I recently was asked by my TESOL course instructor if I could Skype in to talk to a new group of students, since there are some interested in going to Korea. Of course I immediately said yes, and we worked on figuring out a time- a somewhat difficult task given the time difference. Her e-mail brought back a flood of memories, since it wasn't that long ago that I was also a student in her class. I got to thinking of any insight I could provide them- useful information going further than covering simply the basics. I started making a mental list of things I could possibly say, but I figured I would organize my thoughts while also turning it into a blog post!
1. It's Okay To Be Scared (Shitless)
Moving to a foreign country, away from all things familiar to you, is a scary thing. Especially due to the uncertainty of it all. It wasn't until I broke down one semi-drunken night, that I realized it was OK to be scared. People kept coming up to me, asking how excited I must be for my big adventure. Of course I was excited, but at this point, fear was taking over, and I couldn't keep putting on the fake smile. I ended up breaking down in front of some of my roommates, telling them everything I had been feeling. They had no idea! How were they supposed to help, when they didn't know I needed it in the first place? After opening up to them, my one roommate who did a full school year exchange to Ghana the previous year, shared some wisdom that honestly changed my whole outlook on the situation. I am forever grateful for that (and her!) She validated my feelings, and shared how she experienced the same feelings before leaving for Ghana. Of course you'll be scared! It is a huge change. Talking through my anxieties really helped me through this process, since at one point I was seriously second guessing the whole thing. Putting yourself in scary situations is actually as it sounds, it's scary. However, it's important to remind yourself that these opportunities are also the same ones that help you grow as an individual. If we never did things that gave us some anxiety, or induced some sense of risk or fear within us, how stagnant would we be as a species? Despite experiencing plenty of anxious and fearful thoughts, ultimately what lead me to stick with my decision, was knowing in my gut that I would forever regret it if I didn't at least try.
2. Believe People When They Say "Someone Will Help You With That"
Most of my fears stemmed from the uncertainty of things once I would get there. How would I open a bank account? How would I get a phone? How would I know how to get to school? How would I get my Alien Registration Card? Of course it is good to ask questions, and I'm glad I did (probably more than I should have). But my problem was, I wasn't satisfied with the answers. The answer was most often "your co-teacher will help you". I didn't trust this. That answer wasn't good enough. I needed to know exactly how I would obtain a bank account. What I wish I knew, was to believe these people. I haven't heard of anyone who had to set up a bank account by themselves. The people at your school are clearly aware that a foreigner is arriving at their school. They will help you. Trust me.
3. Embrace The Uncertainty Of Everything
Many of the questions I had, I thought they could be 100% answered during the 10 day orientation. The orientation did help ease the transition TREMENDOUSLY, however even during orientation, there are still things that you won't find out until arriving at your school. Every co-teacher, school, and city, has enormous variability. There is no one answer to everything. "It all depends". It was almost like an ongoing joke the whole week! We would have so many questions, and more often than not, that was the answer. You would have to wait and see. Although it can be frustrating at times, try to embrace it. Eventually you will learn to laugh it off, and soon enough you will realize this is a general trend in Korea. Nothing is set in stone, and things can change pretty quickly. I learned pretty quickly to just laugh and brush things off, without getting too stressed about it. People who know me might be a little shocked at this, since I generally like to know EVERY possible detail. But I think Korea has allowed me to become less stressed and more easygoing. So, embrace the uncertainty! Soon enough you'll be having those "Oh, Korea" moments.
A lot of the time we want to know the outcome of certain situations. Will it work out? What if it doesn't? While this would be potentially useful and a time saver, we are all here to create our own destinies and learn from every experience. I strongly believe you can always learn at least one thing about yourself in any new situation, good or bad. That is the truth. I hope this post can find anyone needs it, and hopefully it is somewhat useful.
Now be fearful, fearless, trust others, and embrace the uncertainty of it all!