July 7, 2008

Why Work Abroad? Why Korea?

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 6:49 pm by stephshimkooo

When I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in August 2004, I had a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology, (notice it’s SCIENCE, not ARTS, which makes a big difference) a minor in International Relations, and a Certificate in Russian and East European Studies.

Needless to say, my job prospects were not rosy. I worked for a while at different jobs. I started out with an insurance company, getting hired on my 22nd birthday, while I waited to see if a job I’d applied for with the government worked out. I studied and passed my license test to sell and advise life, accident, and health insurance for the state of Pennsylvania. I passed on the first try, and was the only one in my class to do so. I was very eager to know as much about these things, as “know they enemy” is one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard.

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was four years old. While day to day life is normal for me, there have been instances of circumstances resulting in hospitalization, and there is more or less a guarantee of dying a slow painful death later down the line, unless I get hit by a bus. It is not an option for me to be without health insurance. I was under my father’s policy during college, and after graduation, thanks to COBRA(thank you, Bill Clinton), I could continue to be covered for up to 18 months after graduating. I considered going to graduate school, but my health insurance would run out before then, leaving me vulnerable should something happen. I couldn’t take that chance, especially since I wasn’t very focused in what I wanted to study.

Knowing that my COBRA coverage was going to run out in the next year made me terrified of employment without benefits. I had always had at least one (sometimes two or even three) job since I was 15. I was not afraid of work, but I knew that I, unlike other people, couldn’t sit around waiting for a job with benefits. Unfortunately, the job with the insurance company did not work out, and I ended up temping in an office job while waiting to hear from my prospect in DC.

Unfortunately again, in 2005, I was hit head on by a drunk driver who driving on the wrong side of the road in order to flee the scene of their first accident. They’d rear-ended a GARBAGE TRUCK. Those things aren’t exactly easy to miss. My car was totaled, I had bruising on my chest and knees, a broken elbow and and the second joint in my ring finger was shattered, requiring surgery to repair. Fortunately, I was smart and made sure that I paid all the premiums on my health insurance (a murderous $414.01 a month) so I was covered, as the person who hit me did not have any insurance. She also walked away from the accident unscathed.

Rest In Peace, Blue Streak.  I miss you

Rest In Peace, Blue Streak. I miss you

After spending the night in the emergency room, I came home and passed out, exhausted. I left a message for the office I was working in, saying that I wouldn’t be in that day and that I would keep them updated. Later that day, the temp agency called and gave me an earbeating in a surprisingly perky tone for “not following protocol” by calling them first. I had no idea what the protocol was, since I hadn’t plan on being in a car accident the evening before. I was also tired, and a little loopy from the painkillers.

That morning, of all mornings, I got the letter from the job I so wanted, thanking me for my application, but that I had been passed over for the job, after 6 months of interviewing and tests. I knew it was a rejection letter when I saw how thin the envelope was. I opened it, read the first few lines, and cried. I cried and cried. I’d lost my job, my income, my health, and now my future.

Half an hour later, I stopped. I knew it wasn’t going to get me anywhere, and it wasn’t like I lost something. It was something that hadn’t even been yet. My path lay elsewhere.

After the accident, I couldn’t work. With my elbow and hand the way it was, I couldn’t drive to get to work. I couldn’t type except pecking with my right hand. I couldn’t even hold a pencil because I’m left-handed. I took a job working not as a telemarketer but as a “telefundraiser” for a company that worked exclusively for charities and non-profits. Although the nature of the job is terrible, as it involves rejection or at the least, being the cause of annoyance for the entire day, the company I worked for was really nice, and they had quite a supportive environment. They really took care to try to help you do your job better because let’s face it, without funds, places like the Humane Society, the Sierra Club, NPR, and the DNC can’t do much. It was in their own interest, but the company put you on several accounts and left you for the longest time on whichever one you performed the best on. This will not surprise anyone who’s familiar with my interests and leisure reading, but I was left on the DNC’s campaign most of the time. I raised tens of thousands of dollars for the 2006 campaigns. I hate saying that way though because it implies that I actually did or made something instead of just convincing people to part with their money, not matter how worthy the cause.

During this time I was obviously looking for something better. While not physically demanding, it was hard mentally. I trolled monster.com, mostly in Pittsburgh but also in Philadelphia looking for jobs. One day there was a post for an English teacher in South Korea that offered what seemed like a good salary, airfare, and, lo and behold, health insurance. The next step of my journey began.