First Month in Korea and I’m only posting now.

It’s October, and this is the first post I am making while in Korea.  /facepalm/

I am so sorry it has taken so long.

I wish I could give you a better excuse other than I have been really busy, but that’s the honest truth. I don’t know if I can properly explain how chaotic life has been since moving across the globe, but I’ll try my best.

Imagine moving to a new city by yourself. Normally, you would know a little bit about the area, right? You’d have checked out your new apartment, known the layout of your neighborhood, maybe even sent some of your personal items ahead so you wouldn’t have to move it all in one trip.

Yeah, not me. On top of settling into my new home, discovering my new neighborhood, learning the transportation and layout of the city, buying everything I could possibly need for life in Korea, and finding time to spend with the new friends I had made only a week or two before, I also had to immediately settle in to teaching about 400 students as well as begin to build relationships with my new co-workers.

Oh yeah, did I mention it’s all in Korean?

The good news is, I am loving my life here. Moving to Korea to teach English was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I’m really disappointed in myself that it has taken so long for me to write a blog post because there have been so many wonderful things that have happened to me in this past month that I have not written down. It’s a shame because years from now I will not recall those simple fleeting moments that made me smile. However, I’m going to try to do my best to keep a better record like I did in Russia.

So let’s get started!

My flight to Korea was long – a grand total of 14 hours – but I found it rather enjoyable. Much more so than my flight to St. Petersburg last year. I flew out of Chicago at noon, a very reasonable time, and was pleasantly surprised to find about 30 other Americans who were flying out on the same flight for the EPIK program. I actually was fortunate enough to meet my closest friend in Korea there. (Shout out to Shelby!) I also ended up getting a window seat next to a really nice girl on the program who would also be living in Seoul. She and I chatted a lot of the flight, watched Korean dramas and the movie Tangled, studied a little bit of Korean, and slept about 2 hours before arriving at Incheon airport. Asiana Airlines served some delicious food – bibimbap for dinner and some some spicy squid for breakfast – so I was quite satisfied by the time I touched down in Korea.

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The airport transition also went surprisingly smoothly. Jess and I stuck together like glue, and we managed to maneuver our way through customs and baggage claim in record time. I picked up my 30-day SIM card from EG SIM for my iPhone at this tiny little bookstore and was able to immediately text my parents that I had arrived safely. I highly recommend this option for anyone traveling to Korea for a short period of time. It cost about $25 for 1 GB of data, some minutes, and texting. Bonus? You automatically connect to the private KT Olleh wifi, which was accessible pretty much everywhere in Daejeon. You will not regret it.

Anyway, we made our way to the EPIK desk located near the exit of the airport and waited about a half hour until we could load our items onto the bus. Buses left every half hour or so, and had been since about 11 am that morning, meaning that many of the 600 EPIKers attending the August orientation either in Daejeon or Jeonju had already arrived and were on their way to the site. I wasn’t loaded onto the bus until about 7pm and didn’t arrive in Daejeon until about 10pm. (Our bus driver had gotten lost.) As I hadn’t slept too much on the plane, I pretty much crashed immediately on the bus. I curled up against the window and saw about 10 minutes of Incheon before I was asleep.

So from August 18th-25th I was temporarily living in Daejeon, a smaller city (of about 1.5 million people) about two hours south of Seoul. It was blisteringly hot and the 98% humidity did nothing for my hair… I wish I could give you a more complete review of Daejeon, but since our program had a curfew I didn’t want to risk traveling too far from our orientation site at the KT Human Resource and Development Center. However, my curiosity couldn’t be completely contained, and after I day or two I started wandering off farther and farther into the city. I even attempted taking one of the city buses, a slightly nerve-wracking experience since my Korean language ability was still pretty minimal, but incredibly rewarding. What I can say is that Daejeon is a really lovely city. Sadly, I did not take too many photos while I was there! It had been too much of hassle to haul my camera around everywhere I went, so here are some of the few I have from my time there!

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Actually, all of South Korea that I have seen – which is not much by a long shot – is very lovely. What many here consider to be “lower income” areas still put many cities in Wisconsin and Minnesota to shame in cleanliness and safety, and the more affluent areas blew me away. I’ll get more into this in a later blog post, but for right now I’m just going to stick to the general overview. I have far too much I need to cover.

I was very lucky to have been placed with a totally awesome roommate.

