Unfortunately, living in a foreign country for a year doesn’t mean that the life you’re used to back home will stop and wait for you. In fact, there are times when it feels like it’s leaving you behind in a cloud of dust. It seems like everything is happening so fast that you can’t keep up with it. While you’re off living your life, your friends and family are, believe it or not, doing the exact same thing—without you. (What!?)
This year I’ve discovered that living abroad can sometimes feel like a really long vacation. You’re so far away from everyone and everything in your home country that it’s hard not to become disconnected.
While many things may be the same when you return home, others are bound to have changed, sometimes significantly. As in my case, you may have precious new family members to meet. Some of your friends may be engaged or have a new baby. Hearing news like this has a way of bringing you back to reality, no matter where in the world you are. Time flies in Korea, the same way it does in Canada.
Though it can be hard to accept that you’ve missed out on these things by living abroad, you have to remember that had you not made this decision, there are also many things you would never have been able to experience and learn.
It’s not easy to take a leap and do something different, like living abroad, but along with the sacrifices come so many wonderful and surprising rewards. Had I never moved to Korea for a year, I would never have known that:
1. I could survive in a country whose official language wasn’t English (without knowing much Korean, either).
2. Most of the time, I enjoy living by myself and having my own space. Sometimes it can be really freeing to be alone.
3. I could become so close to people who are different from me in so many ways (language, culture, lifestyle, background, age, etc.) Despite our differences, I’ve been fortunate enough to make lifelong Korean friends who have become like family to me.
4. There are so many other great people out there interested in doing the same things I am—traveling, meeting new people, having adventures, and learning about the world.
5. I could learn so much from being around kids and spending time with them. They probably taught me more than I taught them this year, but I will get to that in another post.
6. I actually like trying new foods and eating things I’ve never even heard of before—it’s kind of fun! Korean cuisine has constantly surprised me, but almost always pleasantly.
7. I would have the chance to meet people who would give me an amazing experience in Korea. My Korean friends, co-workers, directors, students and their families have been so kind, generous and accommodating. I was well taken care of in Korea and the people here really made my experience.
8. It’s possible to make a home for yourself on the other side of the world, even when everything seems so foreign and intimidating at first. As with most experiences, as time passes, the unfamiliar eventually becomes comfortable.
So, while it hasn’t been easy being so far away from home, I also need to recognize how fortunate I’ve been this year. Travel is an opportunity to experience new things, learn, grow, and challenge yourself. These are things I will never regret taking the time to do in my life and are well worth the sacrifices that go along with them.