Life,  Travel

Moving to South Korea

     What. Is. My. Life. Seriously. Just over a year ago I published this post, entitled “I’m Moving to Hong Kong” which was the first terrifying steps towards a year that, in the end, turned out to be pretty amazing. And now, here I am, doing it all over again in a new country. South Korea, to be exact. Busan, if we’re being completely precise. And it’s just as crazy and terrifying and nerve-wracking as last time.

Busan city skyline and bridge at night, South Korea

     I’ve been pretty vague about these plans in some of my recent blog posts, because I don’t like to say much before everything is finalised, in case things fall through. It was all sorted before I left on my summer travels, but since they involved a lot of posts (Vietnam, Thailand and Laos), I wanted to save this news until afterwards. And seeing as I’ve already arrived in Korea, five days ago (sorry, late posting, I know!), I think it’s safe to say that everything has been sorted out! There’s still various errands and such I need to do to get fully settled in, but I’m here! My work and apartment (which is provided by the school) are in the Jungang-dong region of the city, about 20 minutes from downtown on the subway. I found the position through a recruiter, as most foreigners going to teach English in Korea tend to do. I would definitely recommend working with several recruiters, for anyone interested, as some sent me far more job postings than others, and out of those postings, I turned a lot down, either because of details in the contract etc, or after finding terrible reviews from previous teachers online. I’m in a hagwon, a private school, which has kindergarten students (3-6 years) in the morning, and elementary (7-12) later in the day, and I teach about eight different classes throughout the week, some for multiple “subjects” (it’s all English, just different textbooks). I’m listing those ages by international standards; here, they add on a year (the pregnancy period maybe?), so the three year olds say that they are four. It’s a lot more teaching time than my previous job, which is good, since I needed a challenge, and pretty decent pay for it, as well as getting the apartment provided without having to pay rent on it (not that it’s a great apartment… more on that another time).

     So why Korea? I already talked about why I left Hong Kong in my farewell post; to summarise, I never intended to settle down there, and I managed to see a lot of it during my year there, so there seemed little point in staying for longer, even though I do love it. Staying also felt like it would have been the safe, easy option, and the whole point in working abroad was to travel and experience new places, so it made sense to move on, and now is the time in my life when I can do that, when I’ve got no commitments tying me anywhere. I chose Korea in particular because I knew I wanted another year to see more of Asia, and because it seemed like it would be similar to Hong Kong in some ways, with its large, modern metropolitan cities, and its beautiful, natural countryside. Of course, I noticed a ton of differences too in my few days here already. Korea also has so many English jobs available, so it seemed to be easier to get one here than in many other Asian countries. I’ve known a few people who’ve spent time living and teaching here in the past too, and everyone has come away with positive reviews of the country, so I figured it was the next best choice for me. It’s not perfect of course – the holidays are a bit crap – but I think it’s pretty difficult to find a perfect job, and I’ve accepted the limitations on this one. For instance, since I won’t be travelling much throughout the year, I’m going to save as much as I can and hopefully go travelling for a couple of months when I’m finished here.

     And just like last time, it’s not easy. Not easy at all. I knew I would find it hard and scary and get homesick at first, but somehow I managed to make myself believe that this time it would be easier, because I’ve done it once before. Nope. Not true. Not even a little bit. These first few days have been hard. I’ll write more about my first impressions of Busan and such later, but for now I’ll just say that I’m not having the best of times so far. Adapting to a new job, new city, new country was never going to be easy, and of course, I’m doing all of it alone. And this time, on top of missing Scotland and my family and friends back home, I’m now missing Hong Kong, my friends there, and even my old job (the students and co-workers more so than the actual job). I’m even missing the group of people I was just travelling with more so than usual after finishing a group tour, and it’s probably because of this move, and because I’d rather be back with them right now – or Hong Kong, or home – than dealing with all of this. I don’t think it will matter how many times I potentially do this, moving to a new place, a new country, will always be scary and lonely and so, so difficult.

     At least at first. I’m trying my best to stay hopeful and positive right now. Because the first month or so in Hong Kong sucked, to be completely honest. I wasn’t enjoying it at all, and I just wanted t go home. But I stuck it out, and in the end, moving there for the year was one of the best things I’ve ever done, and I’m so happy I did it. So there’s time yet for me to figure out Korea, and see whether I like it or not. No matter what happens, it’s going to be an adventure and a learning experience, and I’ve got a whole new challenge to face and a whole new country to explore, and it is quite exciting really. Once the fear and panic subside, and I get settled, hopefully this year will be as good as the last. I’ve got a ways to go yet, for sure, but stay tuned to watch me try to figure it all out!