Finding Peace in Hagwon Hell

I am feeling strong today.

I am happy and content with my life.

I am patient and calm, and greet the day with ease…

These are the phrases my coworkers and I would chant entering each day of Hagwon hell. Standing in our Korean classroom we would take a deep breath and hope for the best. What would today bring we would ask? Another humiliating experience of getting berated by your boss in front of your students? Having him burst in your room mid conference to scrutinize and micromanage every detail of an assessment? Having a hard to please parent pop in for an unannounced to discuss homework for the hundredth time? OR maybe having your superior call you a jackass? Let’s add insult to injury and also have him break the contract AGAIN.

When your spirit and humility gets broken on a daily basis , what does one do? Repeat affirmations like its your job.

I just want to make this clear. I’m not jaded. I take every experience as a learning opportunity and try to find the silver lining. Every English teacher you meet will have at least one gripe about their expat experience, whether it be the school or the town. It’s important to know both sides and not be naive to the potential situations.

The life of an expat can be glorious. A generous salary, free accommodation, admiration by students, exploring a new country, and the luxury to live and travel freely. However, there is also a dark side of teaching that you hope and pray before departing the comforts of your home country. Every teacher’s fear is ending up in hagwon hell. An atrocious apartment. A verbally abusive boss. Tiger Moms. Inconsistent or late paychecks. If you find yourself in this situation, my sincerest apologies. I empathize with you whole heartedly. You have two options.

Midnight run like a champ and regroup in Thailand. OR you can grin and bear it, and try to find inner peace while you ride out your contract.


Take deep cleansing breaths often. It will help you stay calm, lowering stress levels. Vodka also helps alleviate stress


Positive affirmations all day every day

This action helped set the tone for the day, diverting my mind from my current uncontrollable reality.


Find a creative outlet

I painted, wrote, and made music. Having a way to express myself helped refocus my energy. In my little box, I found peace with art.



Go outside and get lost.  in nature, the city, or wherever your feet take you. Every weekend I took the chance to disconnect by putting myself in an alternate setting. I found a great deal of calmness in the mountain behind my apartment. Nature truly cures all.



Begin to strategize and figure out your next step. It’s good to have hope in an uncontrollable negative situation. I created a vision board to map out and visualize my future goals. Having that visual was a calming reminder that a brighter future was on its way.


During my hagwon oppression, my pursuit to find serenity never wavered. I was determined to make the best out of the situation. In life, there will unfortunately be unpleasant experiences. Yet, you have two options. Wallow in the unfortunate situation, ultimately making your life more miserable OR choosing to put your positive pants on. I hope you choose to rock out in your positive pants. 🙂