6 Reasons I’m Probably Leaving South Korea in 2017
Oh, Korea! What a lovely run we’ve had together! From all the hours I spent roaming aimlessly around Seokchon Lake and Olympic Park, to all the lovely food I had in Itaewon–and let’s not forget the wonderful shopping in Dongdaemun where new dresses often cost me less than a dollar. Yet, here I am, ready to leave and start anew again to adjust, or readjust to a life I used to know. Yes, I’m coming back to America.
I’ll tell you why:
1. I fell in love… again…with a canine.
It wasn’t long ago that I briefly mentioned I’d fallen in love with a man, and while I didn’t go into too much detail about that relationship, that wasn’t the only thing I fell in love with. You see, I met a dog. His Korean name is Podong, which means fat, fluffy one. I’ve conveniently given him additional names in Bosnian (Bijeli, which means “White One”) and English (White Blaze). He’s a big, white Samoyed who constantly looks like he’s smiling. He’s completely white except for a little sandy, tan color behind his ears, often referred to as “biscuit.” Basically, he’s the happiest looking dog ever (no wonder the breed is nicknamed the Sammie Smile).
I met him at a dog café near where I lived during my first month in Korea, and it was love at first sight. He was up for adoption as a puppy at the café, but no one wanted the little guy, so at the café he remained. He is about three years old now. The café is not as well-known as others, so I would like to give them a shout out at Lucimon Dog Café, Grooming, and Hotel (just Lucimon for short).
He has met many new dogs and watched several puppies get adopted, but it appeared as of late he’d been waiting for his turn–for someone to love him. In Korea, space is very limited and thus, big dogs are not popularly kept as pets. Therefore, I decided to beg to have him as my own and take him to America with me. After endless, annoying insistence on my part, an agreement was made and a price was set. So, now Podong is mine and I want to give him a loving home with a yard, take him on walks, and give him have a family life he can be happy with. It is finally his turn.
2. My relationship can survive this.
For the first time in my life, I feel I’m in a truly stable relationship where there is no guessing where I stand, wondering what the guy is up to, or dealing with unnecessary drama from relatives and the like. I feel like I finally have someone on my side who does what he says he will do and means what he says. Anyone can say anything, but when push comes to shove, the person I’m with is always there for me. That’s how I know that my relationship with him can survive any temporary time apart. He has his studies to contend with, and I have my own personal goals. The important thing is that we support each other. I may even come back to Korea after a while, if not to see him, to work there again, to try teaching at public school, or pursue another opportunity. Either way, the relationship is strong so I’m not worried about it.
3. Two years is a good run.
I recently read in an article by Fast Company that workers should plan on switching jobs every three years for the rest of their lives. While I question the validity of the argument for everyone, I do think two to three years is a good amount of time for a person under the age of 35 who is looking to diversify their experiences. For me, it is very important to not only have security, but a plethora of work knowledge and experiences to draw from when engaging in new situations.
At the time of this writing, I would have completed my second contract, meaning I’d been living in Seoul for two years. I gained invaluable experience as a teacher, which is something I’ve wanted to do since I was inspired by several teachers and counselors when I was 12, particularly in the areas of the arts and literature–though teaching may not be what I do forever.
4. I want to get back to my family.
Being alone for extended periods of time can lead to depression, negative thoughts, loss of social experiences and social abilities, and outright feeling like an outcast. I really didn’t come to Korea to feel like I was back in late middle school.
Truth be told, it is something most foreigners go through, though, because we are all very different and living in a very homogenous culture. It wasn’t all bad. I learned coping mechanisms, how to rely on myself, made some valuable friendships eventually, obtained some valuable work experience, and saw some amazing sights. I’ll never regret the places I’ve seen, the children’s faces I made smile, or the inspiration I gained from looking at some of the most beautiful UNESCO world heritage sights.But I miss my family.
Every time I look at updated pictures on social media, my parents look older. I feel like my Chow Chow/German Shepherd mix back home has forgotten me, and I truly miss my own bed. The bed I’ve had in my apartment never felt like it was my own.
5. I have no control over who I teach.
When I made the choice to stay in Korea, I made it under the impression I would be staying with the students I’d aided thus far and had an attachment to. I felt a moral obligation to stay with them. This was not the case and virtually none of my classes had my old students in them. Many of them moved on altogether to elementary school or elsewhere. I care about my students a lot, and it is hard for me to let them go sometimes. It seems as though every time I develop a bond or I make progress with a group, they move on to something else. The situation leaves me often feeling overwhelmingly sad. If I were teaching online, it would seem like less of a difficult situation for me.
6. I have some goals I can’t reach while in Korea.
I can’t keep my newly acquired dog in most Korean apartments. They tend to be small and many landlords aren’t animal friendly, so that means I have to put Podong on a flight back to America with me. Secondly, I want to get a degree in nursing or something along those lines that requires me to do a program in-person. I am also three classes away from an English degree with a certificate in European Union Studies that I didn’t quite finish several years back, instead opting to get a degree in Psychology. I want to finish what I started. Nursing is a hands-on field I would like as my back up, and I can’t in good conscience attempt to take such a program online. I simply wouldn’t feel comfortable with that. I don’t speak Korean and am not a citizen, either, so I can’t exactly enroll in a Korean university program.
But this is not the end for me or my adventures, because once I finish those things, or if my plans change, you’ll see me heading to Seoul yet again–maybe even Dubai or Saudi Arabia, perhaps even China, looking for something new. After all, there’s really no age limit on when you can teach or where. I’ll let you know how it goes when I get there, and I hope you will join those adventures with me too.