The Dimitrius Show

Teaching in South Korea as a Black Woman

Teaching can be one of the most fulfilling careers anyone can have, but it doesn’t come without its challenges. This is especially true for black women who decide to pursue a teaching career outside of the United States.

How is the culture different there versus where they’re from? How do they acclimate to the school system? Do they still experience racism like they do in the United States? Dimitrius is joined by Niki, host of the Melanin Muses Podcast, as they discuss what it’s like to be a black woman teaching in South Korea.

Teaching is Not for Everybody

Nikki Brogen  00:59

First day, especially with the younger ones, they a little eyelashes went like bug guide for like, oh my god is the brown person.

Dimitrius  01:07

Teaching is not for everybody. I mentioned on a previous episode that I worked with kids. And I would always get told I’d make a pretty good teacher. Even in college, my professors try their hardest to get me to be a music teacher. But it just wasn’t for me. I enjoyed working with you.

Don’t get me wrong. But working in a school system comes with its own set of issues that I just wasn’t trying to deal with. Plus, there’s this growing sentiment in states like Florida, where LGBTQ people are being increasingly demonized in the public school systems.

And I’m not gonna lie, I can be pretty radical when it comes to stuff like that. So I definitely wouldn’t last long as a teacher anyway, I do not like unnecessary rules and protocols.

And black history would be taught in my classroom. So it takes not only having a passion for you, but also a passion for educating and having the patience to endure the unnecessary parts of education.

And we’re just talking about the United States. Imagine what you’d have to deal with 1000s of miles away in a different country, where the average person looked nothing like you had probably never seen someone like you before and their entire life.

And you essentially felt like an outsider. Imagine being an educator in an environment like that.

My guest today is a black woman who spent some time teaching in South Korea. And today we’re about to hear some of her experiences. So let’s get started. 

Americans Know Very Little About Other Countries

Dimitrius  02:54

Now, as an American, we don’t travel enough, and we need to, we need to get out of our bubble and experience other countries cultures, and ways of living that are different from ours.

We need it desperately. It’s so easy for us not to leave the country though. For one thing, people don’t realize that the United States is pretty big, pretty massive. I live in Texas, and according to a website called Texas proud. This state is approximately 8% larger than France.

If you know you’re measuring in miles instead of kilometers, sorry, metric people. With France being the largest country in Europe, and Texas isn’t even in the largest state in the United States.

Alaska is a little more than twice the size of Texas. If I were to leave my house and travel to El Paso, Texas, it would take me about 10 hours.

So after 10 hours of driving, I’d still be in Texas. Do you see why I haven’t escaped yet. I can’t, I literally can’t. If I try to leave. The state just gets bigger in Texas knows when you want to leave.

So because it’s so easy to stay here we can be pretty sheltered when it comes to experiencing other countries and cultures.

My guest today is Nikki B. She spent some time teaching in South Korea, and is an animator just like me. So I wanted to pick her brain about her experience and what it was like as a black woman teaching in that country. So let’s bring her on.

Nikki Brogen  04:44

Sure thing. Well, hello, everyone. I’m Nikki and pretty much I’m an artist, content creator, motivational nerd former educator in South Korea as well as a podcast host myself. And if you’re interested in checking me out after this interview, which I hope you are So you can check out my two podcasts.

One is the melanin muses podcast. And that’s available now wherever you listen to your podcast, and we’re also on YouTube. And essentially similar to the Dimitrius show, we talk about relationships, life, mental health, from the perspective of your average Joes.

And we like to talk about topics like grief, depression, and even some of the more controversial ones that it might be uncomfortable for the average person to talk to you, but we want to have those healthy debates, you know, get those topics out there. And the other podcast is debuting in January called anime go.

So as a nerd, I feel that animation is one of the most underrated pieces of medium because it’s mostly attributed to children. But we are here to discuss the complexities behind animation, the life lessons to character psychology, the story building to go really deep in depth.

So Melanin muses is already live. So you can check that out on YouTube, and we listen to your podcast, but we’re doing the rebranding, coming out with all new content starting in January, and Animego will launch in January. You can check us out on Instagram as well, if you want to follow for updates and news. So yeah,

Dimitrius  06:08

Perfect. So I’m so excited that you are an anime nerd just like me. Earlier, I actually made a post about waking up at 3am to the Inuyasha ending theme song, you know which one I’m talking about, don’t you?

