When one thing ends, something else begins

Orientation ended this past week.

It was all a whirlwind. Now that I’m in my homestay, I feel like I’m actually in Korea. We were all whisked away from each other so quickly at the placement ceremony, off to be scattered across the country. My co-teacher and head of the English department drove me to Cheongju. While I was sitting in the car, gazing at the rolling mountains, it happened- I knew that I was alone. And not necessarily in a bad way, but in an independent way. I was reminded that this journey I embarked on was something I needed to accomplish by myself. Of course I have a support system that will keep me grounded throughout the year, but the majority of that support system will not be in close physical proximity to me. I have to find it within myself to conquer the majority of the hurdles I will experience this year. This is something that I alone am capable of.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been alone. The last time I can remember was back in 2014 when I lived in Austria for the summer. It was me and one other woman who ran the English native camp, a camp for Austrian kids to be completely immersed in English. It’s pretty similar to the FEP camp here at Fulbright, except the one in Austria was a little less rigorous and more focused on traditional camp activities. At the time, I was only 18 and living with distant relatives that I had never met before. I was alone then, and I thrived. I know that if I could do it then, I could do it now. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit scared. It’s been about 5 years since I’ve been, or truly felt “alone”. It’s also got me wondering what the true meaning of home is.

Is home a feeling, is it fluid? Is it a solidified place? Is there a finite limit on how many homes one can feel akin with? To me, I always thought home was a fixed point. Maybe home could be one fond memory that plays on a loop. Or home could be found in a person, or multiple people. I think that home could be considered a hasty collage at times. Can home end? Is home irreplaceable? Maybe one home can’t replace another, but can serve as a companion. But maybe I look for home in the wrong places. Home doesn’t have to be a physical place. It doesn’t have to be found in a memory or someone else. I carry home inside of me, and where I go, I make my home. Knowing this, I can begin to feel a sense of security and belonging, even if only to myself in this new and unfamiliar place.

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