Join our “Share Your Experience” contest winner Dong as he delves into the vibrant tapestry of his epic teaching adventure in South Korea. From savoring the diverse palette of Korean cuisine to exploring the awe-inspiring landscapes, Dong’s narrative unfolds with heartfelt anecdotes of life-changing connection and discovery.
Get ready to be inspired by his tale of cultural immersion and lifelong connections forged in the Land of the Morning Calm. Thank you Dong for sharing your experience, and for letting us share yours!
I was born in 1972 of a Chinese father and Vietnamese mother in a town near Hanoi, Vietnam. My family immigrated to Canada in 1980. We were one of the “boat people” that left Vietnam after the war. I am thankful and grateful to many people who I have crossed paths with. I am married and have two wonderful children.
After studying mathematics for my undergraduate degree, I applied to teachers’ college to get my teaching degree. I graduated from teachers’ college in the spring of 1997. A friend of mine taught in Korea the year before I graduated and had advised me to follow suit. I did some research and I applied to EPIK and was accepted for the fall of 1997.
My teaching placement was a one-year contract at a middle school in the city of Gongju in Chungnam province. I enjoyed my time so much that I extended my contract for another year, and fortunately I was placed at the same two schools in the fall of 1998.
I returned home to Canada to start my teaching career teaching mathematics in 1999.
In 2009, I took a sabbatical year from my teaching position in Canada and returned to teach in Kongju for another year. I have made great connections with the teachers that I’ve worked with in Korea, and I continue to be in touch with some to this day.
Korea is a Food Lovers’ Paradise
I love Korea for a myriad of reasons. Starting with Korean food. It’s a food lovers’ paradise with all the different fresh seafoods available, spicy dishes, innovative street foods, and all the fermented vegetables. I usually cook for my family, and I sometimes make Korean dishes for them.
I recall a time I had a cooking competition with another teacher from Young-Myeon who served as a cook while he served his mandatory military duties. Three other teachers came to my place after the cook-off and judged the same Korean dishes that we each prepared. To my surprise all three judges preferred my dishes in a blind taste test. Those were some cherished memories I had with great people around me.
Weekends in Gongju
I loved the landscape of Korea. I come from Windsor, Ontario which is entirely flat for hundreds of kilometers. During my stay in Gongju, I would often hike Gongju Fortress (Gongsanseong) by myself and at times would bring visitors that come to visit me while I was living in Gongju.
I loved travelling the country on weekends to soak in the sights and see how the people of Korea lived, from the big metropolis such as Seoul, Taejon, and Pusan to the mountainous regions of Soerak and even to the southern island of Jeju.
The spring season brought forth cherry blossoms while the fall season was vibrant with the changing of the leaves and the celebration of Chuseok with all the delicate and delicious rice cakes. These are memories that are seared in my mind, and I am thankful to have experienced it all.
“We had many laughs and learned a lot from each other.”
The Korean people that I have encountered were in general very warm, generous, and extremely kind. Any time I had any questions or concerns my co-workers were more than happy to help. Everything I ever needed at the start of my stay in Korea, people were more than happy to help with.
I lead English speaking sessions for teachers at my school because a group had wanted to practise their English conversation skills.
We had many laughs and learned a lot from each other.
With the language barrier I had with other co-workers we managed to communicate with the help of Korean English teachers and with body language. I recall a time I was invited to a teacher’s home during the winter of 2008 where the entire family prepared kimjang, at which time they made all sorts of kimchi.
What a great way for a family to all get together to perform a time-honoured tradition.
I would love to have the opportunity to visit Korea again.
Perhaps this time I can travel with my family to Korea to meet up with old friends and have them experience all that Korea has to offer.
My children as do many of their friends enjoy K-pop, Korean movies, and, most of all, Korean food!
What better way to experience all of this than to get firsthand experience.