Since I have arrived in Korea to teach English, I have felt the urge to try new things and pursue activities that I never would have living in the United States. Maybe it's the feeling of living in a different country with a culture that is completely foreign to me or maybe it's the idea that up and moving to Korea has given me a fresh start and a chance to reinvent my life. I am not sure what it is but I have really enjoyed the opportunity to try and do new things.
Also, I have found myself constantly wanting to meet as many people as I can and make as many new connections that I can while living in Korea. Being away from regular friends and family has made me crave new friendships and relationships. Meeting locals has been an awesome and rewarding experience and I find that a lot of the expats here are interesting, fun, and adventurous. With so many cool people around, it only becomes a matter of finding ways to meet and get to know them.
With this in mind, I did something that I would never have done in the U.S. and signed up for Couchsurfing (https://www.couchsurfing.org/). If you are not familiar with it, Couchsurfing is a social network of people that are looking either to host visitors or to be guests in another person's home. When you sign up, you can decide if you are going to host, be a guest, or do both. Since I wanted to meet people and wanted to travel around Korea cheaply, I signed up for both options.
Since I have been on Couchsurfing, I have hosted people from Taiwan, Canada, Germany, the U.S., Korea, and China. I don't have a big apartment so unfortunately my guests have to sleep on the floor, but I let them know beforehand. On Jeju, we even have a local Couchsurfing group that gets together once a month to swap stories about visitors we have hosted. Jeju is a great place to participate in Couchsurfing while teaching English in Korea because there are always so many tourists and visitors traveling to the island and you never know who you are going to meet.
Also, I have been a guest several times as well. When I travel up to Seoul, Busan, or Daegu, I always look to stay with a fellow Couchsurfer before I look to stay at a hotel or hostel. This saves me money and I get to know someone who lives in that city. They can pass on recommendations on what to see or where to eat. Often times, they even act as my tour guide and introduce me to their friends and favorite hangouts. Through this, I have made several friends and have reciprocated their generosity by offering up my apartment when they come to Jeju. When I finish my time in Korea, I want to do a massive trip through Southeast Asia and I am already trying to set up places to Couchsurf to help reduce the costs of my trip.
I know a lot of people are hesistant to let strangers stay with them and there is always the fear that something from your apartment could get stolen or the person turns out to be a nightmare roommate. But the website does a great job of profiling and sceening out users so that if a user abuses Couchsurfing, then other participants will find out. That person can be reported and barred from using the website. Also, there is a rating system and people have the chance to leave feedback so you know if they are legit and good guests/hosts.
I have yet to have a bad exerience with Couchsurfing and I recommend it as a great way to meet new people while teaching English in Korea. Let me know if you are Couchsurfing and coming to Jeju anytime soon; I will gladly host you!
Adam Montgomery is a 25-year old teacher at the Chungdahm Branch on Jeju. He has been teaching in Korea for over a year. When he is not teaching, he enjoys exploring the wonders of Jeju and Korea.