Yes, yes, that’s the one. So that is a fantastic that you are also an animator just like me. That’s, I’m excited for the launch of Animego. already. So that’s really good. You mentioned motivational? What do you listen to any TED talks or anything? And if so, what’s your favorite one?

Nikki Brogen  06:48

I do listen to TED talks like here and there. Now that you asked me about which one specifically I like, oh, there’s this one woman, ah, she was talking about the top five people you need in your group. There’s like the cheerleader, the motivator, the African names of them.

But she discussed the five different types of people that you need in your immediate space. Because the top five people you surround yourself most with are is the sum of who you are. And so she’s discussing about, look at the people that you hang around with, are they the people you want to become?

And if not, you better do some changing up. So I really, really love that TED talk. I also love listening to personal development books.

I’m currently reading one about writing your own story and comparing your life to your own book. Like you’re the main character, you have the control of it. And what is your next chapter going to do? What’s your next check? They’re going to be how are you gonna write that.

And then, like we mentioned earlier as like being an anime nerd, like I’m learning a lot of like lessons from animation as well. Even the quotes that are within there, I try to utilize that in my everyday as as everyday life as well, because there’s just so much that it can teach us like with Naruto for those of you who don’t know, he went from boy who was an orphan, and he was bullied all the time, he was a class clown.

He was always getting in trouble because that was the only time people would notice him. And he kept saying, Hey, I’m gonna be hucog a meaning I’m going to be the leader of this village. I’m going to be like the king of this village one day, I’m going to help you guys out even though you’re tormenting me, I’m going to do it.

People laughed at him. People say you’re nothing you’re worth nothing we hate you. And spoiler alert, skip past this section. But he accomplishes his dreams. Despite all the naysayers. He went through the hardships he worked through all the near death situations. He’s like, I’m going to do this no matter what.

Because if I don’t believe in myself, who else will. So this is what I mean by motivational and motivational nerds specifically, is I love hearing these messages and seeing how we can apply that to our own lives, you know.

What Makes Someone Decide to Start Teaching?

Dimitrius  08:45

Wonderful, wonderful. So I’m glad to hear all of that, especially about the anime stuff, because I often have the same thoughts about much of the anime that I digest. I’m like sitting there watching I’m going, Oh, somebody’s this kind of a little much. But, but I’m so excited.

That’s really exciting that you’re able to draw all of that from Naruto. So many people watch Naruto they watching the Yasha they watched Dragon Ball. Oh, my hero, academia, so many others. And there is so much discussion and discourse that can happen from a single episode at times.

So that’s really exciting that you are able to pull from that. So what I wanted to get into with you today, Nikki, is you have experience with teaching. Yes. And what was it that made you want to pursue teaching?

Nikki Brogen  09:37

So it was actually a fluke? To be quite honest to you. I actually hated school growing up because I was always bullied a lot so I used to pretend to be sick so I didn’t have to go to school.

So I hated school. And it was just a really weird happening of I first actually studied abroad in Korea and 2012 And I did that for four months.

And my firt my first experience wasn’t that good. A lot of stuff happened. And after I left, I was like, you know, that’s not fair. I want to redo, reset, reset, reset.

So for six years, I’m like, okay, not a good time, not a good time, like a time I want to go back. But in my gut is like, there’s not a lot, it’s not the right time to go back to Korea.

But then in 2017, the end of 2017 life hit the fan. So you know, the universe is just like, if you’re not going to make changes, we’re going to force you to make changes through everything in your path. So that’s what happened. It’s like, you’re not gonna move.

I’m gonna make you so like, someone died, there was a toxic relationship. It was just everything.

And I’m like, you know, it doesn’t need time to leave now. But how can I do that? I feel like I should go back to Korea, but how? And then I stumbled upon the concept of teaching abroad teaching English abroad. And I’m like, wait, I hate English.

I actually failed English in school. So is this a good idea? So I actually wound up applying for two different companies.

And I taught English online to students in China for a couple of months. And it was okay. But it I’m like, this is like 4am 3am Wake Up Calls just because the time difference, oh, my God, this is okay. This is kind of fun.

But I don’t know, I don’t know how I feel about this. This is totally different than teaching in the classroom.

And luckily, universe heard me and high school, senior. She’s one year older than me, a high school classmate of mine, actually messaged me on Facebook. And she’s like, Hey, I’ve been seeing that you’ve been doing teaching.

