I Chose The Road Most Traveled
I Chose The Road Most Traveled
I’m not the first, and I know I won’t be the last foreigner who will leave home for a few years to occupy a small space in Korea as an English teacher. I chose the road most traveled!
This method of travel has been around for sometime now, and I’m sure it’ll last for years to come. When I decided to make the move to Korea I never fooled myself into thinking that anyone’s lives – student or otherwise – would be forever changed after I moved on.
That fact, however, doesn’t depreciate my time and experiences abroad. Maybe I won’t leave a lasting mark on Korea, but for me, that doesn’t matter because all I want is for Korea to leave a significant mark on me. Perhaps it’s selfish, but I moved abroad to be in a constant state of discovery. I wanted to discover new foods, people, and even discover myself.
What makes the process of wholly immersing myself in my experience abroad is oftentimes, sadly, the negativity of other expats. I’m not sure why, but we have this awful, masochistic need to constantly belittle our time teaching English abroad. In our heads we convince ourselves that the small negative things we slip to each other in conversation may seem innocent enough, but I’m sure we all now that the truth is words have a far more lasting impact than we give them credit for. Sometimes this negativity is disguised as positivity. A friend will ask you how you like Korea and you answer with, “I love it. It’s so easy to live and teach in Korea.”
Easy? Really? Maybe I’m crazy, but living away from friends, family, and a cushy comfort zone is tough. Maybe the work load and money in South Korea are easy, but the office environment sure isn’t sunshine and rainbows every day. What’s easy is working in a place where everyone speaks your language, where the customs are second nature to you and you never have to second guess whether or not you’ve made a social faux pas.
What you’re actually saying when you drop this line about living and working in Korea being easy is that this experience is so ordinary and simple that anyone can do it. And I’m sorry to say, but that’s just not true. Not everyone has the self-confidence to pack up and move across the world to challenge their senses daily. Does everyone have the capacity? Yes, hell yes, but not everyone has the courage.
Along with a positive mask, we answer questions as if we are unsure of ourselves because we’re afraid of the reaction we might receive. Why do we feel the need to say we didn’t know what to do with our lives so we came to teach English in Korea as if that were the logical next step? Guess what? Moving abroad “just because” isn’t exactly logical. What would’ve been logical was doing what many others before you have – taking a desk job doing a daily task that you know you’ll hate before you even receive your first paycheck. You knew that wasn’t what you wanted to do. Maybe you couldn’t articulate it or maybe you didn’t see the truth for what it was at the time, but you chose to move abroad because it’s what you really wanted to do.
Just because you don’t have the “epic” story of slaving away for years at a job you hated until you finally had the nerve to pack up and shake up your life doesn’t mean your reason for moving abroad is any less important. In fact, it makes you smart in my eyes. You saw the desk jobs that others had and you wasted no time in deciding it wasn’t for you. You went ahead and skipped those middle years between college and your decision to move abroad right away. There were two paths before you: a predictable 9-5 in a familiar place and an unpredictable move across the world. You chose the one that would make you most happy. Being unsure of what career you’ll eventually chase is understandable, but that’s not the same as being unsure of where you want to be in your life. You know where you want to be. You want to be enjoying new experiences and adventures abroad.
I hope that you’re the type of expat that speaks happily and confidently about your time in Korea because although this road has been traveled by so many more before, it’s still an exciting and beautiful experience which is important to each and every one of us in a different way. There is still much to see, taste, try, and learn on this road. I hope you give it its due respect and never take the path that has given you so much for granted.