Since suddenly losing a job that I thought was a sure thing, I’ve been considering my options outside of Korea. For the past two years, the Korean government has been moving the proverbial goal line – making it harder and harder to become a university professor. Outside of university teaching positions, foreigners have zero potential for upward mobility. So it’s time to think about alternatives for next year.
Option 1: China
Despite their proximity, Korea and China are very different places. Korea’s standard of living is much closer to that of the US, but I don’t have much of a future here. Without a university position, I’m simply spinning my wheels. The opportunity cost of wasting another year of my life working an entry-level teaching position is significant at my age.
China, on the other hand, has a wealth of opportunities. The English teaching market is booming, compared to Korea’s shrinking market. I can make nearly the same amount of money in a place where the cost of living is significantly lower. There are also opportunities for foreign businessmen, which might allow me to finally put my MBA to use. The most important benefit of living in China is the opportunity to learn Chinese. In today’s global market, Chinese is a much more valuable language than Korean.
The downside of China is the standard of living. I’ve lived in Korea for nearly two years and managed to never use a “squatter” toilet. I’m afraid I may have to step out of my comfort zone and get used to squatters in China. With any luck, the minor culture shock I experienced in Korea will help me prepare for the monumental culture shock that is bound to hit me in China. But, frankly, I just don’t know what to expect there.
Option 2: Go Home
Going home doesn’t seem like a bad option at this point. I could get back to the “real world” and finally get started on a career. Though I’ve enjoyed a good lifestyle for the last eight years, I have been disappointed by the fact that I have heavy student loan debt and absolutely no savings.. Going home is likely the only way that I could make enough money to save and maintain a social life.
There are two things stopping me from pushing this option to the top of my list. The first is the fact that I’m really enjoying the expat lifestyle. Although Korea isn’t as exciting as it was when I first arrived, I still enjoy an easy lifestyle and a great social life. I’m surrounded by like-minded people who are educated and adventurous. As soon as I move home, the social life goes away.
The other, more important reason that I don’t want to move back to the US is the fact that I’m worried about finding a job. I am well educated, intelligent, hard working, and dependable. But none of that matters. In the current US job market, it’s simply not possible to get a job without “2-5 years of industry experience” (as seen in every job posting ever). I’ve been a police officer, a detective, and a teacher – none of which will help me land a job in sales, marketing, or operations. I don’t mind being underemployed for a while, but I am simply unwilling to go back to waiting tables.
So, those are my options. If I don’t get a decent university job in Korea, which appears increasingly unlikely, I’ll have to choose. If you were in my position, what would you do? I’d love to hear any advice you might have.
Until next time.