Our third grade teacher just got fired? Would you like to be a sub to the end of the year?

So there’s three months left, it was probably like, April, this happens. So as online teaching from, let’s say, September 2017, to April 2018. And then she called for the opportunity.

I was like, Oh, I don’t have a degree in education like it’s fine. Substitute Teacher, you don’t need her educational degree.

Am I? Okay, why not? Let’s try. Interviewed got the job. I auditioned I interviewed on Thursday, got the job. And I had to shadow that Friday with the current substitute teacher.

And then that Monday, I was by myself. I know and I was teaching all the subjects math, science, social studies, religion, vocabulary, English skills, and gym class, everything. I’m like, oh, dear Christ!

Dimitrius  12:36

Wow, that’s that’s a lot to teach to in one day.

Nikki Brogen  12:43

Yeah, I was teaching third graders I had 30 kids. And I was like, at first I was going to decline the, the prospect of interviewing, but I was like, Wait, if I’m gonna go to Korea, and teach English, this is a perfect opportunity to see if I even like the classroom.

And if I even like children, like these little humans, how do I interact with you know, I’m the only child so well, the only child for most of my life.

So I never really knew how to get along with younger kids. So like, let me try. One moment. I was in that classroom by myself. them kids tested me.

Dimitrius  13:13

No, don’t worry, they’ll find a way. Oh, yeah.

Nikki Brogen  13:17

And there was 30 of them, too. They are the first day I had to deal with bullying. Nope, passing. Oh, that was wild.

But I’m gonna tell you this much like it helped pull even more of the empathy out of me. But it was also having me face my own trauma. Because I had so many traumatic experiences.

When I was a kid in school, like beat up all this other stuff. The universe was like, Oh, you’ve had school trauma, we’re gonna make you be a teacher.

So you can face to all of that. So that’s exactly what happened. I taught for three months, it was wild. I had to deal with so much not only the kids because the school the the other teachers, you could see that the light left their eyes.

You know, like, they were just there for the paycheck. And they would tell me, Hey, did your friend hate you?

Why did she help you get this job? Those kids are terrible. And I looked at them. I’m like, why would you say that? And you can see they will see us? They will say that around the kids and the kids emulator because that’s what they were told they are?

Yes. So that’s what broke my heart the most. I’m like, listen, kids, I love you.

I’m here and I’m caring about you. I’m doing my best for you. Because I see all of you have your potential.

And it was such a rewarding experience that I’m like, You know what, I think I can do this in Korea. I actually think this is a good spot. And but at one point toward the end of my three months there, I actually withdrew my application from the program that I applied to, to go and go to Korea.

Really because yeah, because my family didn’t want to go there like oh, you’re not you can’t go You won’t follow through with it or No, you shouldn’t go that stupid. The partner I was with at the time he’s like you’re selfish. You’re not thinking of the relationship healthier.

Are you do this and they were all I was getting thought, tooth and nail by everyone around me saying that I was basically a bad person for wanting to do this.

And I was so tired of the pressure of being alone and isolated. And I’m being called selfish and a brat all the time for wanting to make a decision that I actually took out.

I emailed them like, hey, you know what, I’m sorry, this is Charlie, I want to withdraw my application from the program.

And it was after I was before I got accepted, as you know, what was drawn application. And the moment I sent that email, I just felt hollow. I felt empty.

I felt purposeless. And I remember sitting at my desk out at the school, while the kids were at lunch, I was about to cry.

I’m like, What do I do now. And I remember I messaged my father. And I was like, Hey, Dad, I just, I’m just kind of lost right now. This is what I did, etc, etc.

He’s like, listen, all you got to do is try to put your application back end. And if you’re meant to go, you’ll get accepted.

If you’re not meant to go, you won’t get accepted. But you never know until you try. So I resubmit it. I was like, hey, so sorry. Please disregard my last email.

Can you just keep my application in? And they said, Yeah. And maybe in July, like late June, early July, I got the email while I was on the bus to my partner at the Times house.

And they’re like, congratulations, you’ve got accepted to the program. You are going to Korea in August, and you will be in Busan. Congratulations. I’m like, yeah. But wait, there’s also.

Wow. So it’s so interesting how you mentioned how you kind of came into teaching as a fluke.

But it sounds to me like they’re everything aligned in a way that was meant to align for you, for you to find your way to those kids. And for you to cause something that sometimes things may not work out.

