of experience, necessity, and opportunity.


October 2007

My decision to stay in this city in Korea came from:

  1. The fact that I’ve always lived here – it’s the first time I’ve been truly “independent” – and it’s comfortable.
  2. All my friends and my in-laws are here (and I really don’t like Seoul – Busan is about as big as I’d like).
  3. I was baptized (Oct 2007) and married (Dec 2009) in the church here.
  4. I met my wife here (Apr 2007) – we started dating in Jan 2008.
  5. And previously: I received no follow-up on my “fleeing Korea” job interview in Japan (Aug 2007).
Decision rating:

★★★☆☆ Average decision. Primarily emotional, intuitive, and slight laziness. (But the city itself gets a 5-star rating.)


July 2006

My decision to come to Korea in the first place came from:

  1. My desire to live and work in Asia for some time.
  2. My understanding that I’d just “get in trouble” in Japan – and my desire to make something more of my life than bars, booze, and babes.
  3. A phone call with my parents encouraging me to choose Korea over Japan, and a gut feeling that they were right.
  4. The opportunity to work for a “university” vs. an academy. (Actually, I discovered upon arrival in Korea that my cushy “university” job was actually just a private business man who’d set up ONE early morning university class. And in order to fulfill the full hours stated on my contract, he ended up farming me out to 9 different kindergartens all over the city – for a year. That’s why I tried to flee Korea for Japan afterwards.)
  5. The fact that I’d already lived in both China (May 2004, June 2005) and Japan (May-July 2006) for a number of months and knew absolutely nothing about Korea.
  6. The fact that, despite minoring in Asian Studies, I could only recall a single 2-page sub-chapter about Korea in any book I’d ever studied (and it was about the Korean War – of which I couldn’t even remember the time period).
  7. Having met a number of beautiful Korean exchange students previously who’d all said, “Korea is a great place to teach English and make money!”
Decision rating:

★★★☆☆ Average decision. A decision from necessity, curiosity, and suggestion. (At this point in my life, I was visionless – I had no goals for my future beyond “tomorrow.”)


June 2006

My ESL job search that originated in Japan came from:

  1. My Japanese friend prodding me to get serious about my future and find work before my tourist VISA expired.
  2. Previous positive work experience at an English camp in China (June 2005).
  3. The desire to not return to America before finding work in Asia.
Decision rating:

★★★☆☆ Average decision. A decision based on suggestion and necessity. Also strong negative emotion about returning to America.


May 2006

My decision to go to Japan after graduation rather than China came from:

  1. An opportunity to homestay with my Japanese friend for 3 months in the summer.
  2. The fact that I felt like we were nearly blood brothers because of our connection and shared interests.
  3. A deep desire I’d always had to visit Japan since I was 12.
  4. The fact that I’d already been to China twice and wanted to experience something new.
Decision rating:

★★★★☆ Good decision. Born out of curiosity, opportunity, and laziness. Based on experience and emotion.


June 2005

My decision to initially teach an ESL camp in China came from:

  1. Previous positive (and adventurous) experiences in China (May 2004) and a deep desire to go back.
  2. An opportunity to not only go back to China freely, but also to earn some money toward college.
  3. The fact that I could meet another friend and take my brother with me.
Decision rating:

★★★★☆ Good decision. A decision of opportunity and experience.


May 2004

My first decision to go to China came from:

  1. An opportunity to earn 4 college credits for the Study Abroad in Shanghai course.
  2. The fact that I was taking Chinese language classes at the time and wanted some real-world practice.
  3. The fact that I knew and liked the teacher who would lead the class.
  4. The fact that I’d been making lots of Chinese friends and learning lots of things about Chinese culture.
Decision rating:

★★★★★ Great decision! Primarily a decision of opportunity.


April 2002

My decision to begin studying Chinese in the first place came from:

  1. Necessary language credits for my degree.
  2. An opportunity to study Chinese or Japanese (though I’d always been more interested in Japanese – anime chose for me at an early age).
  3. The Chinese class had a better schedule than Japanese (and I heard it was easier too).
  4. A girl I liked once said, “I want to go to China someday” and I thought, “China? Hmmm.” Curiosity piqued.
Decision rating:

★★★★☆ Good decision. Born out of curiosity, laziness, and suggestion.

I’ve never regretted learning Chinese – it was one of my best decisions ever, but given the circumstances around which the decision was based, I can’t give it a “Great” rating.

This is the current extent of my background and decisions regarding life in Asia.

Have you retraced your steps? Do you remember what decisions brought you to where you are now?

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