As my time in Korea is slowly coming to an end I’ve begun to reflect on my experiences here. What I’ve realized is that I have learned so much living the expat life. I’ve done things I never thought I would do, met people I would have never met (my future husband!!!). I have practically grown up into my adult life in another country!
I’m going to be honest, these past two years in Korea have been difficult! I’ve really struggled with the cultural differences. I’ve been angry, frustrated and really negative towards Korea and have been just biding my time until we leave in September. I’ve been one of those jaded foreigners which has not made for an easy expat life.
With change comes clarity
Now that we are three months away from moving on to our next adventure (more on that later). I’ve begun to realize that this is the last time I will ever be in Korea. And with that, I have taken a step back, taken another look and decided to take it all in. I’m not going to wish this time away or count down the days until we leave. Which I have been doing.
I’m going to slow down, live in the moment, and see the beauty and excitement that I felt the first time a came to Korea. I have my newbie glasses on and I’m able to see Korea with all the excitement and amazement I did when I first came over.
The Reflectiveness that come with Expat Life
So with this goal in mind, I’m examining what my life in Korea and life as an expat has taught me. I want to share this in hopes of reaching other people who may be thinking of teaching abroad. I want to show you that it isn’t always easy; it can be downright frustrating and so challenging! But, I wouldn’t change it for the world! Why? Because I have learned lessons and grown and developed in ways I never would have if I’d stayed at home in Canada.
Here is what I’ve learned…
- It doesn’t matter where you live; you choose how to live your life. You can have any kind of lifestyle you want whether it’s in Korea, Canada, Russia, or Spain! You can cultivate the life you want to live and moving will not change that.
- Your home is where you make it. Wherever you are it is important to set up a comfortable space for yourself. Somewhere that makes you feel comfortable and helps you relax and feel “at home”. The beautiful apartment we have in Korea has been a safe space for me. It is our home and a safe haven! Read more about this here: how to set up a home abroad
- Preparation, research, and learning from other people’s experience is everything!! Living in Korea I never know what to expect. Things that I think will be easy, are not. Rules are different, customs are different and things are just done differently here. Like, getting a gym membership …for most gyms and lessons you have to sign up for a certain day (usually the beginning of the month). You can’t just walk in and sign up whenever you want (and that is just one example of many!). So, anytime I need to do something I research it online, I reach out to my Facebook groups for advice (most people have already gone through it and they give great advice based on their experience), and I make sure I’m prepared as possible. I’ve become much more intentional in my planning which has helped me avoid a lot of challenging situations.
- Find a support group while living abroad. Creating a community of people who like the same things as you and you can rely on will help you feel more comfortable living abroad. This is even more important because your family and friend network is so far away. Reach out on Facebook groups and join expat activities, groups or clubs in your city! I actually haven’t had this during this last stay in Korea and it has made it a little more difficult. But I’m lucky to have an amazing partner, and we have some friends to connect with. I’ve also found it helpful to reach out to my friends and family back home to find the support I need.
- Be intentional about your life, set goals, and work towards them. Although this is something that can be done anywhere, it becomes even more important when you’re living the expat life. You’re continuously moving to different countries and need to find new jobs, a place to live and set up your life again. Goal-setting helps you make these decisions and work towards your next destination.
- You can have the life you want and travel and teach at the same time!! I’ve always thought that in order to have a family I would need to settle down in Canada, find a stable a job, meet someone and stay there. But I always knew I want to keep traveling and teaching in other countries. While living abroad, I’ve met an amazing partner who recognizes the value of traveling and working abroad. The lifestyle we can cultivate and the family we can have while doing it! So yes, you can have both! It is possible! There are a lot of expat families out there!
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How has living the expat life changed you? Comment below!