Fiona and I were both so laid back and similar that, within a few hours, we were already comfortable enough with each other to lounge around in our sports bras listening to Taeyang (a Korean pop star) and share stories about our lives. Seriously, I could not have asked for a better roommate.

I wish I could take the time to completely describe each and every day at orientation, but those were only 7 days of my time in Korea and I have 30 to cover, so I’m going to quickly sum them all up as best as I can. If I have time later in the year when I’m desk warming, I’ll come back and cover them more in depth.

Our orientation staff were great, and I’m not just saying this in case they read my blog. Seriously, they worked so hard and had clearly prepped for so long that everything ran smoothly the entire time we were there. I had read many blog posts about boring lectures, crappy food, having no fun, and wanting to get the eff out of there, but I can say that my experience was polar opposite. Out of the many lectures we attended, I think only one or two I found to be slightly repetitive of boring. As a recent college grad with minimal experience in teaching, I found the lectures to be informative and interesting. A couple of them I even found to be funny and wished that they had gone longer. For future EPIKers, I hope you get to listen to Walter Foreman’s introductory speech on Korean History & Cultures and Bridget Maret’s “How to Keep From Losing Your Mind” lecture. Easily my favorites. I was placed into Group 1A with two coordinators, Suzie and Jun, who I just absolutely adored.

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Stole this from the Class One Facebook page. Thanks, guys!

I met a really great group of friends there who really made the transition into Korea even smoother than I thought. We explored Daejeon together, went out to bars, tried delicious restaurants, rented a room at a noraebang (karaoke), and even somehow found ourselves singing in the basement with a couple of Korean ahjusshis (older men) just for fun! I was so busy either studying, meeting people, or experiencing the city that I barely had time to Skype my parents once in a while, much less sit down and write a blog.

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Think of my silence as a good thing.

Anyway, the EPIK program also broke up the schedule of constant lectures and studying by giving us a day to travel an hour by bus to the other orientation city of Jeonju. It had been raining on and off the past couple of days, so we were really fortunate to have a day of complete sunshine to walk around the traditional hanok village, learn about Korean traditional drums, make traditional Korean paper fans, and eat Jeonju’s famous bibimbap. For those of you who do not know, Bibimbap is a bowl of warm white rice topped with sautéed and seasoned vegetables and chilli pepper paste (called gochujang). Usually a raw or fried egg and some sliced meat are added. My favorite is when it is served in a hot stone bowl, called dolsot bibimbap.

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EPIK also introduced us all to taekwondo, not only with a spectacular performance but by having us attend our own taekwondo class! We even wrote our goals or hopes for the year on a wooden board and then had the opportunity to break it with our fists. Guess who broke it on her first try? 🙂

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Big thank you to Jun for taking this picture of Shu and I before Taekwondo class!

Big thank you to Jun for taking this picture of Shu and I before Taekwondo class!

The medical testing went smoothly. It was the usual weight, height, urine, sight and hearing tests. The blood test was the only hiccup since all three of the ladies drawing blood struggled to find an exposed vein in my arms. I was poked a grand total of 5 times before we managed to find a usable spot on the back of my hand.

At the end of orientation we had to put together a lesson plan with two other people in our class and present it to be critiqued not only by other EPIK teachers but by some of the coordinators. Truthfully, I wasn’t too nervous about it. I was paired up with a friend of mine and another girl who was very experienced in teaching and really fun. We drew the “lucky straw” and had to present our topic “What is this?” first. For any future EPIKers, I just have to say don’t worry. It sounds a lot scarier than it was. The presentations took all day, and by the time we were done we were all antsy to find out which schools we were going to be working at. Keep in mind, we had known nothing before this. Nothing about our co-teachers, our schools, what grades we would be teaching, where we would be living…NOTHING.

I found out that I would be teaching at YeonngJung Elementary School, located in the Yeongdeungpo district of Seoul. I’m pretty far from my friends (about an hour), but I am so lucky. I absolutely love my school, my kids, my co-workers, and my neighborhood that I live in. After a closing ceremony and delicious dinner, Fiona and I packed up our things to load onto the bus and fell asleep pretty early that evening. The next morning we scrounged up a quick breakfast and then had to say goodbye to many friends and coordinators.