But at the same time, there’s still a reason for why they happen. And I think you were meant to first I mean, to observe what you observed in that classroom, pretty much from that first day that you mentioned to you by yourself, you got 30 Kids, you’re just totally immersed.

And seeing everything as a typical day. How’s it how it is? And what it is that they do what they deal with what they think about themselves.

So you’re getting that all at once? And yeah, that’s overwhelming, of course. But I think when you reach that point where you decided, You know what, this isn’t for me.

I think, even though you mentioned about the Fluke earlier, I think that was when the universe said you’re not done yet.

We got to keep seeing what you’re going to do from here. And we said you getting that that acceptance and going okay, well, I guess I’m gonna go ahead on and pursue this then. was definitely intentional from the universe. My perspective.

So you the move to South Korea, you mentioned that you had gone before you came back. And you What did you end up going back again?

Nikki Brogen  18:06

So the first time was in 2012. And then the second time was in 2018. August and I actually just got back to the states this past February. Wow.

A Black Woman Starts Her Teaching Career in South Korea

Dimitrius  18:15

Okay. very recent. very recent. Okay. So, describe to me when you first got off, did you go by you went by plane? When you first got off the plane? What was that like for you? Like, what how did you feel? What was it? What were you experiencing at the time?

Nikki Brogen  18:33

The first time when I studied abroad, or the first well, the second time when I went for teaching, which would you prefer?

Dimitrius  18:42

Let’s start with teaching. I want to see if we can compare both experiences for you.

Nikki Brogen  18:47

So for the second time, I was going it still felt like a dream. Like it didn’t really sink in. And so a little while after I landed because it’s like, Yo, I’ve been here before, but oh my gosh, I’m back. What?

And this time I there was people there that I could meet up with or because No, I actually Oh gosh, if so feels like so long ago. I got there a week earlier than the program.

This time. Yeah, I got there a week earlier than the program just so I can explore soul with another one of the girls who was within a program that was accepted.

So it was It was wild. And also it was a hassle because one of the wheels of my suitcases broke.

So I had the cane it was like my bigger suitcase, but I didn’t keep lugging that stuff everywhere. Up and down the stairs like Korea has a lot of stairs. So if you want to work out, go to Korea There’s so many stairs.

Oh my God everything is like up uphill because it’s like very mountainous, you know?

And it was funny because the girl I was with, we couldn’t find our hotel for like the longest. So we wound up asking this random girl Juma this older woman walking the streets and spoke a little bit Koreans was like, Where is this place? Whatever.

Tell me how this one grab my baggage are going up the hill. I’m like, oh my god, oh my god.

And she helped us find it. It was great. People. It was so well being back and surrounded by Hangul being surrounded by the language here and the language again, I was like, Oh, this is nice. It’s so busy, so colorful.

And then you also get stared at a lot. So that took some getting used to again. But yes, it was wonderful. I was like, oh, yeah, this is beautiful. I like this.

Dimitrius  20:35

So you mentioned how it was so mountainous, and you do a lot of walking upstairs. What are some other things about the experience in South Korea that most people don’t know about? Or wouldn’t think about?

Nikki Brogen  20:47

Well, that people will probably know, especially if you’re a person of color, you will get touched. Like people will touch your hair, especially if you have a fro or braids, they will touch you.

Obviously this is generally speaking, not everyone, but people will or touch your skin because they’re amazed by it. People will stare undoubtedly you’ll get a lot of stares, like you can look back and their eyes are just like I’m not looking away. It’s Oh, it’s wild.

And then you might get the brave ones who will come up and ask stereotype questions, which is always pretty funny.

And some places actually don’t allow foreigners and that they’re like, if you’re a foreigner, you’re not allowed. There’s some signs up as well, that Oh, no foreigners allowed.

Dimitrius  21:38

What were some of the questions that you would get asked? Africa question. Wow, okay. All right.

Nikki Brogen  21:46

Yeah, because I’m I am Brown. I’m some people, they can’t guess what I am, quote unquote.

But over in Korea, it was interesting, because I was like, my first time actually feeling black. Because it was so predominantly asked him he’s like, Oh, Africa, are you from Africa? Even my students?

When I did my introduction, PowerPoint, I put that Where do you think I’m from? America, Africa, China. And I think Australia was, and pretty much 99% of the class would raise their hand when I put down Africa.

