How South Korea Reminds Me Why I Travel
When I graduated from college four years ago, I dreamed of traveling around the world. I wanted to sample different cultures, learn different languages and taste different foods.
I started off easy with a year in New Zealand. Things were great, the people were wonderful and the scenery was top notch. I started again a year later in Australia, where, if I’m being totally honest, I got way too comfortable. I spent two years living a life similar to one I could have had in my own country. Then I knew I needed a change. I wanted to shake things up, to remind myself why I left home in the first place. I needed to get out of my comfort zone.
Three months ago, I did just that. I took six months off and visited family and friends, and then I hopped on a plane to South Korea to try my hand at teaching English.
For so many reasons, being an expat in South Korea has been incredibly different.
It’s been difficult. The language is far harder to grasp than I thought it would be. The job is much more challenging than I ever could have imagined. Teaching young English students can be stressful. The work culture is so different from any company I have ever worked for.
I may not know where I want to call home next, but I do know that South Korea has taught me a lot about what I want (and what I don’t want).
It’s also been incredibly exhilarating. Because things are so much harder, every success is so rewarding. As my language skills improve, I feel my confidence in speaking Korean grow with every passing day. Being understood in a restaurant or shop is a win. At work when I see my students succeed in a difficult task, it is incredibly satisfying and it drives me forward.
Everything about South Korea is so new to me. Every time I leave the house I am confronted with new sights, new smells and new people with new ways of thinking. Every weekend, I travel around the country to explore my surroundings with a curiosity that I never had while living in Australia or New Zealand.
It’s been a roller coaster over the past 90 days. Sometimes I feel myself counting down to the weekend and perhaps wondering how I’ll make it through this year. Other times I think I could stay here for a while. I’m making new friends all the time, getting involved in different clubs and local activities. I am enjoying making a life in this community.
I may not know where I want to call home next, but I do know that South Korea has taught me a lot about what I want (and what I don’t want). It has reminded me why I took the leap to see the world all those years ago, not just to get comfortable being in another place, but to seek out the uncomfortable,and to learn and grow and experience all that I can in the time I have. For that I am grateful.