Everyone has their place in this world and everyone has their process

It’s rare to see mushrooms in the forest behind our house. But during a week this past summer, they were everywhere… and so many different types! Tiny and pancake sized ones; tight clusters and spread out villages; yellow, white, red, brown, and blue ones; some that looked like freshly baked buns; old ones; dying ones; freshly popped out ones; some with thin stems and others with thick ones.

All these varieties were just waiting for the right conditions so they could emerge. They needed rain, heat, plus the right type of soil to expand into their uniqueness.


I think that’s what we do too. We need the right environment to flourish into our true selves.

South Korea has done that for me. There’s something about this land, the people I’ve met, and the circumstances I’ve encountered that have helped me get back to my center. It’s not easy to explain why.

Since moving to Korea twelve years ago, people have often asked me when I’m going to move back to Canada. I understand that my family and friends back home care about me, and want me closer. And it’s not like I don’t want to be close to them. It’s also not like my proximity means I love them less. 

In Korea, people ask me how long I plan to stay here. I understand. It makes sense to assume that the land where we grew up would be the land we are meant to live our adult lives (assuming we aren’t forced to move due to war or an environmental tragedy). 

There seems to be something almost illogical, if not inherently wrong about choosing to live in another country. At least that’s the feeling I get when I hear these questions. 

I’ve often wondered if I’d get the same questions if I were living in a European country or Australia. I’m not so sure. I can understand why friends and family might be concerned that I’m living in South Korea. It’s not like the peninsula gets the most positive international news coverage. I also understand why my Korean friends wonder why I live here when life in Canada is often idealized.

But there’s nothing illogical or wrong about it. There’s no justification or explanation necessary. Like those mushrooms, we all have our own unique place in the world to emerge into.


I used to try to make sense of why I choose to live here. It’s not like it’s been perfect. There are many things I don’t agree with that happen in this country. I’ve also struggled with adapting to certain parts of the culture. But I have a feeling this happens to everyone, no matter where they choose to live. 

I’ve stopped trying to explain myself. All I know is that it feels right. It felt right the first time I set foot here. I felt free. I felt at peace. I felt at home. 

Each place we choose to live in is part of our process. It’s a manifestation of what we need to learn. I now know I had to come to Korea to learn some very important lessons. So why question this? We don’t know what another person needs to learn in this lifetime. 

If you’re curious to learn what lessons a certain place could have in store for you, you might enjoy this discovery. I recently learned about astrocartography, which basically charts how different places on earth could affect you based on your astrological reading.

Because I use astrology to gain insight, not to predict my future or explain my past, when I read what South Korea meant for me astrologically, I was pleasantly surprised. It made so much sense and reflected a lot of my experience.

The MC line represents the realisation of lifetime goals and the safeguarding of important social standing. Connection with planet Chiron leads to fundamental changes of your personal views regarding these. Traditional value systems lose their meaning, your ideals dissolve and your ideas of success or a career start to transform.

This change is mainly due to some deep personal crises whose origin lies in connection with professional disappointments. A feeling of not being able to complete your tasks can add to your insecurity.

You query the sense and purpose of your previous activities. You feel manipulated and rebel against all expectations in search of your own destiny.

Far from all convention, you enter a new field. You gain insights from humanistic and psychological teaching as well as esoteric understandings. Your personal wishes and egotistically motivated interests become less important. That is why these regions are particularly suited to the healing professions. You experience an increase in energy as well as recognition and acceptance.

Note: You can get your reading for free here: AstroClick Travel Horoscope.

But you don’t need to have your charts done in order to know where you need to be. Take a deep breath. Let it out slowly. Then, take a few moments with these questions:

  • In what environment do you feel most at ease?
  • Where do you shine the most? 
  • What does your body tell you about where you are now?
  • Where do you feel free, or at peace, or at home?

You might realize you’re already in the mushroom cluster that was meant for you, or maybe you’ll understand it’s time to find the village you’ve always been curious about.

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Susan Barduhn IATEFL 2013: exploring what moves expat language teachers

I first met *Susan Barduhn at the 2006 KOTESOL International Conference. When I saw her presentation, What Keeps Teachers Going? What Keeps Teachers Developing?, I was already saving up for my MA TESOL at The SIT Graduate Institute. Observing how she engaged the audience, I realized once again why I had to go to Vermont, USA.  Finally, in 2007, I sat in my first classroom with her. We sat in a circle, and she asked us questions. Once again, I was engaged.