It was whirlwind, but two hours later I suddenly found myself standing on the curb in Seoul with my luggage looking like a lost little puppy. A line of women, co-teachers coming to pick up the new native teachers, were waiting a few feet away. One of them, about my age, came forward with a smile. Her name was HiGyeong and, turns out, she wasn’t even my co-teacher. She was a homeroom teacher at my school, but since one of my co-teachers was pregnant and the other one was in America (!!!) she had been designated the task of moving the new teacher in. She was great and spoke really good English. Another teacher (science) drove up to the curb with her car to load my luggage, and the three of us were off! We drove about twenty minutes away to my neighborhood of Sinjeong and began the process of lugging my suitcases and duffel bag up to the 6th floor of my apartment building. Thankfully, there was an elevator.

My apartment building is rather new and my land lady is incredibly kind. She not only brought me some of her personal laundry detergent and softener so I could get started on my ever-growing pile of dirty clothing, but she also brought me down to the cafe in the basement of our building for some tea and cookies. Both HiGyeong and YoonJu (the science teacher) helped to explain how all my appliances work, my billing, and how to use the metro that was conveniently located 10 seconds from my apartment. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I appreciated that since it was all in Korean. After that, YoonJu had to leave to get back to work, but I asked HiGyeong if I could treat her to some coffee as a thank you at another cafe near my apartment. She smiled and said we could go grab coffee together (tea for me), but since she was older than I was it was her treat. (If there is one thing you should know about Korea, it’s that the hierarchy is of the utmost importance.) Her and I had a great time talking and getting to know each other for about two hours before we left so I could unpack. I appreciated the time alone since, as you can tell, the whole process had been rather busy and I hadn’t had much time to just think to myself.

Looking back on it now, it reminded me of how my first week in Russia went. That feeling where you are so busy and there is so much going on around you that you don’t even know where to look first or where to begin. To some people, that might not be a good thing, but I couldn’t have asked for a better transition into life in Korea.

Gosh, I had wanted to write so much more. With at least 30 more days to cover, I haven’t even scratched the surface of what has been going on with my life here. I have so many thoughts to share about cultural differences, Korean surprises, my past experiences, the friends I’ve made, the places I’ve traveled, the food I’ve eaten, and my progress with learning Korean. Sadly, I’m going to have to end this post here. My goal is to cover some of this with a Vlog I will be posting soon. I plan on giving a tour of my apartment as well as a video of a typical day in my life, so please look forward to that!

Once again, I apologize for the delay. Most of you know that this is not type of quality post I would normally like to put out. It feels very rushed, and I’m sorry for that. I will work hard to update more frequently.

Sending lots of love to you all. (Especially to my little brother. Jack, I miss you.) But don’t you worry about me! I’m healthy and incredibly happy with my life here. Talk to you all soon!

Hold Your Breath. Count to Ten.

Have you ever had something big ahead of you that you just couldn’t quite believe was about to happen? That feeling you have where you know your life is going to be changing in a major way, and yet you can’t quite force yourself to think about it too much. Except, at the same time, it’s the only thing you can think about. I imagine this is what it must feel like the week before a wedding, or perhaps the last few weeks of a pregnancy. (I wouldn’t know. Haven’t crossed either of those hurdles yet.)

I’m leaving for Korea today.

/inhale/ 

/exhale/

Okay, I’ve said it multiple times, I’ve written it down, and I’ve crossed off all the dates on my calendar right up until August 17th, which is brightly circled in orange and green. It still hasn’t hit me.

I’m going to be sitting on a plane, alone, this afternoon. Never mind the fact that my feet won’t be planted again on American soil for at least year (because that’s another whole idea I have yet to fully comprehend). This isn’t some week long trip or holiday. It’s not studying abroad for a semester. It’s for a year, minimum. A year. Depending on which day you ask, a year can seem to pass by slowly while at other times it can feel as if it’s gone by in the blink of an eye. I’m entering the adult working world (not some part-time temp job I held to help fund my way through college) in a different country, at a job I have minimal experience in, in a culture and language I have only just scratched the surface of, alone and without family. Sounds daunting, right?

But honestly? I’m mainly excited. I think part of the reason is because I feel like I have a more realistic idea of what traveling abroad for a longer period of time requires. I’m by no means a seasoned professional (my brief time in Russia can hardly compare to a year long move to Korea, especially under such different circumstances), but I’m not stressing over the usual things, like not knowing where I’m living, the language, or even what grade level(s) I will be working with. I guess I am at a point where I’m comfortable just rolling with it. Whatever happens is gonna happen. Trying to micromanage everything now isn’t going to change whether it will happen or not, and, let’s face it, it will only add to my stress. I’ve done my research, I’ve read books upon books, and I’ve focused most of my summer or trying to learn as much about Korea as I possibly can. I’m about as prepped as I can be.

