Written by Caroline Spencer
Throughout my last semester at LSU, I had a general idea of what the next year would look like. I would be taking a gap year, which would allow me the opportunity to travel and take a much needed break from school. I had already applied for several internships for the following spring, and I only needed to decide on my plans for the fall. My goal: To do something that would allow me the chance to experience a part of the world I had never seen. I set my sights on exploring Asia and began researching ways to travel throughout the region without burning through my savings.
However, after two months of research, I still had no plan. I also came to realize in that time that the internships I was banking on had some major drawbacks. For example, a couple of internships were located in European cities like Geneva and Brussels, which would have been something to be excited about, if not for the fact that they were unpaid.
Europe is very, VERY expensive.
Suddenly, my gap year was starting to seem like a complete money drain.
“I grew frustrated and disappointed, both in myself and in the situation, and began to lose hope in my travel goals.”
The idea of teaching English in South Korea first presented itself in late June. I had seen information on it on travel forums and blogs before, but it was always something I brushed off in favor of places with shorter teaching contracts and closer neighboring countries that I could potentially visit. So when my mom mentioned that a family friend’s relative had taught in South Korea and wanted to talk with me, I initially dismissed the idea. I was uninterested in going there, primarily because teaching contracts in South Korea were for an entire year, and I was unwilling to commit for that long. However, my mom’s insistence, combined with my openness to explore the idea further, led me to call him. For over an hour one night, I spoke with Joel about his experience living and teaching English in South Korea–which he wound up doing for three years. When I got off the phone with him, I had a new perspective, and a more open mind to the idea.
This is when I began to sense God’s influence. While I have always believed that He has provided guidance for me, after that phone call I began to see it in a way I never had before. Even though I was still lukewarm to the idea, South Korea began to appear everywhere I looked. I noticed it when a lifelong friend and I spoke for the first time in a few weeks and she asked me how the “South Korea plan” was going, despite the fact that I had only briefly mentioned it while listing all of my other potential destinations. I sensed it every time I mentioned the idea of teaching in Asia to someone and they responded with a story of a friend or family member who had lived or worked in South Korea. And I felt it especially when I had coffee with Rev. Dr. Gloria Fowler from the Louisiana United Methodist Conference office, and she told me how excited she was for me to experience her native country.
So, I took the plunge and began the application process. However, three months after applying with several different recruiters for South Korean schools, it was the middle of October, and I was still without a job.
In the middle of a random Monday, about 20 minutes after a conversation with my father in which I complained about how frustrated I was with job search process, I received a call from a placement agency asking me to prepare for a Skype interview with a representative from a school that night. The interview went well, but afterwards I was incredibly anxious.
“I reached out to God in prayer, asking for guidance. I asked that He close this door if this was not the path I was meant to take. By the next evening, I had been offered a contract with a school in Seoul.”
I still see God’s influence on this journey. I see Him every few weeks when my mom meets someone with great things to say about South Korea, right around the time when her anxiety about my trip starts to peak. I see His influence in my family’s reluctant acceptance turned excitement for this next chapter in my life. I see Him in the multiple emails I receive from my father every day, with links to everything from the weather in Seoul to travel blogs filled with packing advice.
Don’t get me wrong; I am still pretty terrified of this next step. I am a twenty-two year old recent LSU graduate who has never lived anywhere other than Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and in a few weeks I am moving across the world for a year. I do not speak Korean, though I am learning, and I have little experience teaching children. And yet, despite all of the fears that regularly build up in my mind, I am confident in my decision to go to South Korea. I know God is with me all the way. It’s easy to take big leaps when you know God is guiding your steps.