6 Things I’ve Learned My First Year in Korea

Cheers to one year in the land of kimchi! Happy Anniversary, Korea. I’ve learned a lot from you, and not just how to use a selfie stick. Let’s take a deep dive into this arbitraty list of six things I have learned from you (so far).

1. A Whole New Alphabet

Sometimes this still blows my mind when I think about it too much. The fact that I’ve learned, practiced, and implemented a whole new letter system into my daily life?! Crazy. Something (I hope) I will never forget.

In all honesty, half the time I don’t know what I’m reading, since my vocabulary is still growing. However, knowing the written language facilitates the acquisition of the Korean language in general, and definitely eases some stress in daily life. For example, making sure you are getting on the right bus, reading the school timetable, etc. It is especially useful when it comes to food, since Korean actually borrows many words from English. For example, on a menu, if you read “치즈 피자”, it phonetically reads as chee-jeuh pee-ja. AKA………..cheese pizza! There is no “z” sound in the Korean alphabet, so the Korean-ization of some English words takes some getting used to. Along with putting on a Korean accent while using English words!

2. Navigating a New Transportation System

Learning the alphabet and Korean language is also super useful when it comes to the transportation system. Whether it’s directing a taxi driver to my apartment, busing to a different city, taking the subway in Seoul, or booking bus tickets on the smart phone application. These once stressful and anxiety filled experiences are all second nature to me now. This makes life, especially weekends (which are supposed to be fun filled, duh) much more enjoyable and stress free.


3. Feeling Comfortable Eating Alone

Not only feeling comfortable, but straight up enjoying it! Before leaving Korea, the thought of eating in a restaurant by myself would have scared the shit out of me. Since cooking and grocery shopping were big adjustments for me when I first got here, I ate out a lot. I still probably do this (maybe) once a week. Kimbap, bibimbap, kimchi stew, ALL THE KOREAN FOOD! Eating out in Korea (Korean food, for the most part) is very cheap and pretty healthy.

Just watch those sodium levels and refined carbs! *Rice overload*

4. Teaching Isn’t My Forever Job

Teaching was always a “maybe” career route for me back home in Canada. Although I really do enjoy teaching in Korea, I now know it’s not my forever job. I know the experience back home would be totally different, however I still feel confident in saying it’s not the lifelong career for me. In fact, I don’t think I want one career for the rest of my life at all. But more on living micro lives and multiple passions later……

Nevertheless, I will still continue to enjoy my teaching here in Korea for the next year 🙂

5. English is HARD

Never have I ever, until coming to Korea, felt so lucky and grateful to have English as my first language. It is HARD. Learning it is hard. Teaching it is hard. It’s a confusing language with so many exceptions. 

English connects the world, and opens up so many windows and doors. To be able to speak it as a first language is truly a blessing and a privilege. The simple fact that I was born in an English speaking country, is what allowed me the opportunity of teaching in Korea in the first place.

6. My Parents Freakin’ Rock

Well I guess I already knew that……..but let me explain why it makes my list, OK?! Well, firstly, that they supported and encouraged me to pursue travelling and teaching in Korea in the to begin with. Then again, when I decided to stay for a another year. I’ve never had to question their support. It is so natural in our relationship that I sometimes take it for granted. So, thank you.

Teaching in Korea, or even living abroad for that matter, is not for everyone. And whether this is due to nature versus nurture, as always, is up for debate. Although I of course miss my parents, I am thankful that they have raised me to have the confidence and autonomy to embark on an adventure such as this.

Needless to say, I’ve learned a lot more than these 6 simple points above. About myself, the world around me, the culture I’m living in, and so on. Perhaps I’ll continue to make these sort of posts in the future, since the list is always growing!

And on that note, for those who don’t know yet, I will be staying another year here in Korea! Excited to say I’ll be coming home for a visit during winter vacation, and also thrilled that my awesome travel buddy- my Dad, will be accompanying me on the way back to Korea for a visit!

Let the learning & adventure continue!

– Laura

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