In the days before I left America to teach for a year in South Korea, I was a mess of emotions. I was excited. I was afraid. I was eager. I was uncertain. I was pensive, and I was worried. As I hugged him goodbye, a good friend told me “don’t worry. Nothing will change.” I didn’t say anything, but I was thinking, “You’re delusional. Of course things are going to change! I’m leaving for a YEAR!” As it turns out, however, he was right.
After ten months in Korea, I came home last Saturday for a week-long vacation. I am surprised to find that I feel no nostalgia upon returning. I have no sense of satisfied longing. Rather, I feel as though I never left at all. Southern California still has beautiful Mediterranean climate: innumerable towering palm trees sway in the cool ocean breeze that makes the 80 degree weather down-right perfect. Although a few shops in my hometown have gone down, predictable ones take their place: Where did the gas station go? Oh, another CVS is there now. (But wait, isn‘t there one across the street?)
And most importantly, my family is the same! When I left, I packed up my room. My mother turned it into her third craft room. While visiting, I am sleeping on a futon. And while not having my room is a change, my family’s dynamic is exactly the same:
On the car ride home from the airport, no big updates were given or questions asked about life in Korea or America like you might expect. Sure, maybe that is because we Skype once a week. I think, however, it is because friends and acquaintances update each other on each other’s lives. Family lives each other’s lives. So in the car, we simply talked about what we would have talked about on any other day before I left: baseball, each other’s day, headlines, and what’s for dinner.
Before leaving America, I think I had in the back of my mind that everything would be different when I returned. It sounds dumb and self-centered, and it was. But living abroad for a year is such a big decision, you feel as though it should have a big impact on everything you know and love. But coming home after a year, you realize that although living abroad had a big impact on you, it doesn’t have a big impact on much else.
And that is comforting to know. I can miss my family for a year, and when I return, we can still pick up where we left off. My hometown and county will still be as charming and breezy as the day I left it. Everything I love and enjoy about home will not change in a year, even if I do.
Obviously, not everyone’s experience is the same. But I think in this instance, if you are from a close family that has lived in the same area your whole life, this will be the same for you if you decide or have decided to teach abroad. A year is not a long time when you compare it to the amount of time you’ve lived in your home country. That’s also a contributing factor to the lack of nostalgia and change. Before you leave, a year feels like a decade. When you return, a year feels like a month. Consider how often and how many significant changes occur in a month. Exactly.
All in all, this trip has given me the confidence and reassurance that if I stay in Korea longer than the originally planned year, I do not need to worry about missing out on too much at home. And for me, that is a huge weight off my shoulders. I can walk freely around Korea knowing that home will be home when I return.
Currently residing an hour outside of Seoul, South Korea, Sergio Cabaruvias is doing his utmost not to appear lost or confused. So far, he’s managed. After graduating with degrees in English and journalism and after working with underprivileged youth, Serg embarked from Southern California for Pyeongtaek, South Korea to gain experience as an amateur adventurer. Since arriving he has swung on vines in the jungles of Taiwan, scaled mountains in the rocky city of Busan, driven a scooter along the edge of a massive, marble gorge, and explored some of Tokyo’s seedier areas. Moving to South Korea has been the best decision of his life.