Tag Archives: adjustment

Half a year update

It’s been a little over 6 months since I’ve arrived in Korea.

I have felt so many emotions. There were times I struggled, but I’ve conquered so much. I am, undoubtedly, thriving.

There are times I feel like I’ve lived here for an eternity. Times where I’ve almost completely forgotten my life before Korea.

The year leading up to before I left for Korea was a difficult time for me for a multitude of reasons. At times it was a struggle juggling a full course load at college, working, student teaching full time, and completing my EdTPA certification. There were times when my personal life wasn’t doing the best either. I remember getting all of my materials together to apply for this Fulbright grant. Despite 16+ hour days I found it in me stay up late and rewrite my essays over and over again to perfection. I had less than 2 months to prepare and submit my application, while some people have an entire year to get feedback from university faculty and recalibrate their efforts. I wanted this so. badly. When I would get tired or discouraged, I would take a moment to close my eyes and imagine myself walking through different Korean landscapes. And it would ignite something in me to keep pushing through those sleep deprived nights.

Nowadays, all of that seems like a distant memory from a past life. I am completely reaping what I’ve sewn and loving every minute in this country. However, with my brief trip to America coming up soon, all of this is flooding back to me. I’m remembering how hard I worked to be here, and when I do that, my time here seems so small. These 6 months have flown by and I know the next 6 months will do the same. Although I’ve really taken advantage of my time here, I’m not sure if I’ll be ready to leave yet when the time comes. I still feel like I have so much life to live here.

Cheongju, my city that I’m placed in, has really transformed into a sort of a 5th appendage of myself. It has become a home to me and I find myself wanting to protect it so dearly. It’s personal and precious to me, and I can’t help but even feel a little possessive over it. It watched me flourish and adjust to this new job, new family, and new culture. When I take the bus at night around town I feel at peace looking out the window and seeing the city. My city, it feels like. I can’t bear the thought of leaving and never seeing it again. I’m not sure if, at this point in time, my heart could handle it.

I’m halfway through. Right now, I’m on a long winter break from school. I’ll start teaching classes again in March with new co-teachers and a fresh set of first year high school students. And then in mid-July, I’ll be done. Finished. I’ll return home and it’ll be like this entire year didn’t even exist. People back home will ask how my year was, but they won’t really understand, even if I explain myself as articulately as possible. I’ll get a full-time teaching job and probably stay at the same district for 30 years. And I will never be able to experience another Korean autumn with beautiful golden rice fields again. Or wear hanbok while walking through cherry blossom trees in the spring.

And it hurts. It’s very painful to think about everything in such finite terms. But it’s the truth. I can always briefly visit Korea again in the future during the summer, but after I leave in July, I will never be able to live in Korea, to thrive in Korea again.

Here’s to another 6 months.

Settling in

There’s something so uniquely comforting about being on a bus, train, or plane to a new destination and looking out the window. These were taken on my 3 hour bus ride to Jinju.

I’ve been doing a lot of in-country traveling recently. The past two weekends I went to Seoul and this week, since Hangul day is a national holiday, I went to Jinju to see the fall lantern festival. I’ve had a lot of time to look out windows and see the Korean landscape pass before my eyes.

Last night, when I got home from Jinju, I started to realize that my homestay has really turned into a home for me. My host dad offered to drive me and my friend home from the bus terminal. While I was walking from the car to the apartment, my host father quipped how I looked like I skipped fall and began just dressing for winter. We were laughing and when I walked through the door, my host brothers greeted me and excitedly told me all about their day. I put my gift of assorted macaroons down on the kitchen table when my oldest host brother showed me about all the games they played. When I finally got to my room, I was so happy. And I think I was happy because my homestay is not a foreign place to me. I don’t have to be “on” all the time, and I don’t feel like I’m walking on eggshells. I’m well looked after here and I feel like a part of the family. I look forward coming home after a weekend excursion or trip because where I sleep has truly turned into a beacon of comfort and happiness.