Before moving to Korea in June of 2016, I was not very confident about traveling to Asia as a black woman. A couple of months before making my trip out here, I spent a lot of time researching and trying to find a good agency that could place me. I got rejected quite a bit due to my race. It was not the agency’s fault; I had to understand that I was moving to an area where white is the goal of many people. White is beautiful; black is not. Because of this school’s have to meet the needs of the parents and the parents want white teachers.
After some time I decided to take a short-term position in China in order to at least get to Asia and continue to push for Korea. Korea was the goal and I wasn’t going to give up. I then applied to do a work exchange at a hostel in Seoul and got the job! I was so excited. The position was just for the summer and it was before I would start work in China.
Spending the summer in Seoul changed my life. I came into Seoul city terrified because people were staring at me and constantly judging me because not only am I black but I am overweight. My fear got to a point that I never took the subway or bus for a while in order to avoid crowds of Koreans.
But soon it didn’t matter anymore. After a month or so I cared less and less about what people thought of me. Instead I enjoyed my time learning the Korean language and starting some amazing friendships. Soon I was off to teach English in China for six months and then Thailand for 5 months. I had to learn to get through racial issues in three different countries but I did it and learned so much from it.
Now I have been back in Korea for about 3 months and am confident as ever. I walk around this city with a big smile and positive energy. I am just so happy because although there are many Koreans that have given me the side eye, there are so many that have been such good friends. I only want to focus on the good things I have here and not give into anger over people’s views of me.
In the end, if you are a person of color living or traveling through Asia don’t just take in the bad. People are going to be racist anywhere anyway. I say look beyond that and find the beauty and good of the people in that country. There are people who want to be different or think differently and these are the people that will change the perspective of their community for the years to come.
I say this because when I was 17 I tried to find work in China but that was 14 years ago so I was just laughed at; there were not if not any black teachers in Asia at that time. Now with a little hard work I can find positions in Asia. Who knows what it will be like for the next generation of POCs. I can’t wait to find out because I know many young POC teens that dream of coming to Korea and I hope they make it here!
Never give up on your dreams because people have their stereotypes or expectations of you. We are unicorns and people just need time to really understand our beauty.