What’s causing my stomach to feel as if it’s performing backflips on par with an Olympic gymnast is the teaching aspect. No matter how much research I do, I don’t think anything will prepare me for that feeling of standing in front of 40 kids on my first day. Again, that’s okay. It’s unavoidable and makes it all the more exciting! My mom gave me some good advice tonight (she was a teacher), and said that all teachers start out not really knowing what to do. You have to be able to read people, to understand their body language, and that you need to be great at communicating. She immediately followed that up with a confident, “You have all of that. You’ll be great.” Her confidence helped me to swallow down my worries. I hope I make her proud.  

But enough about my anxieties. Let’s talk about the reason why I haven’t been updating like I said I would! There really is no good excuse other than I have just been so damn busy. Since my last post I had one of my closest friends from my semester in Russia come visit me for a week, two weekends up north at my cabin, and what felt like an endless stream of appointments. In between there I focused a lot of my time on organizing my belongings for my trip, making sure I wrapped up any loose ends at home, and spending the remaining time with my family. I certainly am going to miss them while I’m gone.

I’ve been up to my usual pre-departure antics. There has been a “To-Do” list a day, my suitcases have been repacked and weighed at least three times, and the number of hours of sleep I get a night has been dwindling to record lows since the start of August.

So, basically, everything is going smoothly.

No, really, I'm fine.

No, really, I’m fine.

I’m not going to post a packing video like I had planned, primarily for the same reason I didn’t post one for Russia. I feel I will have a better idea of what was necessary to pack and what I could have left behind after I’ve been in Korea for some time. (So look for that in the future!) What I will post is some general advice I posted before going abroad to Russia that I felt was particularly useful.

The Mega Important List of Things to Do Before Moving Abroad

1. Contact Your Bank
I’ve heard horror stories about people trying to use their debit cards in other countries when suddenly their accounts are locked and inaccessible for at least a couple days. The last thing you want is be stranded in another country with little to no money, so make sure to contact your bank(s) and let them know that you will be traveling abroad. That way they can put a notification on your account to allow purchases without a confirmation call every time and your account will not go down.

[Harmless plug: I highly recommend Charles Schwab. They have an international checking account that allows you to withdraw from any ATM with no fees, they 100% reimburse you any fees a foreign ATM might charge you, they have no fees for electronic transferring between a foreign bank and them, and there is a mobile deposit app that will upload your money into your account in 3 hours. I have never had a problem with them and cannot sing their praises enough.]

2. Electronics
This can be a little confusing for some people, so it’s best to double check before you go. First, check the voltage. Korea uses a europlug (2 round prongs) and runs at 220-240 voltage. It will be written on your charger what the acceptable voltage range is, which will then tell you whether you need a plug adapter or actual voltage converter. I know that apple products automatically are able to convert to that voltage, so all you will need is an adapter so that the prongs can fit into the walls. Adapters are cheap, converters are little bit more. My advice? Go to your family and friends. Most likely, someone has traveled abroad and needed one and/or the other. Otherwise Marshalls or TJ Maxx has a ton for cheap.

**Word of warning**: save space in your luggage and leave your hair dryer/straightener/curling iron, ladies. Yes, I know some people swear by converters and adapters, but I had three people on my program who blew out the power in their entire building even though they used a converter and their hair dryer said it was dual voltage. Converters are not supposed to run more than 15 minutes at a time before they start to overheat and melt. (I can personally attest to this.) Add the fact you’re using a heating tool and you might as well be asking for a spark.

3. Basic Packing
Make an excel spreadsheet. Take only those items you like to wear every week. You know the outfits I’m talking about. Your “go-to” outfits. If you come across an article of clothing that makes you go, “Well, I wore them now and then-” Leave them. There’s nothing worse than dragging clothes to the other side of the planet that you’re not going to wear. I’m going to be there for a couple winter months, so I’m bringing my winter coat on the plane. Yes, I could have bought one there, but since have been raised in the freaking tundra of Wisconsin and Minnesota there is no sense in buying something I already own. I have a slight advantage over Southerners because I know exactly how much cold I can withstand when it comes to my wardrobe.

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I wish this was a joke.