Hmm, yeah, it’s because it’s such a homogeneous country, the information that they get, it’s pretty, it’s just from the media. You know, in some, it’s like kind of here in America, it’s hidden in plain sight.

So if you don’t actively look for the proper information, you just accept what’s fed to you by this by social media or just media in general.

So it’s the same thing over there, especially being a homogeneous country, their concept of black equates to Africa.

Nikki Brogen  22:43

And obviously, that’s generally speaking. So when I would run into people, they were like, Oh, are you black?

Are you from Africa? I’m like, No, I’m an American. Or like, bah. So like, do you like rap? Like, sometimes sometimes. I also like Disney music. It’s great.

And musicals are wonderful too. And like, oh, well, like fried chicken. And in America, if you get asked about fried chicken, that’s a very kind of stereotype. But not gonna lie. Koreans eat a lot of fried chicken and their fried chicken is actually are super, super good. Like, I’m like, Yes, heck, yes.

I like fried chicken. I can’t even deny that. But you would get certain questions. People also don’t really know a lot about racism over there. Someone had actually asked me to like, oh, is racism still a thing in America?

Dimitrius  23:34

And I know you want to just sit them down? Well, you know what, Honey, let me just tell you. Oh, yeah,

Nikki Brogen  23:38

I did. I did. And I also get I also got a lot of inappropriate questions when it comes to the dating scene. Not sure how in depth that’s gonna go but just overall, if you’re looking to date in Korea, especially a woman of color, be very, very, very careful and be ready for lots of stupid questions. stupid questions

Dimitrius  24:01

in America stupid questions over there. Like you can’t escape it.

Nikki Brogen  24:04

No, you can’t. And I think that’s what really teaches you to, despite the nonsense, like, I’m not trying to like badmouth Korea, it’s a it’s a beautiful place.

It’s just they’re not well informed, or a lot of people just wish to, if it doesn’t have anything to do with them specifically, it’s like, that’s not my business. I’m just gonna stay out of it, stay in my own little clique and focus on what I got to do, you know? So it’s not because we have that here in America, too.

So it’s just to say, This is what happens. This is from my experience, everyone has their own experiences. That’s my disclaimer.

Finding a Sense of Belonging

Dimitrius  24:38

But were you the Were there any other black women teachers with you? Or were you just only one?

Nikki Brogen  24:44

So as a whole with the program, I went through like orientation and stuff. There was people of all different colors from all different countries working there, or at least doing the orientation and going or being sent out.

Essentially, it was like a roulette. You don’t know where you’re going until after orientation. You just noticed City, but you don’t know you don’t know the town you don’t know the school until you’re done and it’s like a bag of luck.

But when it comes to other black teachers, in my particular city, there were some, but I was pretty much alone. I went to a very country like city Wilson.

So there’s like Busan and there’s Daegu, and many people know about them, like sold to San Diego at the top ones.

And then Wilson is another city, but it’s smaller. And then I was in Holgate, Holgate was more of a countryside, like, if you go one direction, you end up seeing, like a whole freaking field of like corn and open space and people tending to their crops.

And then on the other hand was like a little mini city, like they had their downtown. So there weren’t a lot of brown people, unless you were thinking of like people from Sri Lanka or Pakistan or the factory workers.

There are a lot of lows. But black Americans were kind of rare. So when you see us in the street with like,

Dimitrius  26:00

I said, good. Well, I’m glad it was like that. Sometimes, some people just ignored. Like, I don’t know this person. I was wondering, I was like, Huh, I wonder what that’s when you do see someone.

You’re like, hey, you know, you know how to do when we see each other, like in a hallway or something, but do the head nod? Hey, I see.

I wondered the same thing. Okay. Okay. Very good. So your teaching experience in South Korea? What was your first day like,

Nikki Brogen  26:33

Oh, my first actual day teaching? That was hilarious, because in the school that I was in, mind you it was five floors, so five different levels. There was a boatload of kids, and I taught grades 345 and six, which equated to 700 children a week.

So a lot of kids in my first day, especially with the younger ones, they a little Ayesha’s went like book guide for like, oh my god is the brown person.

