Before I left to go teach English in South Korea, I had every intention of updating my blog regularly to help friends and family and anyone else who is curious see a little glimpse of my new life here. Well… I’ve been here for two months and as you can see, I’ve not lived up to that. I knew that my life here would be quite busy right away, but I didn’t anticipate how busy… not that I’m complaining. Busy is good. I’ve also been trying to keep close friends and family updated as much as possible, which includes writing many long messages on a somewhat regular basis which then makes it harder for me to sit down and write a blog post.
Anyway… I’m going to attempt to post a few different posts within the next week or so, partly because I need to force myself to sit down and think and process it all and partly because I know there are some who would like to read about it. I’ll start with how this all began, in case anyone is interested… So here goes – here is part 1:
So…a few years ago I made a crazy decision. With an interest in traveling, a desire to fully experience other cultures, a love of language and desire to help those who want to learn my mother tongue and the realization that I am still quite young and untethered, being able to pursue any path… I decided to go back to school and earn the proper credentials to teach English abroad. I specifically had my eye on South Korea to be my starting point and then maybe Taiwan, The Philippines, Vietnam, and possibly other Southeast Asian countries. There were many times during the process of going back to school that I thought maybe I wouldn’t end up here. Maybe none of this would go as planned and I’d be doing something else entirely.
One big thing happened that caused me to think maybe it wasn’t something I wanted to do anyway, but once that thing was no longer in my life, I realized that in my heart, I still desired to take this path (could go into more detail about this, but it would take a long time and frankly it would be unkind to share too much). It was surprising to me, a bit strange even, how confident I then became that this was exactly what I wanted to do. I still had doubts that it would all work out, but I was not afraid of taking the leap, which given my history with anxiety, is frankly quite astounding. In general, I hesitate to say that God placed a desire in my heart for something as I don’t want to put words in His mouth and there have been things I’ve strongly desired in the past that were not to be. But I know that God has me on this path for a reason, as nothing is outside of His control. I know that at least part of it will be in struggle and hardship and probably even disillusionment, though I like to think I have come prepared and knowledgeable about the potential downsides of my decision.
After I finished my Bachelor’s and started going through my TESOL program, everything began happening so fast. My life was very busy and hardly ever slowed down, which increased my perception of how fast everything was happening. A little before I finished the program, I applied for a teaching position in Korea which would be starting only a few months later. That’s when it all started to feel real. This was really happening. I was really going to leave everything familiar behind and move to the other side of the globe for a minimum of one year. There were times when I was really excited, and times when I felt as though I was being ripped in half, but still the feeling at my core that this was what I wanted to do, this was the right direction for me, did not waver. It’s such a strange sensation to feel the heartache of not wanting to leave your friends, family, and home country behind, while also feeling like it is something that you strongly desire and must do. I am no stranger to feeling two or more opposing emotions or sentiments at once, but this was something new to me entirely.
The month before I was to leave, I made as many plans as possible with my close friends and family and tried to soak in their love and companionship and general amazingness as much as possible, knowing that I’d regret it if I didn’t. I also ate a lot of food and visited a lot of places that I knew I’d be missing. I filled up my schedule to the brim while also trying to get all the details and preparations in order, continue working as a caregiver, and trying to maintain my sanity and emotional stability. I think when I originally had planned to make this big move, part of me was doing it as a means to escape some things that I didn’t want to deal with anymore, but by the time I was actually leaving, I realized I no longer had anything I truly wanted to escape from. This is definitely a healthy and good thing, but it made leaving much more heart-wrenching. My life tends to be filled with bittersweet situations and this was certainly one of the more intense ones. I was so excited and eager to start this new adventure, but I was heartbroken, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to just go meet up with my close friends at a cafe or head over to my dad’s house for dinner. I was leaving knowing that I would miss so much back home, but that I would be experiencing a great deal of new and interesting things abroad.
My last month in America was a whirlwind. I had a lot of really good times with friends and family and I had so much preparing to do every day. I don’t think I have ever been more social and productive in my life! I should also mention that at this point, a lot of things were still up in the air. I didn’t know for sure that I would be going in February (and this was January) or if I’d be a late intake in March or April, and I also knew that there was a slight chance of it not working out at all. I found out about half way through January that I would be going in early February and about a week later I found out I’d be in the province of Gyeongbuk (or North Gyeongsangbuk-do), but wouldn’t be told the exact city until I after I arrived in Korea and completed the orientation. I also wouldn’t be told how many schools I’d be teaching at or what age group I’d be teaching. I truly believe that the only reason this didn’t completely freak me out was that God had prepared me for uncertainty and had given me a peace that was beyond my ability.
Before I knew it, I was all packed and ready to go and my dad and stepmom were dropping me off at the airport. After a tearful goodbye, I made my way into the very confusing and daunting place that is LAX with my giant suitcases that were almost too heavy for me to manage (packing for a year living in a place where you may not find clothes and shoes that fit you is a difficult task). I checked my bags, wandered through the airport, got myself some coffee and a snack and texted with my friends and family. It didn’t feel real to me. I couldn’t believe any of it was happening.
My flight was 13 hours long. Thankfully most of it was during night time, and I had a whole row to myself so I was able to get some sleep. I was in somewhat of a daze on the plane. I didn’t feel nervous or worried, I felt a little bit excited but mostly just calm. I still had no doubts about whether I was doing the right thing, and I wasn’t afraid of making such a big change in my life.
My plane landed in Taipei around 5am local time and I sleepily walked to the gate of my connecting flight to Busan. There were only 3 other people there when I first arrived and I slowly watched more and more people trickle in. My ears were filled with the Korean language and it was the first time I really started to feel like a foreigner, but I wasn’t uncomfortable. I tried to listen to what people were saying and see how much I could understand as I had been studying Korean for a few years before that, but had gotten quite rusty and was no where near fluent.
The flight from Taipei to Busan was only 2 hours, so it felt like nothing compared to the flight I had just been on.
At the Busan airport, I met my recruiter and a few other English teachers who had just arrived. I instantly felt comfortable with them and was excited to meet more teachers in the coming days.
This post is getting quite long, so I think I will end it here for now. I’ll be back with part 2 when I get the chance to sit down and write it. Thanks for reading~ ^_^