I am now two days removed from 27+ hours of air travel and hanging around in airports, officially settled in Korea and gearing up to live and teach English as a second language for the next year.
Since I’m about to embark on what many have referred to as an adventure or journey of a lifetime, I thought it would be fun to commemorate the occasion with a short Q&A. I modified my questions from the IES Abroad article “68 Better Questions to Ask Than “How Was Study Abroad?”, writing my answers just before takeoff. My plan is to revisit this same set of questions in a year.
Let’s dive in:
1. Why Korea?
In the past I’ve traveled to parts of Europe and loved it, but I have always wanted to travel to Asia. However, for this particular experience both working and teaching, Korea was a no-brainer. It is well-known that Korea focuses on academic excellence and really values education as a country overall, and as a first-time teacher that appealed to me.
I admittedly don’t know much about the country beyond the surface level of what I’ve learned from watching hours of K-dramas, but I know it is a beautiful place rich in culture and history. I cannot wait to learn more about that history and immerse myself in Korean society.
2. What are you most excited or nervous about?
Right now, the thing that I’m most excited AND nervous about is teaching. I really look forward to working with the students directly, but I have never taught a classroom in an official capacity so I am definitely nervous about my first month and all the learning curves I anticipate!
Still, at the end of the day, the excitement outweighs the nerves 100 percent.
3. What’s the one thing you packed that you couldn’t live without?
Obvious answer aside (passport and Visa documents), I’d say my laptop or my journals, because I want to be able to skype with family and keep blogging/watch TV, but I also want to track my personal journey in SK, too.
4. What about the one thing you probably should’ve left behind?
I’m fairly certain I should have left behind the second checked bag I brought with me. I love clothes but have a sneaking suspicion I could have made it for the next year without three suitcases of stuff.
5. What foods are you excited to try? What kind of food do you think you’ll miss?
I’m not a foodie by any means, but I love trying new foods even when I travel to destinations in the US, so I really am looking forward to all the new food experiences I can have while living in Korea. One thing I can’t wait to try is Korean fried chicken. I don’t really like fish, but I am planning to try fish cakes (I just want to live out my Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Jo fantasies). Another thing I am really looking forward to is having kimchi in Korea because I’ve enjoyed what I’ve tried here in the US but I don’t think it’s quite the same as the ~authentic~ experience in Korea. Same goes for BimBimBap. My goal is to “try anything once” when it comes to culinary adventures in Korea – within reason, of course.
Evil Chicken, or Chick-fil-A, is probably the food I’ll miss most (sorry mom, but I’ve been missing your food for years!) because it’s such a major part of my current diet. I do expect I’ll miss American pizza, too!
6. What is the most touristy thing you want to do?
For my first week in Korea, I’ll be going on cultural excursions with all the other teachers in my program, and I expect that will involve a lot of tourist attractions. Personally, I can’t wait to experience springtime in Korea and see all the cherry blossoms in person. It’s kind of silly and I don’t know if it’s necessarily touristy, but I do really want to go on a K-drama tour (I think the Goblin one looks so cool!)
7. What do you think will be the hardest adjustment?
Adjusting to the new environment will naturally be tough, but as an extension of that I think the hardest part will be adjusting to the different time zone and knowing that my friends and family are roughly 13 hours behind me. I’ll *literally* be living in the future.
8. What’s the first thing you’re excited to do?
Eating ALL the Korean foods. I really can’t wait to check out the food markets where you can just go from stall to stall trying out different street foods!
9. What’s one piece of advice you would give?
For first-time teachers, definitely partner with a recruiter or teach abroad program that prioritizes your goals. I worked with TravelBud and XploreAsia and have been blown away by their professionalism, expertise and offers to help at every turn! Also, it is better to collect necessary documentation as early as you can vs last minute (no surprise there). There are tons of documents required for the Visa application process and it can be stressful if you’re gathering everything with three weeks to spare. It’s not only great for peace of mind, but also just makes the entire experience go much more smoothly when you turn things in before the deadlines.
10. Use five words to describe your current state of mind.
Enthusiastic, apprehensive, grateful, curious and tired.
I don’t know how realistic it is yet, but my hope is to continue blogging and/or writing newsletters to share my experiences here in Korea. Stay tuned for more!