Moving overseas means making all new friends. It’s scary when you unpack your suitcase and think about how alone you are. At first, it seems like you’ll never figure out all the things that are different.
Some people go for a year, don’t make friends, and then go home. They have stories of going to see sights alone, and of trying to watch TV in another language.
I guess that’s okay if you are the sort of person who really enjoys that stuff, but I am not.
So, I joined everything!
I joined the Seoul Hiking Group, the Suwon Knitters Society (above), and even started a D&D campaign (below).
I love meeting new people because it helps you learn more about ways to see the world and ideas you never had.
It opens doors to having new experiences like going to a Korean wedding (I am in the back of the photo) and seeing how different culture celebrate milestones in their lives.
My apartment was dubbed “Isengaurd” (yes, like in Lord of the Rings) because it was in a white tower. And Isengaurd was a place for people to come and hang out.
I even got cake for my birthday (below), although it was a sugar-free green tea cake with tomatoes in it because that is how adults eat cake in Korea (sweet cakes are only for kids.)
I had a struggling artist living on my downstairs couch for awhile after he went through a bad breakup.
I hosted group meetings to plan events, and I even helped throw a few big parties with my friend who was a DJ.
Basically, I made my home a place where people could come when they wanted to get together, and I was rewarded by being part of a lot of unique and interesting experiences.
In South Korea, we have electronic locks (above) instead of doors that use a key. They feel that it is more secure, and it means not carrying keys since everyone takes the very fast and amazing public transportation.
I think all of Suwon knew the code for my door (which was the numeric progression 2468.)
After all, South Korea is rated as the safest country in the world. There’s no fear of anyone stealing your things, and even shops leave merchandise out over night. (It was surreal at first to be in a place when elementary school kids rode the subway alone and people just trusted each other.)
It was fun to have a constant stream of new and different people in my life.
And it’s good to have unexpected adventures (as long as you always make it to work excited to teach!)
Teachers come to South Korea from English-speaking countries all over the world, so I met people from New Zealand, Australia, England, Scotland, Ireland, and different parts of the United States.
Of course, I also met a lot of amazing people who were from the Middle East (who ran shops) and from Africa (restaurant owners and things like that.) And we all muddled through in English and Korean trying to communicate.
My favorite part is how it’s popular to put English cuss words on everything from children’s clothes to buildings. Check out the name of this beauty salon:
It was nice to see all new things, as well. New types of buildings, new ways of doing business, and new scenery.
It really got me interested in International Business because I realized that LG, Samseung, and other companies are Korean, and yet their products fill American homes.
My friend Elizabeth wrote technical manuals for Samseung printers that would be shipped to the US, and I was always amazed at how much of the things we use everyday back home are from South Korea.
Even when it comes to silly things like the clothing and jewelry, you could really make a lot on a Korean Imports store. And it’s interesting to study the complications of that kind of cultural exchange.
Once, Chevy tried to sell the Nova in Mexico. This is hilarious because in Spanish, Nova literally translates to “No go.” So they tried to sell a car whose very name implied that it didn’t run.
And in China, Pizza Hut tried to open a chain of stores without knowing that the Chinese don’t eat cheese. Rather than giving up, they actually launched an ad campaign to convince Asia that cheese was healthy. Imagine that!
I actually took some classes in International Business through Coursera (free online college) because I found it so interesting.
Anyway, the point is, there are so many new things that you think about and so many ideas that you get when you are in a new place, and it’s fun to have that experience.
If you have ever thought about just taking off and doing year overseas, my advice is to do it.
If nothing else, it was hilarious to watch another country do elections. In South Korea they have several political parties all represented by different cute animals.
And yes, the party representatives do dress up as the cute mascots and go lobby for votes.
Moments like that are the kind of moments that I really enjoyed; when you stand back and just realize how different other cultures are and how neat that is.
If I had to say one thing about going overseas, it would be this: You only regret the chances that you don’t take.
Even if it’s just for a week some day, everyone should get out of the US and see something new.
I feel like establishing international contacts is a neat foundation to lay because it opens potential for all kinds of things in the future.
Plus, you end up with some really cool pictures.