I also recommend that your wardrobe be versatile. Don’t bring something that can only be paired with one item. It’s not worth it. Save the space in your suitcase.

“Pack your suitcases. Then empty them again, only this time pack half the clothes and twice the money.”

Dunno who said it first, but it was the best advice I’ve ever received.

4. Kakao Talk
Get it. Love it. Use it. Free texting and calling to anywhere in the world with a wifi connection (I’m assuming most people will have their data shut off while abroad, at least until they buy their own local plan). The only catch is that whoever you wish to text has to have the app too. Still, saves you a lot of money. Even if you buy your own local plan, it’ll save your data too if you wait for wifi. (So if any of you want to text me while I’m abroad, download the app on your smartphone!)

5. Make Copies Of All Documents
God forbid anything happens to the originals, at least you will have a spare copy that will help speed up the process of getting a new one. I also recommend keeping a set at home with your family. You never know when that will come in handy. Also, for when you’re out and about, show the copied document rather than the original. It will reduce the chances of it getting lost or stolen.

6. Make a “Comfort Bag” for the plane ride.
I seriously regretted not doing this the last time around. I had, instead, packed my bag full of study materials, thinking I was going to spend all my time with my nose buried in a book. Truth was, when I wasn’t trying to sleep (it’s impossible), I had my headphones popped in and was either listening to music or watching a movie. I don’t know about the rest of you, but my eyes start to hurt after a while under the glare of those overhead reading lights. Not to mention the neck cramps from being hunched over your book or notes for a few hours. Instead, pack for comfort. I tuck my “comfort bag” into my carry on, then take it out before I sit down so I don’t have a big bag taking up too much space. It’s basically one of those little tote bags that I stuff a few things in:

  • An eye-mask, earplugs/headphones, and fuzzy socks for maximum comfort while sleeping. Trust me on this.
  • Wet wipes, travel toothpaste/brush, deodorant. You start to feel real grody after a 14 hour flight, and sometimes all it takes is a little body wipes and some minty fresh breath to make you feel a little more composed. I suggest hitting the bathroom about an hour or so before you land. You’ll beat the mad rush that happens before descent and also won’t be stuck fighting for mirror space in the bathrooms upon arrival at your airport.
  • Snacks, water bottle. You’re gonna get hungry and thirsty in between those meals, and those little peanuts will only hold you off for so long. Plus, those plastic water cups they give you can be a pain because you don’t want to spill them. Water bottles will keep you hydrated longer and won’t spill during the long flight.
  • iPod, book, or some light forms of entertainment. Honestly, you probably will end up watching movies or playing games on the touch screen in front of you, but don’t try to stuff too much in your bag because you should really be focusing as much as you can on getting some sleep.

Before I left for Russia last August I had written out a “reasonable goal” for myself to aim for by the time I return. Now, as I lay on the floor in my bedroom listening to the never-ending marathon of Diner’s, Drive-Ins, and Dives, I realized how helpful that had been. Setting those goals gave me perspective and kept me from getting too down on myself, so I decided to do the same thing a second time around. I gave it a little more thought this time, watched some of the YouTube videos of my fellow EPIK teachers (Gabrial Taylor, you were very inspiring!), and read some helpful books about teaching English as a foreign language to get the wheels turning. In the end, I came up with quite a few.

  1. Maintain a healthy lifestyle. I love Korean food. Heck, I love food in general. Everyone knows the way to my heart is primarily through my stomach. But I want to make sure I stay fit and active, not only for my health but also as a way to stay social. I want to find a gym, join some classes that will keep me active, go hiking or rafting on the weekends, take walks around my neighborhood, basically do whatever I can to keep myself moving. I lost a lot of weight in Russia and, while there were other factors that can be attributed to that, part of the reason was because I spent so much time simply walking around St. Petersburg.
  2. Learn Korean. I love languages. It’s part of the reason why I am teaching English in the first place. I hope that I will inspire others to want to learn my native language. However, I love a challenge and Korean is next I’d like to conquer. I get such a profound feeling of happiness when I am able to even communicate the simplest sentence in another person’s language, and I hope I will make great progress throughout the year.
  3. Maintain the same attitude I had while studying abroad. So this one is a little harder to describe because it’s a bunch of feelings wrapped up into one attitude and approach to living abroad. I really liked the emotional place I was at in Russia, and the experience made me a better person. I’ve always been relatively laid-back and positive, but I felt I gained a new sense of self awareness. I was more compassionate and understanding, as well as curious and honest. I allowed myself to feel vulnerable and shared those feelings with friends and family. I redefined what courage meant to me. Each moment was a learning experience, even the negative ones.
  4. Have a positive support network. There are a lot of people working through this program, not to mention the fact that Seoul is twice as dense as New York City. (Around 25 million people live in the Seoul Capital Area, which includes Incheon and the Gyeonggi area, with about 11 million of those living in the Seoul Special Area). I am certain I will meet many people while at orientation and living in Seoul, and I hope I will find a fantastic group of friends. I don’t know if I ever got a chance to thank my friends from Russia, but without you all I don’t know what I would have done. Support networks are everything when you’re far from home.
  5. Travel more of Asia. I’m fascinated by Asian history and culture. It’s an area I know very little about but certainly would jump at any opportunity to learn. There are so many places I would like to see, although I doubt I’ll get to them all. But it’s not just seeing new cities or cultures. Andrea from “When in New Places” made a comment that summarized my thoughts nicely.

