I think back to my first few days, weeks, and months in Korea, and it seems like it happened a lifetime ago. When I moved to Daegu, I had taken a huge risk and was rewarded with the ultimate gift - change. I fell in love with the temples, the beautiful countryside, the ease of city life. At times it was a struggle, but I was truly happy for a great deal of it.
Somehow, though, the negative parts started piling up. I didn't appreciate the drinking culture that allowed crimes to be dismissed or ignored (link). I struggled with watching friends, some as close as family, leave to return to their home countries. Life abroad is not easy.
Eventually, though, I became comfortable, complacent, happy enough, For me, this is a sign of a stagnant life. The challenge of living abroad no longer loomed over me, energized me to make the most of every weekend, or pushed me to try new things. I started considering other options, and eventually began applying for jobs outside of Korea.
And I was lucky for it, reaching the application deadline just in time. I was accepted into the 19th Class of AmeriCorps NCCC. I spoke to my boss, who was understanding, gracious, and supportive. We set an end date, and I prepared my heart to leave Korea.
Korea is the first place I was a legitimate adult - I moved straight after college graduation. It is the place I learned about myself and my own culture. I wouldn't trade my two years there for anything. Experiencing myself - my thoughts, actions, and decisions - in a new, completely different setting gave me a new outlook on life, a new perspective on the person I want to be, and a new set of tools to cope with people from all over the world.
If you're reading this blog because you are considering moving, traveling, teaching, studying, working, whatever-ing abroad: stop second guessing and go. There is no better time to start a great adventure than today.
For those interested in teaching in Korea, I suggest finding a handful of recruiters. They are paid by the school, so contact a ton of them and only sign a contract with the school that best suits you. Don't like bad recruiters convince you to take a less than stellar contract. Make sure your contract has at least 2 weeks of vacation, pays into the pension plan, promises insurance and severance pay. Only agree to a school willing to pay for your flights in and out. Make sure its written fairly and you feel comfortable, because you are only given so many rights under an E-2 visa. Get on facebook and find a group set in the city of the school - ask around, because foreigners are all in it together.