I forget if I had my hair straight or natural that day, but it freaked them out. It was hilarious, but because they’re so used to hate seeing straight hair, that when I actually came in for the first time with my hair, and my natural fro, they’re like teacher,

Dimitrius  27:18

Perm teacher what happened? Right? Oh, my goodness,

Nikki Brogen  27:21

because when they perm, their hair gets curly. So they didn’t know like, our hair is natural. You just add water with chia pets, and it was poof.

Literally, but the first day it was just so it was very scary. Because I’m like, Yeah, I did the teaching back in the States a little bit.

But this is my first time actually, I feeling like I was a teacher teacher. But before was only like a babysitter like now I had a professional co teacher with me. I admit, I feel like I was very arrogant back in the day.

Because you come straight out of orientation. Like yeah, I know what I’m doing. I got this and then you’re like, Nope, I don’t got any of this. Oh, yeah, it was, it’s difficult because I didn’t speak fluent Korean.

So trying to connect and communicate with the kids got frustrating sometimes, especially when they were misbehaving.

And when you tried to speak to them in Korean, they just kind of laugh at you. Especially because in the city that I was in each different city has their own dialect.

Not many people are aware of that, like Busan has a dialect. Seoul has a dialect or son. They each have their own dialect. Soul from what I was told by some of my native friends has the softest, the nicest dialect. So it’s kind of like the joking dialect. And that’s the one that you learn when you’re first learning the language.

So when I was trying to communicate with the sole dialect that I was taught, they were kind of laugh like, oh, how do you MA and like, stop it and they just start they start making fun of me I’m like we gonna fight child? You know, I don’t speak Korean like that. So it was it was terrifying.

Because it’s literally you’re, you’re literally the one different person in the room. You’re really the only person of color you’re the only kind of bears out there. There was a lot of women teachers, but it was just so weird being like the spotlight on you.

And you’re being looked up to literally like the token brown person that token American and the token native English teacher, I was the only foreigner in the entire building.

So there’s a lot of fun, necessary pressure to be that proper representative of not only my blackness but also as an American and being a professional English speaker.

I’m like, Oh Christ, let’s see. Yeah, textbook like teacher. Why do they call it textbook? Oh, crap, Google.

Maintaining Mental Health in a Foreign Country

Dimitrius  29:32

So as a black person, but specifically as a black woman, when you you’re in this environment, you’re overseas. You’re teaching English you’re having to speak a language you haven’t had to always speak before on a regular basis.

And you mentioned before how there, it was rare to see someone else who was just like you. So on a day to day basis, what were some things that you had to do to relate to Take care of your mental health and your emotional well being.

Nikki Brogen  30:04

Oh, that’s a really good question that was actually incredibly difficult to do. Because at the time, I wasn’t diagnosed yet with the severe depression that I actually had. So I did find myself struggling a lot to navigate while I was over there because I was isolated a lot. I didn’t, there weren’t really many.

I didn’t have a little friends. And it was very difficult for me to connect with locals. Because drinking is a very big part of the Korean culture. That’s how people socialize, I don’t drink nor do I smoke. So you don’t find me in bars, like a lot of the people my age were.

So especially in the smaller town areas as well. It was very difficult. So I wound up being an isolation a lot. I got back into my art, I was drawing a lot. I was immersing myself in anime again, for years I had stopped because of past things that happened.

So I got back into anime actually binge Naruto to help the cope with that depression. from episode one all the way to the end, that’s a lot of episodes, but I did.

I explored different crafting ideas. I tried to immerse myself in the teaching capacity, but specifically towards being a person of color, the way I tried to kind of mitigate that that otherness was to learn as much Korean as I could.

So hopefully, I can allow people to be less scared of me. Because there was a case where I was like, Oh, it’s okay. It’s really so like speaking in Korean excuse me, I have a question like, Oh, no English, and they like ran away.

So it’s learning how to how do I make my body language more open and friendly? How do I speak in a way to make me more approachable. Even when it comes to my hair.

Like, sometimes I felt it was better to have it straightened, because I wouldn’t as I am other, but it wouldn’t be as other as if I racked my natural fro or my braids. So kind of a cold code switching and adjusting. I had to speak a certain way.

I can’t go like I’m from Philly, for Philadelphia, PA. So sometimes my Philly accent can come out when I’m really relaxed around friends.

So I can’t go out to some, like, Yo, what’s up? Excuse me, y’all excuse me what’s going on? I can’t do that. I have to articulate my words, and also learn how to speak more simply.

So that way people can understand because some people can speak for like two hours with you and say, Oh, my English is terrible.

