Cue almost two years ago, Laura at the Ottawa airport with an exploding 40L carry-on backpack and TWO massive overweight suitcases, ready for a year abroad (or what looked like a lifetime abroad, given the amount of stuff).
Thankfully, the kind Air Canada staff member only made me pay one overweight baggage fee ($100 dollars later….). Looking back, I probably didn’t need a QUARTER of what was in those suitcases. Today I’m here to help you avoid the same mistakes I made. (You’re welcome).
A lot of this stuff I bought purposefully for moving to Korea. I realize now, that my defense mechanism when I’m anxious is buying things. When I buy things, I feel more prepared, therefore more ready, therefore reducing my anxiety. But then the cycle just repeats. Maybe you’re like this, maybe you’re not. Regardless, we can all afford to save some room in our suitcases. So, time to learn from my mistakes, here are some things you definitely DO NOT need, while making your packing list for teaching in South Korea.
1. A steamer
Why did I even think this was a good idea? Seriously? I bought this purposefully for Korea. Never in my life have I owned a steamer until this point, and I had been just fine without it. Why on earth did I think I needed one now?
Upon arrival I realized, orientation had an iron, my apartment had an iron. And Korea SELLS irons and steamers, if I really wanted to buy one while there. I did not need to buy and pack steamer.
2. Your TESOL course book
This thing is freaking massive. I had even been warned not to take it, since there are so many online teaching resources. “What if my apartment doesn’t have wi-fi for a while and I need to plan lessons??!” Anxious Laura would think. 1- Korea is the Queen of wi-fi. Go to a coffee shop, or literally walk outside and you are bound to find a hotspot eventually. 2- Why don’t you just lesson plan at school, where you are supposed to work?
You also get a ton of great resources during orientation.
I was so stressed about slippers. I had read that teachers and students wore them in school, and I was set on getting slippers before leaving for Korea. “But what are their slippers like in Korea?” “Are they different than our slippers?” “Should they still semi look like real shoes?”
This is a prime of example of why doing too much research can sometimes be a bad thing. I would have been totally fine showing up not even knowing that this was a thing. Schools have guest slippers, and you can also buy slippers anywhere. Daiso (our dollar store), grocery stores, on the street. Everywhere. You’re fine. Put those slippers down. (Unless you have special feet and want to bring a super comfy pair from home, I get that).
4. Your University degree
Yes, I packed my REAL University degree with me. Rolled and sealed in a long cylinder mailing container. It had been recommended to me just in case there were any problems with immigration. I have not had any issues, and had photocopies of the notarized version with me as well. If at some point you need it, get someone from home to mail it. In the meantime, leave that framed degree hanging nicely on the wall.
Many Koreans use floor bedding, but Western style bedding is getting more and more popular. Years ago, when the first English teachers were coming over, I heard this was a huge problem, which caused the internet to blow up with warnings to new English teachers to pack sheets. Rest assured, you can find sheets here. And chances are the apartment you are taking over already has some.
Same as above. The internet still hasn’t moved on from the fact that yes Korea does have towels bigger than your head. Although I will admit, it was nice having big towels right off the bat (and, like the sheets, there was one already in my apartment).
7. Rain Boots
Seriously, these took up so much room, why did I think this was a good idea? I’ve worn these probably……three times. They were nice on those three occasions, I guess. Reality is, is that rainy season in Korea is in the dead heat of summer. Not exactly when you will be wanting to wear knee high rain boots. Now, I gave up on my rain boots and wear plastic flip flops instead. The most natural “waterproof” shoe, am I right??!! (Again, reoccurring trend: Korea also has rain boots. Although they aren’t too popular among Koreans. If you worry about your big feet, just order them online).
I brought a lot of questionable stuff with me, but these are definitely at the top. Hopefully this can be useful to some people, but if not, I hope my mistakes can at least provide you some entertainment. (*cough* steamer *cough*)