Korea will change you. That's a given. How? There's no one answer, and it will vary greatly from person to person. For some, it'll be little things like mannerisms or habits, for others, maybe larger things like your entire perspective or self-confidence. As the summer term comes to an end this week, my friends and I have fallen back into a recurrent discussion: What will it be like to go home after living in Korea? While my own repatriation is still at least a year away, I got a taste of it this past spring. And I have to say, going home was definitely a little weird, but not in a bad way. What I found was little pieces of Korea came home with me, in ways I hadn't quite anticipated...
Teachers Share their Experiences While Living Abroad!
In the months leading up to my sisters’ arrival, friends would frequently ask, “Are you excited?” And I would say, “Of course!” I, however, felt dread. And for the longest time I didn’t understand why. My sisters and I have a great relationship. They are my two favorite people to hang out with. So why was I not excited to see them? Why was I dreading their arrival?
Sometimes it can get a little lonely teaching in Korea so far away from home, friends, and family. Having friends and family come visit me while teaching English in Korea has helped me feel more comfortable here. My parents, my girlfriend, and Couchsurfers have all come to visit.
I came from Los Angeles, California to teach English in South Korea. In LA, I had access to some of the best authentic Mexican food. Being just over the border of Mexico, I even had chances to go right to the source and eat food in Mexico. Mexican food was a favorite and a part of my regular diet back home. After coming to Korea, it has been a mission to satisfy my Mexican food cravings. Thankfully, now I know where to go for a good burrito and nachos.
During my Peace Corps days, I found that the best remedy for homesickness and loneliness was owning a pet. I did not know how lonely and homesick I would be while teaching in Korea, but I found it comforting to know that if such feelings did arise, I could always have a pet to help keep those feelings at bay. Let me emphasize that this was my thought process before actually arriving in Korea. Now that I have been here for over eight months, I realize how naive I was being because keeping a pet while teaching is much easier said than done. But if you are an animal-lover and determined to have a pet, you can find ways around the obstacles of owning a pet.
I came to teach in Korea straight after graduating from college, so I had never lived on my own until now. The idea of being free and living independently did excite me, but this being my first time living alone, I anticipated feeling homesick. That’s why it was so important for me to set up my apartment to have a real sense of home. Here’s how I did it, and some tips on how you can achieve the same.
Scotch tape is your new best friend!
Picture of how I decorated my workspace
You’ll find the apartments in Korea to be simple and compact, with just the right amount of living space. Ideally, there will be a dining area for two, a small kitchen, a corner for any media outlets, and space to put a bed. Working with a limited amount of surface area can be tough, but luckily this method of turning your apartment into your new home doesn’t require any floor space! You can fill up the bare walls of your apartment with just about anything and it will already feel more like home. I have sticky notes of recipes I’d like to try, post cards and greeting cards from friends and family, calendars, pictures, and just about anything that’s colorful. I’m even thinking of bringing home some of the posters my students have made at ChungDahm for their Critical Thinking Projects. Coming home to an apartment filled with pictures and memos gives a comforting feeling that someone lives there.
Worried about missing home while teaching English in South Korea? Whether you are a seasoned veteran or a novice at traveling, everyone eventually gets a little homesick. While there is no "cure all" for being homesick, here are some things that work for me..