I’m like, Yeah, we just spoke for two hours. What do you mean, your English is terrible. So you have to really learn how to slow your pace, be empathetic, and learn how to be understanding in a way that some things may hurt.

But you also have to recognize that this is their home country, and they’re not used to you, especially the older generation, like you’re probably the first foreigner they’ve ever seen.

So be understanding about the stairs being understanding about hearing people talk about you, you know, doesn’t make it right.

But try to open your mind up ahead of time to recognize that, yes, people are going to say something people are going to stare, you’re going to be judged. But it’s not necessarily from a place of hate, or like angry ignorant ignorance is more kind of like a curiosity, ignorance. If that makes any sense.

Dimitrius  33:28

That makes sense. And I’m glad that it was I’m glad that it was mostly from a curiosity standpoint, regarding the questioning and the the touching. For that, I’m glad it was more so that for you, and I’m glad also it sounds like you were still able to maintain your sense of self.

Even though some days it was, I’m sure very difficult. You and I have in common. I have severe depression as well, that we go to anime, and we binge. So my thing is bleached. I’ll start from episode one.

And I go all the way through here. waco Munoz when it gets real serious, I’m like, Okay, I’m like, it’s gonna be turning the lights off not going anywhere this week, because we’re at the Waco Mondo arc, and I gotta get to the part where he fights, Eisen and all that stuff.

So I’m glad that there are those shared experiences that you can provide to someone who wants to step into this role. And they’re wondering, like, gosh, am I gonna go there and just feel like, I’m not me anymore.

If I’m in this environment, where there’s no one else that’s really like me, and I’m having to adjust certain things, which you’d have to do.

People come here and they have to adjust right? So you go there you have there are certain things that you do to kind of acclimate.

And, of course, being American, we’re just not anywhere near conditioned for any of that. We go places and we are like, No, we’re the main character. Sorry. I I noticed your country and you’ve had it forever.

But too bad. I’m American today, and you’re going to be American today, too. So that sort of thing.

That is really, that’s really, I’m glad to hear that, ultimately, for that experience for you, that it wasn’t that you went there, and you completely lost all sense of yourself.

And you ended up just being completely lost. Now, of course, as is the case, for so many black individuals, there are certainly going to be a time where you are sitting and you’re just like, I feel like I’m the only person on Earth right now.

And I know you had those moments, but yes, hearing you and knowing that, while you know, there were days where you had to adjust, there are days where the kids were just like, What are you talking about?

What are you actually talking about, but I hope that the experience is ultimately rewarding. And if you have like a rewarding, yeah, I’m gonna ask what was the most rewarding part of the experience? The most rewarding?

The Most Rewarding Part of the Experience

Nikki Brogen  36:03

Oh, actually, like kind of cycling that real quick when you’re saying like the advice if you want to be a teacher, in Korea, specifically, not just like, go there, ensure that you’re, you do your homework, because that’s something I honestly didn’t do. Do your pawn do your homework for school.

I was like, Hey, I made a funny. Um, do your homework in a sense of learn Hangul. Learn a language as much as you can before you go, even if it’s just the foundation’s learning to read the letters and learn the basic foundations of conversation.

It will help you a lot to understand where you want to teach private school versus public school, there’s a very big difference between the two, I would advise going through a program like epic

But other people go through recruiters, you just have to be very cautious with recruiters because you never know what you’re gonna get research, research research, and understand there is a hierarchy.

And you have to respect that. When it comes to Korea, they’re all about the hierarchy, even more so than America. If someone’s older than you, you automatically have to speak to them differently.

You have to respect them differently. Don’t really question them, and you kind of pretty much be submissive and talk in circles, you can’t be direct, you cannot be super direct. So research the culture and navigate that.

And if that’s not for you, then you might want to rethink actually living there and teaching there. And hair products. Black, you other black people bring hair products!

Dimitrius  37:28

Because there’s no one Oh, yes, yes.

Nikki Brogen  37:31

Because if you try to order online, like a one thing, shampoo bottle, we like 20 hours, because you got to import it in your luggage, and bring as much as you can and have friends send you care packages, because that’s gonna get expensive, because they don’t got us stuff.

But you can find people to braid your hair, though. Then you just ask around and connect with people. Also connect with people ahead of time, like Facebook groups, whatever, make friends before you get over there. So you have someone to connect with. And you won’t be totally alone. But usually my gosh, discretion be safe.

