A Calendar Year Abroad: Reviewing 2017

This year has been one for the books. Back in August 2016, we never could have truly seen how our lives would twist, tumble, and change. I want to take a moment to review and appreciate the amazing adventure our first calendar year abroad has been. From friends to our jobs and on to travel, this year abroad has excited us to no end. Let’s go over the highlights, shall we?

We Made Incredible Friends This Year Abroad

You may remember my post a year ago about our orientation crew. The school and perhaps serendipity set us up for getting to know a good group of people. Even so, people’s contracts began resolving after only four months, and already as we reached December, our group of friends had moved around Korea and shrunk considerably.

If I can recommend avoiding any one particular thing in Korea, it’s becoming isolated. You’ll quickly regret coming if all you do is work and go home to an empty apartment. What were we to do? I decided to take my own advice on how to make friends abroad. We were planning on going to Busan in March, so we hitched ourselves to a great tour company, Enjoy Korea, and that was history. Holi Hai festival really was the start of our newfound friendships. After talking at length with a few girls on the bus in the long drive south, we knew we had found a few new Seoulmates.

They introduced us to several others over the next few months. It’s now nearly a year later. Along with our first few friends, these people have enriched my life with their experiences and viewpoints. Here’s to the dinners, the travels in country and abroad, and the rest. You’ve been worth every second.

How Our Jobs Changed This Year Abroad

When we first arrived, we planned on teaching adult and teenage students English in conversation courses for about one year. After that year, we would return home, find a job, and return back to our daily lives. It’s funny how life sneaks up on you and changes things before you know what’s happening. Two major changes happened in our jobs.

First, let me explain a little about our school. With around 20 branches throughout Korea, our school has the ability to send foreigners to many different corners of Korea. When we first arrived, we were split up unfortunately. I arrived in Sillim, and Danny went to Suwon.

You Mean I Have to Move?

However, the branch I was teaching at was scheduled to close. As such, the powers-that-be moved me to the Main Campus in March where I continued to teach. This move brought about a huge shift to my routine as the school is much larger than my previous and has many more foreign teachers. Plus, another great friend was getting moved there as well. Things seemed to be looking up a bit as we moved closer to the end of our contracts.

Have You Thought About Writing a Textbook Before?

We had only a few months left by that point. However, before we reached a year, our school offered us a chance to design its new curriculum. With a few thousand adult students and upwards of 70 foreign teachers from around the world, the books would be not only influential but under a lot of critical eyes. They had to be good. But here’s the thing: I love curriculum design. Danny and I leapt at the chance, and so he was moved from Suwon to the Main Campus as well, which is where we are now. I was suddenly a bit busier. I didn’t have as much free time to do as I pleased what with longer work hours and readily available people!

We are now three books in. This job has come with many hats. We’ve now written texts, piloted those books, sold the administration on the design, taught incoming teachers the new curriculum, and designed manuals for the texts.

The Trips We Took This Year Abroad

Here’s what many might call the main event, but which has felt like a blip to us. We wanted to show that there are some Americans who love to travel. We set our goals high from the start, and though we had to make some concessions along the way, we wouldn’t change a thing. We’ve gotten to experience a wide array of life in East and Southeast Asia. I won’t forget it for the world.

In Korea

Where have we been in 2017? Well, we started the year in Singapore by witnessing the fireworks next to the Marina Bay Sands hotel. That was a part of our tour through Taiwan, Malaysia, and Singapore. But our true 2017 trips started a few months later. In Korea, we traveled around quite a bit. We visited the fortress city of Suwon. Next, we went to the port city of Busan a few times and the beach at Gangneung. This fall, we’ve hit the gastronomical city of Jeonju and the historical center of the old Silla empire, Gyeongju. Each had their own distinct flavor and style, and we made many memories with our friends.

Out of Korea

Abroad, we saw three distinct places: Hanoi, Vietnam; Kyoto, Japan; and Hong Kong. They were all spectacular, and we loved our trips to the latter two, but Hanoi stole our hearts and now vies for top position against Malaysia. We really do hope to return to that magical city someday. We ate strange plates of food to  spring rolls and pho, saw hundreds of people screaming by on scooters and the hectic cry of the city streets. After all that, Vietnam was pure gold.

By the time this post hits the web, we’ll have been to one place more, too. We have a week-long stay in Tokyo at the end of this December, ending our calendar year abroad in style. We can’t wait to tell you all about the adventures there.

Where to Next in 2018?

Sadly, all things must come to an end. This is actually our first and last calendar year abroad. We’ve bought our tickets home in March to resume our teaching careers. Even so, this doesn’t mean an end to travel, but rather, a stay. We’re heading to San Diego in April for a short trip, and then who knows where we’ll next go? All I can say is, we have many plans and places to see to come.

In conclusion, this year has had ups and downs, but we loved it. Not to mention, our lives transformed from vacationing permanently to actually finding a rhythm here and living. For instance, we’ve spent countless nights eating at the local pajeon restaurant and playing dozens of board games at another cafe nearby. We celebrated a Friendsgiving with old and new friends. Plus, I’ve learned many things I’ll take with me elsewhere. Through my exposure to other culture’s, I’ve come to a better understanding of myself in the world. If you read this, think about all the opportunities ahead of you if you choose to undertake the gift of travel. In any event, you won’t regret your own year abroad.

What About You?

Did you have a particularly awesome 2017? What jumps out to you as the highlight of your year? Moreover, what new goals or plans are you setting for yourself in 2018? Let us know your thoughts about our year or about yours below.

4 thoughts on “A Calendar Year Abroad: Reviewing 2017

    1. Cristen, teaching in France sounds amazing! (Especially the beer and wine part!) Let me tell you, Korea is fun in its own right for its drinking culture, but the wine here is, perhaps, nothing to brag about :-). I’d love to go to France sometime in the near future. Is VIPKids working well for you? -Jared

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