This is what Susan does. She asks questions and engages learners to explore their beliefs and come to their own conclusions. And this is what she did for her plenary audience at IATEFL Liverpool. In her talk, Language Dealing, she helped us ponder the statement, ” ‘If English were a drug, expatriate teachers would be the dealers…’ Via metaphors of drugs, drug dealers, postmodern dance and medieval knights errant, she explores the identity and intentions of EFL teachers. Through her metaphorical speculations she suggests that the “phenomenon of expatriate English teachers could be considered a historical, cultural movement.”

Susan brought many interesting points and examples to the surface, including one where she compares expat EFL teachers to expat teachers of Mandarin. I found myself nodding in relief throughout her talk: relief in knowing that someone was speaking for the itinerant teacher; that someone was bringing more clarity to our story. But it was one point that really made an impact on me, and I’ll only focus on this discovery. I highly recommend watching her talk to get all the juicy details.

The Question

Is English really the drug, or is it something else? Is it pedagogy? Is it culture? Is it values?

This is what Susan wanted to find out when she interviewed 200 native and non-native speakers of English (must have lived in at least two countries outside their country of origin for  a total of 6 years). One of the questions she asked was, “What motivated you to live in each country?” This is what she discovered about why these teachers progressed through each country:

  • Country 1:  Travel, adventure, Peace Corps
  • Country 2:  Prof dev, culture, love of teaching
  • Country 3:  Love of teaching, prof dev, career advancement
  • Country 4:  Career advancement, economics, prof dev
  • Country 5:  Prof dev, career advancement, economics
  • Country 6:  Family, attracted to change and risk, prof dev
  • Country 7:  Love of teaching, prof dev, attracted to change and risk
  • Country 8:  Looking for greener pastures, attracted to change and risk, personal development
Expat English teachers delving into professional development: KELT-chat and KOTESOL

Then she asked us to look at the same answers like this:

  • Country 1:  Travel, adventure, Peace Corps
  • Country 2:  Prof dev, culture, love of teaching
  • Country 3:  Love of teaching, prof dev, career advancement
  • Country 4:  Career advancement, economics, prof dev
  • Country 5:  Prof dev, career advancement, economics
  • Country 6:  Family, attracted to change and risk, prof dev
  • Country 7:  Love of teaching, prof dev, attracted to change and risk
  • Country 8:  Looking for greener pastures, attracted to change and risk, personal development 

And so at the end of the talk, she posed a new question:

Could the drug actually be professional and personal development?

To this, a resounding “yes!” rang in my mind. It connected to one of my favorite posts by one of my favorite ELT bloggers, Laura Phelps: TEFLing at 35: a life gone right. In this post she expresses many reasons why she hopes she will still be teaching in different parts of the world by the time she’s 35, but this is the one I think speaks true for many teachers out there:

I want to be a 35 year-old who feels confident in the work I’ve chosen to pursue and who learns for the love of learning, not studies for the extra pound an hour. I want not to be freaked out by the prospect of no computers, no photocopier, no board, no books, no desks and no chairs. I want to keep those students in my life who make me cry with laughter, cry with despair, and open my eyes. I want to mentor and be mentored.

Over the past year — or maybe 18 months (see Things that may not have happened if I didn’t use twitter for an exploration of personal and professional development by expat in Korea, Alex Walsh) — I have observed and been involved in amazing organizations and loose collectives of professional development: iTDi, KELTchat, AusELT, KOTESOL and ELTchat to only name a few. I have been reading incredible blogs by teachers who are diving deep into their teaching world. Choose any of the blogs on the write-hand side of this page find and you’ll find their stories.

Who are these teachers? Most of them are exactly who Susan describes.

I am extremely grateful to Susan for doing this research and for presenting it to us in this way. I very much look forward to learning what else she finds out about this identity group.

-For a summary of Susan Bardhun’s IATEFL plenary please visit Chia Suan Chong’s post written live from the talk.

* Susan is a Professor and the Academic Chair of the MA TESOL Low Residency Program at The SIT Graduate Institute. Watch her IATEFL  interview to learn more about the program.