It was a good ride.
I once said that I would know when it would be time to leave Korea—whether indefinitely or for good—and when that time came, I could leave here feeling fulfilled.
I am not sure if I can say with any clarity that I have gotten as much as I could get out of being here for all these years, but it was pretty okay while it lasted. I packed in a lot of life here and had more than my share of successes and failures, happiness and sorrow.
Now it seems that the time to move on has come sooner than I anticipated. In the end, it really wasn’t my decision, though. Maybe if things were better I could have tried to hang on here a little longer when it would have been better for me to leave. After all, I had been planning on taking six months off next year for variety of personal and professional reasons.
No one wants to leave a job without having something else on the back or front burner. On the other hand, if one feels that their present job security or peace of mind is in jeopardy, maybe it takes a little push to get you out the door and onto better things even if you don’t have anything else in the works.
Maybe when things like this happen and you are forced to think about life after Korea—whether for the short or the long term—it is a blessing in disguise or some of that good Karma payback.
Today, everything became crystal clear.
Ray, the Head of Studies at our language institute called an emergency staff meeting to discuss some changes that were about to be implemented. Even before today’s meeting, there had been some discussion and office scuttlebutt about the future of our institute. There have been some rumors circulating that the school is in a bit of a financial crisis and might have to close.
Well, the institute is not going to close, but there are going to be some changes effective immediately which for many of us, are not going to make teaching there as lucrative as it once was. Classes are going to be cut in the summer and winter, and we are going to have to take a salary cut for the early morning conversation class. Now, this may not seem like grounds to suddenly get the urge to catch the next plane out of here, but it’s the way that middle management has gone about implementing these changes.
One almost gets the impression that what is really happening is to tighten the screws a bit to force some teachers to resign. Indeed, there are already plans for a restructuring of the school, including salaries.
It appears now that instructors at FLI will be paid less than instructors at most Hogwans (private institutes) without such benefits like free housing, airfare, and shipping allowance. What really sucks is that we are supposed to be a part of Yonsei University, but only when it is convenient for the university (26% of profits go right to the university, which is a bit ironic when we are told that our institute is losing money).
What’s ironic or just a lack of management skills is that Ray was told by the office to hire more teachers for the summer, but now there might not be enough classes for most instructors. And to add further insult to injury, it took us two years of pleading to ask for a cost-of-living adjustment (everyone else on campus gets one) and we finally got one last month. Now, the proposed salary cuts are going to wipe out the three-percent raise we just got.
Fair enough, salary cuts in the business world happen all the time when companies are trying to survive, but automatically cutting an instructor’s salary without telling them is a bit underhanded. Three instructors teaching a teacher’s training course found out (because an officer worker opened his mouth when he shouldn’t have) that their salary had been cut. The office just went ahead and made a decision to cut their salary for the class. When one of the teachers approached the office manager and explained that if something like this is done, he wasn’t going to teach the class anymore. The office manager’s response: “I don’t care. We’ll find other teachers.”
Last month there was a cookout for all the teachers and staff and we were told that we were doing a good job and that we were all a team. Maybe not on the same team, though.
So all of us are sort of walking around feeling a little gloomy and wondering what to do next. I wouldn’t be surprised if many instructors decide to leave at the end of the summer term. Others might want to ride out the rest of the year and see what happens. My contract is up at the end of December, but I am now wondering and thinking quite seriously of leaving before. Take my chances and find something else—either here in Korea or Thailand—or just take some time off for awhile.
Ironic, a few weeks ago I was talking about how I was stuck in the doldrums.
Look’s like there is a wind picking up.