Nearly 3 years ago I finished my MA in Public Administration and decided to move to South Korea to teach English for a year of my life. After 5 years of pure academia, I couldn't imagine jumping right into an "office job." I was the youngest graduate in my MA class, and at 22 years of age, I was ready to tackle Asia and find out about "me."
2 years ago, I made the decision to quit my first job in Korea and move to Seoul. Not only did I make this move to to make more money and meet new people, but I just wanted to try something new. My "new" job had longer hours, some of my co-workers were difficult to deal with, and most times I was tired. 2 years ago is when I started to challenge myself in ways I never had. I started giving people the benefit of the doubt, and I tried to relax as much as I could. I learned what it meant to "breathe." I started to enjoy being abroad and thought about never leaving.
Last March I was contemplating what to do "next". I had already been in Korea for nearly two years and I wasn't sure what to do. I decided to re-sign my teaching contract and give it another chance. At this point I had seniority at my job, felt respected among my peers, and loved teaching. I had made some of my best friends, went on many awesome trips, and felt comfortable in my day to day routine.
This fall, after visiting my parents in Chicago, I decided that it was my time to leave Korea. I didn't feel inspired anymore, and I was ready for a new challenge. It wasn't even a month after my vacation that I had the opportunity to interview for a promotion in the company I was working for. The company was going to open up an R&D office in Seattle and were looking for qualified individuals to become supervisors in the office. At first I didn't think I had much of a chance. Yes, I'm 25 and I have an MA, and I did have over 2 years of practical work experience, but I still doubted my chances. I applied on a whim, had a fantastic interview, and this past January I started training in the Seoul office.
I knew when I stopped teaching in December that my life was going to start changing. I needed to start saving as much money as I could to prepare for the move, and I needed to start thinking about what I wanted to do with my remaining time in Korea. Three months ago, I was completely immersed in everything Korean. I was working in an office, as a writer with many other Korean speakers, eating Korean food for dinner almost every night, and for the first time in a very long time, actually enjoying my time living in Seoul. Of course, as my time started to wind down and get closer to my departure date, part of me really didn't want to leave anymore. I have really enjoyed working in an office, I have met a lot of great people, and for the first time had GREAT supportive co-workers. Also, I really liked the area of Seoul I was living in and my apartment was just right for me.
This past week at work I have been thinking a lot about my job and how I spend 45 hours a week sitting at a computer. I think about how, this will all change next week. My day-to-day life will change drastically. Yes, I'll be doing the same work in Seattle, but it's the fact that I'm going to be in Seattle and not Seoul. I won't wake up in my bed here anymore, and I won't take the bus to work, etc. It's going to take a bit to adjust to the new changes, but I am really excited for what is coming next.
Living abroad for the past three years has changed me in so many good ways. The people I have met here have challenged me to be a better me. I learned about a country that I knew nothing about coming in. I learned to speak a lot of Korean, and to eat new foods (I would have never put Tofu or octopus near my mouth three years ago.) Like I said before, I've learned to breathe. To look at the fact value of situations, and to be confident in all that I do. I feel happier, more patient, and more ready for the next step than I ever have.
It's weird to be sitting in my apartment now. Almost everything is gone except for my three suit cases and a back pack. I sit alone in the dark right now and I just wonder "where has the time gone?" I am going to miss a lot about living here, and I'm definitely going to miss many people. I hope that everyone knows what a positive affect they have had on my life, and I look forward to seeing these people back in the states or anywhere else around the world.
What I've drawn from my experience here is that Seattle is the next necessary challenge, the next step for me to grow and become the person I have been working on for the past three years.
South Korea, it's been quite fun, but Seattle is waiting......