    “Travel doesn’t mean you automatically see the world. Merely doing or experiencing something doesn’t mean you’ll take away anything meaningful from it. Starting over doesn’t mean you’ll find a new way of living. Everything we are is what we make ourselves into. My ability to knock off every item from a list won’t suffice as a ‘life well lived’ on my death bed. I want to know that I challenged myself in every possible way during my time on earth. I want to know that I learned as much as possible from every experience and grew into a better, more loving, person than who I was the day before. Most importantly I want to discover as much about the core of who I am without concern about whether others will approve of it.”

    I really don’t think I could have put it any other way. I don’t want to travel purely so I can have some check marks next to a list of countries. I want each country to leave their mark on me in some way, to have taken something away from it that helps me to grow as a person and leave me with a better understanding of the world.

  6. Save Money. This needs no explanation.
  7. Take the time to reevaluate my goals for the future. I’m not going to do this now, or next month, or even by Christmas. I have no idea how this year is going to go. But by this time next year, I hope I will I have a better understanding of what it is I want from life as a 23-year old, what my next step is, and whether or not I have stumbled upon a new path for myself that I’m going to continue down.

So there they are!

Anyway, in a few hours I’m going to be leaving my home in Wisconsin and driving down to Chicago with my mom, step-dad, and little brother at 6:30a.m. I’ll be flying out of O’Hare at noon and arriving on Monday at 4pm (Korean time). From there I will have to get through customs, get my bags, pick up my sim card for my phone, grab a bite to eat, buy a hair dryer, check in at the EPIK desk, get on a bus, drive 2 1/2 hours to Daejeon, and get ready for a week long orientation. Hopefully, there will be some wifi so I can keep you all posted!

As a quick plug, I recommend you checking out some of the blogs I’m following below. A very talented girl from my previous program abroad in Russia is starting a career in translation, so feel free to check out Rebekah’s progress on her blog “Rebekah Translates” below. Also, I highly recommend Andrea’s blog “When In New Places”. I find it to be one of the most calming, inspirational, and informative blogs yet regarding Korea and teaching abroad. And finally, many of the other blogs I follow are from fellow EPIK teachers, so definitely check out their posts and read about their experiences. I’m sure we all will have wildly different and interesting stories to share!

We can do all the research we want, and it certainly will help prepare us, but there is a reason Defense Against the Dark Arts sucked in the fifth Harry Potter book. No matter how much research you do, theory cannot compare to actual experience. Undoubtedly problems will arise, no matter how much you have prepped, and you’re just going to have to deal with them when they do.

Which is why it’s best to just. breathe. and remember that so many others have stood exactly where you now stand and have made it through to the other side just fine. You’ve done your homework. You’ll be fine.

~ K

[Edited at 6a.m. this morning. I’m not great with goodbyes, nor am I always the best I properly explaining how I feel.  I wanted my friends and family to know that I am going to miss them so much, so I put this together as a thank you for making my summer here memorable. I love you all.]

So I’m back with another adventure.

Alright, everyone, it’s about that time to get a’rockin and a’rollin on this blog! KOREA BOUND IN T-MINUS 4 WEEKS. To those of you who have followed my adventures before – welcome back and thank you for showing your support once again. I hope you will continue to do so throughout the next year!

Yeah, I said a year. Whoa.

