Moving to South Korea in 2013 was the most random and daring decision I made to date. I knew nothing about Korea and didn’t know a lick of Korean but I was hungry for travel and desperate for a change, a big change.
I did a ton of research, watched as many vlogs as I could and read blog posts on blog posts about life in Korea. But some things only experience can teach you.
Things I wish I knew before moving to Korea:
- You will NEVER fit in! — While this may sound negative it really isn’t, it is simply a fact for a non-Asian, African American female living in Korea. Fitting in does not mean connecting. I connected and built beautiful relationships with many Korean people. And as I learned more of the language the deeper these interactions became and the happier I became with my experience. However Korea’s homogeneous society has defined rules and guidelines. If I were to do it again, I would go Korea with all the desire to connect, as I did, BUT I would rid myself of the desire to feel included or a part of the society as a whole. If you are a foreigner in Korea you are just that, a foreigner. That is your role and place. As soon as you accept this and do not seek an honorary Korean badge, the more easily you will breathe, get the most out of your time there and grow.
- A Year is only 12 Months– Duh right? Maybe I am the only one but before moving to Korea, a year was a long ass time. But when there, months flew by life weeks. Had I known about this time on steroids stuff I wouldn’t have allowed the little trials and bumps to take over so much of my mental space. Cliche as it may sound BE IN THE MOMENT. The good and bad moments alike fly by oh so quickly.
- Get a hobby ASAP– I got back into my old hobby of dance my second year in Korea. It was in the dance studio that I gained some of my closest relationships, with Koreans and foreigners alike. Passion knows no language. Before I knew much Korean I connected with my dance teachers and fellow students and felt a sense of belonging. It was after I started dancing that opportunities came flying at me- music videos, a dance teacher job, photo shoots and I learned Korean twice as fast!
- Forgive Yourself for Jumping- I beat myself up over and over about the fact that I was in Korea. It was just so random and didn’t seem “logical”! Although I found many foreigners in Korea were also in Korea for random reasons, I focused on what people back home probably thought of me. Keyword “probably”. These are fake things and really it was just my own mind scolding me for following my heart! Even the few people that did give me a bit of shit about going to a country so unrelated to my educational past and so far from home, didn’t and don’t actually matter in my day to day life then nor now. Once I accepted that I was there AND allowed myself to truly BE there, things changed. Instead of creating an inner enemy, create an inner cheer team that lifts you up for your daringly courageous move.