First impression? Seoul is huge!!! There are people everywhere, and traffic everywhere, and everywhere you turn there are people trying to sell you something. Right around where I live it's a little more low key, but you go two blocks and it begins the craziness. That has been a bit overwhelming, as we walked around all day today (Sunday) and I was so exhausted from all the people. (I thought maybe I had become an extrovert, but today made me realize again, how strong of an introvert I am) I didn't come in with very many expectations, except that the cost of living here would be super cheap. It's really not that cheap. Food cost about the same here, maybe a tad bit cheaper, but I have eaten out everyday, so it has exceeded my spending back home (except that I have only paid for 1 meal) I want to learn how to make Korean food, so I'm going to find some teachers at school tomorrow who can help me out. I had heard that Seoul is really Americanized, but I think I took that the wrong way. Not very many people speak English, everything is in Korean, although the important aspects like public transportation and maps have English translation. There are certain parts of the city where they have American restaurants and brands, but there are few areas. I was expecting a McDonalds on every corner (Not literally), but I don't even think I have seen a McDonalds. No one rides bikes here either, which is surprising, everything is public transportation. The public transit is very nice, comes right past where I live, and I can get anywhere in the city by it, but it is packed everywhere you go (standing room only, which is tight in and of itself). I think I may finally be adjusted to the time difference after today. It was my fault for waking up to watch the ND game at 5 in the morning (I missed the first half of the first quarter), but it was well worth it to watch the ND performance. Skype may be a bit more difficult of a task than what I had anticipated, but let me know when you can skype and I will go to bed early so I can wake up early to chat.
I love my house!! It is the coziest, homiest place I have ever stayed. It's small, but I love it! I'm excited for teaching, to go from 21 students to 7 students, I'm hoping management falls into place and that I can do some more active things with a smaller group. I am a bit nervous because of the grade level transition and the level of students that I will have. But I know I will do fine and that I will get adjusted to these students quickly. I only live like half a mile from the school, so that is awesome, cause I get to walk to school!!!
On a quick statistical note: In 2009 Korea had the 2nd highest suicide rate in the world. The pressure on young people to succeed in school is demanding, which is to be known as a big reason for the high rate. Social status is everything here. Several of the people I have met here have told me that the public schools really fail the students and thus the reason why most students have a private tutoring session for 6 hours every day after school. The demands this puts on children is too much for them. They really get no break from school, but study constantly. Everything is based on what University they can get into, and parents are really controlling of the education system,
Fathers are not really present in the home during the week. Everything is about building a relationship with your business partners, so men will go to work and then go out to eat with business clientele until late in the evening, leaving the parenting to the mom. This is a social norm, meaning not every house is like this, but the majority.
Drinking is huge here, everyone drinks, all the time! I have not been here long enough to witness this myself, but everyone has told me that many people are drunk all the time. They are not angry drunks, but it is just part of the culture to drink with everyone you are with. Very much a social type of drinking, but it is done all the time, meaning people are drunk often.
SAT day is like a national holiday. They shut down the airport, they tell cars not to honk during that part of the day, and they try to eliminate any type of noise. They put all kinds of pressure on students to perform. It is unhealthy for these students. In the short time I have been here, I have talked to many Koreans and Americans about education, and I already have a much greater appreciation for education in the U.S. We really are blessed!
If you have questions, please ask me and I will post about it, cause others may have similar questions.
I will write again soon!