We did it. After applying through a recruiter, we took the plunge, hoping not to drown. Living abroad in Korea, we’re told, is going to be an amazing experience; good money is easy to make, and technology is futuristic. Furthermore, traveling abroad is CHEAP, you can meet many people, and we hear the night-life rocks. What’s there to worry about?
Oh God, What Are We Doing?
Yesterday, we arrived at the Guest Apartment that we’ll live in for two weeks until the 31st (the first surprise). We were dropped off with a smile, much talk about how the woman (who I think is our HR rep) is “very nice, very nice,” and how Orientation would begin the next day — but nothing else. Thankfully, a few papers were taped around the apartment telling us information like the WiFi password. That being said, we sat around for the first few hours, it being probably 6am, in absolute dread.
What did we do? Why are we here living abroad in Korea? Why did we ever think this would be a good idea?
Of course, all of these questions had been answered previously. We applied to live abroad in South Korea to teach at a language school. We did this because we wanted something different. It would make us stand out on resumes, for instance. Teaching EFL would also help us develop new skills for our classrooms back home. But we were most excited about the prospect of traveling, imbibing parts of the world we knew nothing of. This would be a good idea because, though uncomfortable at first, we’d grow and become stronger individuals. We would forge memories we’d never forget and that many never get to experience.
But that’s how we convinced ourselves to do this the last 3 or 4 months. How could we know any of that would be true? Going forward, we have to deal with the realities of being American expats in a conservative culture where we know little language and rely on others more than ever before. We can’t just speak those idealistic words above and have it be true. If we want that dream to manifest, we must act accordingly.
Our First Morning Living Abroad in Korea as Expats
So we took a walk down a street. Then we walked back the other way. We stopped at a small open-air restaurant in the side of a building and pointed confusedly to images on a banner to explain what we wanted to order. I took 40 minutes to eat a small bowl of food with chopsticks, even after the owner brought me a bowl and fork (memo: metal chopsticks are difficult). Then we got our T-Money cards for transit and hopped on the subway to fumble our way to another area of town and check out what it had to offer.
After leaving our apartment, we actually had a pretty fun day. We found a huge mall that was air-conditioned (the Lotte Outlet Mall) and met our Korean-American roommate a bit later who took us out to dinner at a Japanese Pub. If anyone ever tells you that American servings are large, they’ve never seen what you can get with just 8 bucks at this restaurant.
At day’s end, we were exhausted, but we did what we needed to do: We made what could have been a potentially terrifying day into merely an existential episode of what we hope will be a beautiful time living abroad in Korea. Suffice it to say, I slept very well that first night: only 364 more days to go.
What Am I Blogging For?
I’m not sure what this blog will do. I started it for friends and family to keep up with us. I started it to have a log of the interesting events and cultural differences we will see, a project to share with my future students on what it’s like to live in another country, perhaps.
No matter how you explain it, it’s still hard for others to grasp. No one can ever really know what it’s like to live abroad until they do it. It’s too hard to understand. But I’m going to tell it as best as I can; and hey, if a few more enjoy it, what’s the harm in that?