It’s been three months since we arrived in South Korea! It’s hard to believe we are already a quarter of the way through our year abroad. This weekend, we said goodbye to some new friends, and welcomed in the next batch of teachers hired. That means we’re no longer the new kids!
It was a surreal experience to greet the newest teachers hired to work at our hagwon (private language school) in Sejong City. Instead of being the jet-lagged and anxious newbies, we were now the ones showing other people around! It’s a strange concept indeed, because many days I still don’t feel like I’ve really “got it.”
Ordering food in a restaurant is still a challenge, my Korean isn’t much better, and some days the bouts of homesickness are overwhelming.
I’m not really sure what this is called, but I’m dubbing it the “three-month hump.” This may not be a real thing, but I don’t think I’m alone. I think it comes down to this–you move to a new country with the momentum of adventure and purpose behind you. Life is going a million miles a minute. You’re busy exploring new cities, new foods and a new culture. You are taking trips, you post pictures, you Skype with your friends. You have wacky interactions with Koreans, and the occasional realization that there are more eels on the street than people.
You finally start to settle in to your new home when that three-month mark hits. Things finally start to feel routine. It’s like the momentum of “total life upheaval” finally slows down… but yet, you still can’t order off a menu without pictures.
I don’t mean that I’m bored or unhappy. But I also think it’s OK to be honest about how you feel when that “new country” smell wears off a little. Turns out, life in Korea is a lot like the one back home–trying to exercise, sticking to a budget, keeping up with the laundry. All that boring stuff just crept right back in.
Growing pains aside, we are learning things and having fun doing it. And our meeting with the new teachers this weekend put that progress in perspective. We were able to pick a restaurant and pay with our Korean bank cards. We recommended a cell phone store with an excellent English-speaking sales rep. We pointed out a nice grocery store near our school. These are small things, but stuff that make life a lot easier, too.
As for our friends who went back home this weekend… we are sad about that. It’s only been three months, but we are grateful to have met a pair of folks who just seemed to understand our kind of weird.
In many ways life is very transient for foreign teachers here. Someone is always coming and going. Our friends were here for a combined total of EIGHT YEARS. But now, finally, finally, sweet finally.. they are back in North America for a new adventure and we wish them all the best.
As for us, we plan to keep on keepin’ on with our adventure, doing life Korea-style. I know I’ll be over the “hump” soon, and things will keep getting easier.
Plus… I can read this (세종) now! And I actually understand why it says what it says.
세종 means Sejong.
Oh! And this, too.
커피 means coffee!
We love and miss you all!
Dayna & Co.