Spreading the 'Laker Effect'
GVSU graduate teaches English in South Korea
For some 20-somethings, life post-graduation can be stressful and chock-full of uncertainty. From finding a place to live, to trying to secure a job, to obtaining placement in a graduate program, former college students can easily get stuck in a post-university rut.
For Kylie Decker, however, this was not the case.
Decker, who graduated from Grand Valley State University in April 2016, has been teaching English at Maple Bear Kindergarten in Busan, South Korea, since August 2016.
“When I was little, I was one of those kids that switched between wanting to be a teacher and wanting to be a nurse,” Decker said. “I became less sure about what I wanted to do and thought about going into theater or becoming an accountant, yet somehow ended up majoring in women and gender studies.”
Decker said her GVSU study abroad experience in Japan helped her during her move to South Korea, where a large percentage of people speak English.
“It was really easy to get used to Korea because there is so much English,” Decker said. “I did a short study abroad in Japan, and after being here for so long, I've realized that even though Korea has less foreigners, they are much better equipped to work with us.”
Furthermore, she said people will sometimes respond in English even if spoken to in Korean.
“One of the funniest things is me trying to speak a little Korean, and then they answer in English, and I feel like an idiot with my horrible pronunciation," Decker said.
Although she has had an easy transition, one thing that Decker misses is comfort foods.
“She does miss mac and cheese, tacos and seasonings, all things that she asked us to bring to her when we visited," said Rosemaria Lintjer, Decker’s mother.
As for culture shock, Decker said one of the biggest differences she has noticed is the styles of parenting.
“Most of the kids here are pretty good, but I've noticed a great difference in parenting that sometimes drives me nuts,” Decker said. “Parents tend to let their kids wander around, which isn't bad on its own, but the parents don't even acknowledge it.”
Even so, the students in South Korea and their parents have warmed up to the GVSU alumna.
“The children write her notes telling her how much they love her and make her little homemade trinkets,” Lintjer said. “I am so proud that she is such a wonderful young woman and making such a good impression.”
Lintjer said Decker's wanderlust started developing when she was around 11 years old after being invited on a People to People Student Ambassador Program trip.
“She spent 15 days in Australia and celebrated her 12th birthday there,” Lintjer said. “She is determined to visit Australia again.”
Moreover, Lintjer said even though Decker only signed a one-year contract, she had a feeling she wouldn’t be returning to the states afterward.
“I told friends and family that she would not be back after one year," Lintjer said. "I broached the subject with her after she had been in Korea for six months. She rattled off a myriad of reasons to stay.”
Decker is researching moving to another Asian country after her contract runs out, which will happen in two months.
“I was going to stay in Korea for longer because it's amazing here, but I now have a Korean boyfriend and he wants to work in Japan, so I decided to follow him,” Decker said. “I will definitely return to Korea to teach again.”