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I'm the Local Gal in Richmond, Indiana, exploring my hometown and heart. I write about all thing local, sometimes global. It's a small world after all.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Richmond Native Experiences South Korea: Interview with Steven Wilcox

It recently came to my attention that a fellow Richmond graduate has been living abroad and teaching in South Korea. I contacted Steven Wilcox to hear his adventure story and he was willing to share it with the Local-Lady audience! Here we go: 

Steven instructing a classroom of children in Seoul.

You spent some years in the Richmond area, what's your best Richmond memory?

Walking in the woods around the Arboretum and Glen Miller. I really miss forests.

You are in Seoul, capital of South Korea, which is the world's second largest metropolitan area, teaching English as a second language. How did this come about?

I've always been interested in Asian culture and after studying abroad in Japan thought it would be fun to try out another Asian country.

That's right! I believe you were one of Mr. Brook's Japanese language students at Richmond High School. So you have been a student of Asian culture for many years. 

What influenced you to take this life path? Although, I'm not surprised. I remember you pretty well from Richmond High School. You were a nice funny, smart guy and retroactively I can totally see you growing up to be one of those really cool memorable teachers! 

I studied Cultural Anthropology and Japanese in college and I've always been interested in living in another country and experiencing a different way of life. This was by far the easiest way to travel and get paid to do it.

Did you travel as part of a group or organization? 

No. Although there are plenty of groups such as JET (The Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme) and EPIK (English Program in Korea), I came with my significant other and it was much easier to come through a recruiter than through an organization. It's incredibly easy to do what I'm doing. As long as you have a bachelors degree, enjoy traveling and you're open minded and flexible all you have to do is look around online.

Steven and his significant other in front of a Buddhist temple.

You had the opportunity to visit a temple and enjoy tea time with a monk! What was that like?

The temple stay was interesting, though it was a lot different than I had expected. We went with a group called WINK (When In Korea) that does different tours throughout Korea, so we were part of a large group of about 35 to 40 foreigners. The purpose of a temple stay is to live the way monks do for a day, but because we were part of a large group that needed a lot of instructions translated, things went slowly and there wasn't much time for personal reflection.

The tea time was interesting, but after staying the night at a jjimjilbang (basically a bath/sleep house) and traveling all day everyone was exhausted. We had tea for about an hour, but the Q&A with the monk was a little lackluster due to general fatigue and a lot of things getting lost in translation.

Overall it was fun, but it wasn't relaxing in the least and it wasn't much of a learning experience. I feel like I have a better understanding of the life of monks from reading books and articles online.

Do you ever plan on returning to the land of Hoosiers? 

Who knows? I will be returning to the USA on May 3rd, but I'll be living in Chicago.

Is there anything you have learned or experienced in Korea that you would like to share with people in Richmond, IN?

If someone doesn't speak the same language as you, getting angry and repeating yourself louder and louder isn't the answer. Next time you see someone from another country looking bewildered take a moment and try to put yourself in their shoes. Show some patience and be respectful.

That is excellent and timely advice. Richmond seems to be growing more and more diverse and I think with change and growth everyone could use a little more empathy. You have the experience through traveling of actually being the foreigner in an unfamiliar country, which I can only imagine being bewildering at times!

I can recall seeing instances in Richmond of persons being frustrated with, for example a Spanish speaker, and yelling never helps! Although I like to think that most Richmond residents have learned and moved past such actions, as I've not seen a scenario like that for many years, misunderstanding and impatience are always a problem. 

Steven Wilcox and his classroom pose for a photo.

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Steven! I wish you both a safe journey on your way to the States! I am sure your students will miss you both!

1 comment:

  1. Great interview! I'm so glad you're doing well Steven!
    - Jenn Bane Smith