It’s hard to believe that eleven months have passed since I left Japan and moved back home to the United States. During my time abroad I had my career goals confirmed, crashed, shifted, crudely molded, left suspended in mid-air, and replaced. All in all, a period of turmoil and almost-quarter-life crises: the typical “Oh, no! What am I going to do with my life?!” moment every twenty-something experiences.
Well, I’m home now, surrounded by most of the job opportunities I had considered. I’m still twenty-something, and I’m still going through cycles of almost-quarter-life crises. (Soon, as I have my next birthday, they’ll be proper quarter-life crises.)
I’ve had various job bugs bite me since I’ve moved back: librarian, tutor, fiction writer, and, most recently, travel writer. All of these have knocked on the door of my heart before, and all have been back multiple times since then. As of a couple days ago, however, a job bug has bitten me that hasn’t paid a visit since mid-college.
The English Teacher Abroad Bug.
The first time this bug bit, I ended up in Japan for two years. I traveled to the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido for a snow festival (yuki matsuri), and I traveled to the southernmost island of Kyushu to visit a friend. I saved enough money while teaching in Japan to also take a week and a half’s vacation to see a friend in Australia, and then I spent two weeks in South Korea after I left my job and just before I flew home. Single-handedly my time in Japan was the best in my life bar none.
Even so, when I moved home, I was ready for it. Originally I had expected to spend three to five years in Japan, but by the time my second year ended, I was eager to return home. I missed foods. I missed holidays. I missed certain conveniences I didn’t have while abroad. I wanted a place of my own–properly my own, not the small apartment I was renting.
In February and March, I landed two part-time jobs. One is at a local library, and the other is with an after school program. Considering I love libraries and worked in one all through college, the first job was a great match, and with my experience teaching, so was the second job.
But were these really the areas I wanted to stay in? Sure, when my plans for graduate school were derailed, I set my sights on working full-time at my university’s library. But I recalled all the time I spent there before, how I tired of it by the end of the year and how I longed for it again by the time the next semester rolled around. Now I was pondering the ins and outs of the position I was aiming for, and my conclusions came out to a solidly shaky “maybe?”
The same has been true of my after school job. Do I like kids? Yes. Do I enjoy teaching? Yes, though it’s not the primary role I take in this job. But do I want to pursue a career in education in the United States? “Probably not,” came the answer. Not because of anything with the educational system itself, but because I couldn’t pin down what I wanted to teach. Elementary school wasn’t the age I wanted. Neither was middle school. I don’t care for most high school subjects, at least not well enough to put them at the center of my career. Even the ones I liked–English, foreign language, and choir–aren’t ones I necessarily want to follow up on, for various reasons.
So I’ve been in a hamster wheel of job searching and feeling trapped in a place where I can’t find what I want to do or jobs online for what I’m considering doing. I’ve been spending my days working and continuing my hobbies of cooking, roleplaying, and writing stories. I even came to the conclusion that I could continue my part-time jobs while looking for something full-time, writing, and possibly tutoring on the side.
And then the travel writing bug appeared a couple of days ago and bit me again. I want to see the world. My list of countries I want to see continues to grow. My biggest hinderance has been finances. How would I get abroad? And would I even make it as a travel writer–or, for that matter, would I even like the job? From most of what I read, it sounds too fast-paced for me.
I wracked my brain for ways I could go abroad and came up with a nice list.
- Mission trips
- Peace Corps
- Study abroad (already done, but why not try again?)
- Teach abroad (just did that, but maybe another go?)
- Vacations, large or small
- Visit friends
- Volunteer with organizations
Then I researched. What organizations could I go through? I thought of Holt International immediately because through them I sponsor a girl in China. I also Googled other volunteer opportunities. Then I searched for teaching jobs. I found one where you can teach English in a homestay and bookmarked it as intriguing. I wanted to go somewhere new (that is, somewhere other than Japan), and I thought about South Korea. The cultures were similar enough that I wouldn’t be thrown into something drastically different, and I want to learn Korean. That was a safe option to consider, right?
The first link I clicked ended up being for the International TEFL Academy, which I had never heard of before. I’m still looking into it, but I’m more than interested, and, at any rate, a TEFL certificate is something I’ve considered getting recently.
I’ll let you know more as life unfolds. All I know right now is that I want to see every place I can, and I have about nine countries in mind that I really want to explore and dozens more I’d like to visit. I’ll list the nine below (in alphabetical order), and if you have any experience living in them, teaching in them, or visiting them, let me know. I’d love to talk about them.
- South Korea