A Year Later
I often look at my Facebook feed and can’t believe that it’s been over a year since I first arrived in Seoul. It feels like only yesterday that I took hundreds of pictures with my new and adventurous friends. I often feel like it was a dream because the whole experience was surreal, and the only thing that reminds me that it really happened is the fact that I’m still paying for it a year later (that and all the pictures). Thinking about going back makes me feel nervous all over again for the same things I was nervous for in the first place, but then I have to just laugh at myself because nothing was ever as big of a barrier as I expected it to be. I thought the language barrier would be scary, and if anything it’s nice not knowing what everyone is talking about all the time. I miss the experiences I had in Korea and I miss being able to experience something new every day.
At lot has happened since I came home from Korea. And I wonder what would be different if I had never been able to go to Korea in the first place. When I got home I remember feeling so heartbroken that my study abroad adventure was over. It felt like my whole world had crashed down around me, and I had to start over again. Nothing looked the same anymore. However, life had to move on. And it did. I went into my last quarter of my undergraduate degree, applied to a few graduate schools, did a lot of research to see what my next step would be, and graduated with my B.S. in Psychology and International Studies. I decided after graduation that I couldn’t stay where I was. After coming home from Korea I lived with my family again, and I missed the freedom and adventure I had experienced in Korea. I chose to take a bit of a break from everything by house sitting in Ontario, Canada with my boyfriend. Somehow time there flew by as well. There were high moments of excitement such as exploring Ottawa and getting into grad school at the University of Toronto and Dalhousie University. There were also low moments of feeling like I wasn’t going anywhere or accomplishing anything. After our housesitting came to an end, we moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia where our life became job hunting and trying to figure out the next step. Never have I felt more frustrated with our education system then I did feeling like my $30,000 degree was useless for finding a job and making a living wage. I still feel that frustration. However, maybe against logic, I decided more money and another degree will maybe help me finally be able to pursue what I want to—working with International students. This lead me to choose pursuing a Master’s in Education for Adult and Higher Education with a focus on International Education at the University of Toronto. Some days I still can’t believe that I will be going to the 7th best university in the world, and I know that part of that is in thanks to my experiences in Korea and what they have taught me about myself and others. My experience in Korea was something I think all students deserve a chance to do experience for themselves, and I hope one day I can help other students pursue their dreams and ambitions.
I miss hanboks and hanoks. I miss heated floors and lumpy pillows and beds as hard as rocks. I miss spicy kimchi stews, side dishes, and soft tofu burning the roof of my mouth. I miss cooking my own barbeque at a restaurant, eating rice every day, getting lost in Seoul, and feeling the Busan ocean breeze on my face. Many things about Korea I dearly miss. However, a year later I know these experiences live within me, and I know they are not gone forever. After all, they are just one plane ride away. Sometimes I lay in bed in wonder and awe that my experiences in one country could be replicated in other countries for many years to come. Not replicated as in exactly the same, but replicated in that I could experience a new language and culture many times over. And if leaving for South Korea and coming home to North America has taught me anything, it’s that every experience is what you make of it. You can be anywhere in the world and still be lonely or sad. Every moment, no matter where you are, can be a cherished and happy moment. That being said, new experiences and adventures are always worth pursuing, even if you don’t always know what that will look like. A year later I still miss South Korea dearly. A year later I still hold Korea in my heart as feeling like a piece of home, and I know I will go back again. However, a year later I also know there are many experiences ahead of me still and I get so excited thinking of the possibilities. I am so thankful for my experiences in Korea.