Homesick? Reflecting on Two Months Working Abroad

It seems a weird thought to say that I’ve lived in another country for almost three months now. For instance, it’s not the same, clearly, as moving to another place in the United States like I did when I got my first teaching gig in Putnam County, IL. Many people start feeling homesick around this time, yearning for home. But in some ways, it doesn’t feel all that different from the small change I experienced before.

Am I Homesick?

The program we applied through (Reach to Teach) sends a periodic email with tips on how to deal with different stages of life in South Korea. The last one dealt with how to overcome the mounting gloom of homesickness. In my preparation for South Korea, that was a topic that came up frequently. I know what a lot of others have said about it, but I digress that in all this time, I haven’t related much.

Perhaps our situation is a bit different. Danny and I did come here together, after all; having a constant companion here would surely take any kind of sting out of such a difficult transfer. Every weekend when he heads back to Suwon, it can be difficult knowing that you won’t get to see the other person for a few days, even if you do still talk frequently. But as for home?

Moving an hour and a half away from family and friends three years ago for my first job, I feel like I already experienced what it’s like not to see your loved ones often enough. Whenever I wanted to hang out with someone, I had to make a plan, we had to agree on times, and sometimes we had to sadly forego seeing each other for a month or two because of scheduling conflicts. An hour of distance is a tricky beast that can be hard to overcome all by itself. Maybe it hasn’t truly hit me yet, but seeing someone 12 times a year (or less) is not much more than seeing them 0 times, especially when technology gives us the tools to chat with them through FaceTime, FB, or other apps.

Maybe Not (Yet)

I haven’t felt such a pang of sadness being gone. Actually, I feel strangely like we’re in a time warp! Though it has grown cold here, teaching adults is much less stressful than teaching high schoolers. Plus, we are traveling and exploring so much. It still feels like summer! Why hasn’t our high school teaching gig yet begun?! Time has apparently slowed to a crawl, and though I’ve read things about this phenomena, it still seems strange to be actually experiencing it.

It’s an odd beast living in a different world than the one you’re used to. The stresses are largely dissimilar. Work is easier, but emotions are higher. Day to day, we have to explain ourselves. People ask why we’re here and what we’re doing. We have to imagine that we fit in more than we do. I understand why many would grow homesick.

In the end, you must remain adaptable. I’ve enjoyed giving myself the project of this blog, documenting my new life here for family, random readers, and future students. I think that having this project has perhaps helped me process my time here, as well. Taking time to reflect on your new space wards off feelings of cynicism or negativity, commonly related with being homesick. But if you are feeling the creep of these feelings or the longing for home, take a moment to read about how to thwart them.

Seeing Old Friends Abroad

This past weekend, the end of first term, we had our first term break, and what a glorious 4 days off it was! We used that time to go see my friends Eric and Alex in Japan. (Let me tell you, they were a sight for sore eyes since I haven’t seen them in, what, almost two years? And before that, another year or two. There’s a certain relief when you all know that you’re clearly not the same people as when you last saw each other, but you’re still tight. Moreover, I was so glad for them to meet and get to know Danny.) That trip will have to be its own post. I bring it up is because though we were still in Asia, we didn’t stand out as much in Japan. More diversity surrounded us.

A Few Final Thoughts on Living Abroad

In South Korea, many praise white skin. Maybe some people enjoy the attention, but I think it is disconcerting to be seen wherever you go. You can never blend in. People say hi to you as you walk down the street. They give you thumbs up. One patted Danny on the ass our first week here in some odd display of solidarity, like footballers might. Meanwhile, others simply stare or talk about you with their friends. I’ve only had a few bad experiences with this so far, but it’s uncomfortable. You can’t be wholly you, especially in a country as conservative as South Korea and in a school as conservative as ours.

And, as the new term has begun, I have a new set of students to contend with. They all seem like lovely people, and I am excited as always to get to know them. Even so, those I have just forged semi-personal relationships with are now off to another teacher. It’s a little sad that I won’t see them day-by-day at least for a while, but it just means we have to make plans to see each other outside of class.

Either way, after a week of this new term, I am loving my new schedule. I actually have a nice lunch break now that spans 6 hours instead of just 3, which gives me time to actually do something for myself and enjoy my day. And on top of that, Danny and I are planning our next trip over winter break. We are incredibly excited to spend time in Southeast Asia. Make sure to join us for that episode of our lives!

What About You?

Have you ever felt homesick? What helped you get through it? Did you talk with family much while living abroad? Comment below and follow me!

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