Tag Archives: Arrival

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.

Day 1 of korea

The Flight

I got to JFK super early before my flight. At around 12:25 they started boarding and that was it! Although the goodbye I shared with my parents was a bit emotional, they were more excited than anything. My flight was 14 hours straight to Incheon, so it was long. I became friends with some old Korean men (ahjussis) on the flight and by the end, it felt like we were all old pals. They were telling me that about 10 years ago you could go on a Korean Air flight and there would sometimes only be about 20 passengers on a flight meant for ~400 people. They also tried giving me tips on how to eat bibimbap, and I did not have the heart to tell them that I had already eaten it many, many times. They were shocked that I liked jokbal, or pig feet. I asked them if they had ever tried the ever popular live octopus dish and they said that men tend to like it but women do not. One of the men said he has a daughter that teaches English in NYC, which I thought was pretty awesome! I had a lot of trouble sleeping on the flight so I just watched a few episodes of Stranger Things season 3 on the plane.

It was odd. Somehow as we were flying over space that was neither American nor Korean, I felt my role from native slowly switch to foreigner while on the flight. Towards the latter half I felt myself refraining from saying the first English phrases that sprang from my mouth, and instead decided to listen.

I’m currently writing this on over 24 hours of no sleep, so sorry if this doesn’t make too much sense. Customs was a breeze and we soon all met up with our cohort! After that, we took a bus over to our orientation site. Coincidentally, this happened to be when the sun was rising

And so, this was my first image of my home for the next year.

First day of Orientation

Summer in Korea can be super unbearable. The humidity just hits you like a brick. Since it’s the weekend, most buildings don’t have the AC on. Luckily our room has it. I met my roommate, who is an absolute delight, and could not be happier that we were paired together. We got a very large packet of what to expect from orientation, including a large calendar that outlines all the events and Korean classes. We also did a Korean speaking placement test today, and I’m most likely going to be placed in the beginner classes. Which is honestly probably for the best! I rather get the basics down than bite off more than I can chew right now. Speaking of which, we will be having intensive Korean classes for 5 hours everyday, which does not include the extra hours built in our schedule for additional Korean help. We will have daily quizzes, a midterm, and a final. We also need to score above an 85% in the class so you know, no pressure.

There’s different kinds of events and activities you can sign up for! I signed up to do a Tae Kwon Do class twice weekly. I’m very excited because I’ve been wanting to get back into Tae Kwon Do for such a long time! I also signed up for the Korean cooking class which I’m sure will be super fun. All of our meals are paid for at the dining hall which is really nice too. If only there were AC in the dining hall… *sigh*. They also offer traditional Korean calligraphy classes and a Kpop dance class. I think I’m going to pass on those so I have more time to study Korean.

I’ve already met some very impressive, driven, like-minded individuals. There’s about 80 of us so it’s been pretty hard to remember everyone’s names! Tomorrow I’m thinking about going to Daiso with some people and picking up some toiletries and cute shower slippers. I almost forgot how criminally cheap everything is here. I got a four pack of Choco Shrooms for less than two dollars. I can definitely get used to this again.

I tried to take a quick video of my room. It looks strikingly similar to my dorm room at Ewha, except this one has it’s own shower (!!!).

I won’t be able to give updates super often while at Orientation because it seems like we’ll be swamped with a lot of studying. I did find out that I’ll know my placement next week, so that’s super exciting!! I’m not going to proofread this before posting because I am unbelievably exhausted, but I just wanted to get all my thoughts out before the next day comes!