Dimitrius  38:01

Good. Yeah, I’m thinking because corrupt, kinky. Curly is my thing. And it’s expensive at Target.

So I can only check how expensive it is to import it there. I would probably just be a protective style forever and a day. So that’s really good to know, especially for going there for the first time and everything. Okay, okay, sorry.

Nikki Brogen  38:23

Yes. The most memorable moment you mentioned, sorry, I was like, let me get this out there. Y’all gotta get your hair grow. For the most memorable moment, memorable experience, I’ve had many, but the biggest one stuck out for me was one of my students. I had him since third grade.

And then I got to see him, basically until fifth grade. Yes, from third to fifth grade, I had some of my kids from third to sixth grade and I cried because they were graduating the middle school. That’s it. My babies don’t like a mother with 700 children, curfew.

But specifically, it was within my first year there. And I think was like my, my second month, my second semester there because he was just in the beginning of the end of the first semester.

There’s just one little boy, I think he had ADHD, or something rather where he can never stay in his seat, always bouncing around always excited, always crying out about something.

And we weren’t taught how to deal with students who had to help students given that deal correction, how to help students who have special needs.

When I tried to connect with my other co teacher, I was like, How can I properly help him? And so she’s like, just ignore him. Just ignore him. He doesn’t exist. Like he’s just doing his own thing. None of the teachers bother with him.

And that rubbed me the wrong way. But that’s their perspective of how to teach students who have mental health issues. It’s just ignore them.

And I’m like, That’s not okay. You can do that, but I will not. And I remember toward the end of the of the first part of the semester He didn’t know how to write his ABCs. They learned that in third grade, he couldn’t write it.

But if he could like spell try to spell certain words, it he would write it very slowly, because he didn’t get a full grasp of writing in English quite yet, because no one would sit with him.

So I remember during the end of when we were having our final exams, and we will put the question on the board, and give them a few seconds to write the answer. And he was struggling.

So what I would do is, when we gave them the timer, I would run over to him and crouch over and be like, Hey, so what’s the answer?

He would tell me. So that told me he recognized what the English word meant. So he would translate it, but he didn’t know how to write it fast enough or write it in general. So it takes away the marker, we had the whiteboard desks.

So I’ll take the marker, dry erase marker, and I’d write the answer on his desk after he told me.

So it gave him extra time to write it and copy into his notebook. And I kept doing that back and forth for at least eight questions. And my co teacher, she was getting annoyed with me. I could see it in her face. And I kept running back and forth. I’m like, go ahead, be annoyed.

You see this kids trying? He wants to try. You just want to ignore him. Just so they hurry up and get this done.

No, I’m not doing that. Like, no. So after about like, the fourth time of running back and forth. I remember I crouched over whatever asking the question, I wrote it down. And he looked at me. And he looked up right into my eyes. It’s like, Thank you, teacher. And I teared up a little bit.

He doesn’t even really speak English. But he knew enough English to say Thank you teacher for like, take basically taking the time to actually care about him.

And that was one of the most memorable moments that that started my teaching there. And the one that ended it was of a similar situation. It was still that boy, but it was a second boy in his class who was mute. Essentially, he did not speak.

And if I went to his desk, he would pull back from me. And like he was afraid. So I would just lean on the edge of the desk. And I was like, Hey, do you want to play game like play game? Okay, which one?

And they’re like, Teacher teacher? No, he doesn’t talk, no, just skip him go to the next one. He doesn’t talk. Other students would do the same thing. Oh, he doesn’t talk. I’m like, It’s okay. I would point to the screen. And I was like, Oh 123 or four, and show me my fingers.

And he would hold up his finger with 123 or four. And then I’ll count over whatever till he picks the thing that he wants. And so I would get him to pick using his sign language.

And I always thought he was afraid of me. But then the last day of school, the boy I talked about earlier, wound up bringing him and they came to find me in the teachers room.

And I like what you’re looking for me what’s what’s what’s up, the boy who I thought was afraid of me actually had someone help him.

Right Thank you teacher in English. And he brought me some candy and the paper doll that he made to say thank you before he left and graduated school. So those were the most memorable moments for me, a bunch of others.

But those two specifically just reminded me that connection transcends language Absolutely, as long as you put in the effort, as long as you care as long as you sow empathy, and connect with anyone as long as you take time.