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In September of last year I took one of my biggest leaps of faith to date: I moved to South Korea to teach English. I never would have imagined myself living and working in Asia. There is nothing wrong with Asia; it just never was on my list of places to go. I decided to go after multiple friends took the plunge and told me what a great time they were having and what a life changing experience it was.

After some hesitation I made the choice last summer to get serious with my plans to move abroad, and by September of 2013, I was in South Korea beginning the next chapter of my life. Here I am, a year later, thriving and making it happen.

I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to live in a country so different from my own. I love partaking in the fun and communal aspect of the society. Relaxing in the communal bathhouses or jimjibangs as they are called, going on hikes in the countryside, trying out all of the awesome Korean skin care products, and eating fear factor foods that I would have never tried back home, like Beondegi (boiled silkworm). I’ve also gained some great friends, made some good memories, and learned a few life lessons. Even though I’m happy with my decision, this year has not been without growing pains.

Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 1.26.13 PMI’ve had a blast partaking in the fun aspects of Korean culture, but there is nothing I could have done to prepare myself for the alienation I sometimes feel. It’s nothing to walk down the street and be stared and pointed at multiple times a day. Most of the time I don’t let it bother me, I know it’s just out of curiosity. Sometimes it can be flattering, especially when people want to take pictures with me, or when I’m told how pretty my skin and hair are. Other times it can be downright annoying to have my hair touched out of the blue or have someone rub my skin to see if the black will come off. A lot of Korean’s have never interacted with a black person and sometimes have negative impressions of us because of what they have seen online or on television. However, I know that my presence has given those that I have encountered a different perspective on African-American people.

While there have been definite downsides to life in the ROK, the positives far outweigh the negatives. I work at an overnight English language camp and the kids are so cute and innocent. My job basically consists of playing all day. One of the best things about living here has been having the opportunity to devote more time to my writing and to other leisurely activities like gorging on web shows. Over the past year I’ve become totally obsessed with the ideas of independent TV on the web. The fact that we are now able to create the content we want to see with such ease is dope. Seeing accurate and positive representations of oneself is so important. As we all know, television doesn’t give the most accurate or positive portrayals of black people. If there is one thing I’ve learned from living in Korea it’s that television and the media are far-reaching.

Living in a world where most shows and films revolve around a white protagonist, web series have given us the unique opportunity to tell our stories the way we want them told. Earlier this year I took my second biggest leap of faith by deciding to create a web series. Black Girl in the ROK is a web series that follows Janae, a recent college graduate who has moved to South Korea to navigate the world of ESL teaching.

This project will be a six episode scripted comedy series inspired by personal experiences that I have had while in Korea. There will be episodes that deal with dating while black in the ROK, workplace relations, stereotypes, culture shock, and much more. While it’s important to show the world just how multifaceted black people can be, it’s even more important to show black people all of the opportunities that are out there for us. Black Girl in the ROK is going to showcase a side of black womanhood that is not often seen: a young black woman living, traveling, and working abroad.

I’ve created an Indiegogo campaign to help fund the series. In order to make Black Girl in the ROK a reality, I need to raise upwards of $5,000 dollars. I am confident this web series will resonate with a wide range of people. I’ve put my heart and soul into this project, along with a lot of time and energy. I’ve never believed in something more than I believe in this web series and it’s ability to be a vehicle for positivity and change. If you are a champion for positive portrayals of African-American people on TV, film, and in the media, please consider backing this project and joining me on this journey. After all, if potato salad guy can do it, so can we.

To find out more about Black Girl in the ROK click here. Like us on Facebook @ Black Girl in the ROK, and follow us on twitter @blkgirlintherok.

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  • Lisa

    I remember seeing want ads for teaching in Korea, but I was like that’s so far away. You’re article and web series sounds exciting. The world is so big, but we sometimes limit ourselves on what we can and can not do. Congratulations on your journey and I will be supporting the series.

    • iamnieshasharay

      Thank you so much for the support!

  • I’ve been to Korea and it is beautiful! Great food!

  • iamnieshasharay

    I teach in Daegu. Thanks for all the love. Please share, share, share this post and if you can, donate as well. Any and all love is appreciated.
    Thanks!