Now, for those who are new and are meeting me for the first time: Helloooooo, and welcome to my blog! Usually I try to post fairly humorous (while still somewhat informative) posts, but I think this first one will be a little bit more about background information and some real life talk. 

For my final year of college, I spent the Fall 2013 semester studying abroad in the fairy-tale land that is St. Petersburg, Russia. If you care to read about that, I’ve linked it in the menu above! It was, bar none, the most rewarding experience of my life. I not only improved my language abilities, but truly experienced a sense of growth and personal development.  I realized how capable I was on my own in a foreign land (gypsy cabs, anyone?), and the excitement and pride I felt in surrounding myself with a culture that was so misunderstood back in the States. Upon returning back home, I took some time to reflect on my priorities and to reevaluate the job market I was up against at graduation.

Around that time I read a quote from U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren on expecting the unexpected, and it stuck with me ever since.

 “Never be so faithful to your plan that you are unwilling to consider the unexpected. Never be so faithful to your plan that you are unwilling to entertain the improbable opportunity that comes looking for you. And never be so faithful to your plan that when you hit a bump in the road — or when the bumps hit you – you don’t have the fortitude, grace and resiliency to rethink and regroup… Plans or no plans, keep a little space in your heart for the improbable. You won’t regret it.”

Now, let me just say that I have always been the girl with a plan (and a plan to back up that plan), but life has a way of surprising you and shaking up that solid foundation you might have built. I had this big idea of what I was going to do and suddenly had to say, “Scratch that. It’s not happening right now. Back to the drawing board.” Kind of a scary thing to realize your last semester of college, especially when the number one question thrown at you by graduation is “So, what next?”. I came to the conclusion that, while being prepared and doing your research is a good thing, you also have to be flexible and seize new opportunities when they arise. Some doors will close in your face, but you can’t be disappointed in yourself when you might have to consider a different route to get to where you want to go. I wasn’t going to sit around waiting for my dream job to open up, but I didn’t want to spend my time at an unfulfilling job that would have no real impact on my resume.

I decided to look at this as an opportunity to explore something I might never have considered before, and I am so happy I did. Who knows? Maybe I found myself a new dream! It’s too early to tell, so we’ll just have to wait and see. All I know is that now I have a chance to gain some more real life experience, to learn another critically needed language, and to immerse myself in a new culture in another region of the world that has always fascinated me. After reading about Korea for months, I truly am excited to get a first-hand look at everything I have researched and to have a chance to absorb and experience as much as I can! Not only that, but I cannot wait to share my passion for learning and teaching foreign languages with my Korean students, and I hope that I will inspire them to continue studying English as they grow. 

I’ll admit this is a big change, and I’m in it for the long term now. I’m starting out with no friends, family, or previous experience in Korea. I have never taught a class of 35-40 kids. I am new to the language and culture. Seriously, I’m not going to sugarcoat this. It is humbling. It is scary. It can make you feel exposed and vulnerable. But I try to remember that it is also an empowering experience. You discover just how creative you can be. How your honesty and your acceptance of your vulnerability makes you real, not only in your own mind but to the people around you. 

Moving to Korea to teach English isn’t for everybody, but I hope that you will all encourage and support me as I head off to the Land of the Morning Calm. I am so excited share what I learn with you all. It’s going to be different than my last trip –  new foods to try, new cultural habits to learn, some new embarrassing stories to facepalm at, and let’s not forget that I’m getting a paycheck this time around. No doubt there will be some days that aren’t as good as others and the learning curve is steep, but I’m confident that this will be another chapter in my life that I will not regret. My future is still a little uncertain and open-ended, but I don’t mind it anymore. If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s about not limiting myself.

If you’re interested in following me again please click the “Follow” button on the right had side to be notified of every time I update. I will also be trying something new this time called vlogging, as you can see from the video above, so head to the YouTube page linked in the menu and subscribe to see when I post new videos too! I probably will be posting again in a couple of weeks with more updates before I depart. This week I have one of my best friends from my time in Russia coming to visit me, so she and I will be quite busy causing mayhem in Milwaukee and Chicago until August.

Whether you are family, friends, or strangers who just stumbled on my page please don’t be afraid to leave a comment or ask a question! I am happy to answer and respond to each and every one of you. It really was helpful and encouraging to read your kind words while I was abroad. It makes home seem just a little less far away. 🙂 For my fellow teachers, let’s bond over the the good, the bad, and the ugly that we are bound to face at some point in our year long stay in Korea.

Cheers~