People don’t always recognize the details of their everyday experiences. Such details become so commonplace that they fade into the background.
“One thing about being away is it really makes you think about where you come from and what you really respect,” said Alexandra Asbury. “Whenever I come home, I get a quick breath of fresh air because you really realize what makes the area you grew up in really good.”
Asbury moved to South Korea in 2015 to teach English at Pagoda Language Institute.
Although Asbury received a B.S. in photography from Indiana Wesleyan University, she decided to pursue teaching overseas. She had to process through numerous legal documents in preparation for her departure. The institute she started at, however, was not on her radar at the time of her gathering these materials.
She said that a friend from Indiana Wesleyan University was teaching at Pagoda when she learned they were looking to hire new teachers. By this time, Asbury had all her documents in place, interviewed with the school, and the school asked if she could come right away.
“I jumped on a plane and have been here ever since,” Asbury said.
Her desire for travel is what prompted her to become a teacher.
“I looked at it as the opportunity to get my foot in the door. I don’t know how I would have been able to travel otherwise. The opportunity to have the plane covered and have the living situation covered through the contract of work seemed more secure and stable,” Asbury said.
Asbury quickly noticed differences between her home state of Indiana and South Korea. One of the most notable differences is the size.
“South Korea is around the size of Indiana. My city is about where Bloomington is. They have a really high place in the economic world, they’re a first-world country, and it’s the size of Indiana, which is 1/50 of our whole country,” Asbury said.
She also said that South Korea holds education in high esteem. They have many after-school academic programs where children can receive additional exposure and tutoring.
“The kids would go to their normal public school and then they’ll go to these specialized academies. If a child needs help in math, their parent would pay for an extra class, so they go to a math academy after school,” Asbury said.
While working at Pagoda, she taught English to elementary students as well as an adult conversation class. She has since moved on to teach at SIS Group of Schools.
Her teaching career has not gotten in the way of her photography. She said that her job is demanding, but she makes it work
“One of the things I have to really remember is intrinsic motivation. You have to really push yourself to do it or you’re not going to do it,” Asbury said.
She particularly enjoys taking pictures of food and people.
“People have always been at the forefront for me. Meeting new people, making those connections, and forming relationships really mean a lot,” she said.
Asbury traced her love for people back to kindergarten when her brother passed away. She said the loss brought her family closer together and led her to realize how valuable people are. Through her portraits, she displays the value and respect she has for human life.
She also recalled how her parents cooked and baked often when she was young.
“The joy of food and what that means for the people making it and presenting it really had an impact on me. Food is a way to communicate love,” Asbury said.
In the future, she plans to search for a school where she could obtain a Master of Photography. This would allow her to teach photography at higher academic levels.
“I would love to transition my teaching to being completely art-focused. I like the theory, the thinking, and the history behind art,” she said.
Once she has obtained a master’s, Asbury hopes to teach students about the importance of art and the impact it can have.