Q: What was your first year in Korea like?
My first year in Korea has finally reached its end! Man, the year flew by. Even though the year sadly got interrupted with a global pandemic, I still don’t think it was a total bust. So before I embark upon my second year start, I thought it would be great idea to do a year review and see how I’ve grown while living here.
#1. I can travel to new places alone.
I am SO proud of myself in this aspect. Some people may know this about me already, but I am directionally challenged and can get lost super easily (길치), so traveling to new places alone is actually a large fear of mine. For some reason, unlike most people, when I get lost I can’t seem to think rationally and get myself out of a situation. I just start freaking out. So when I first moved here and my friend told me that there was multiple ways to travel, I was super nervous. But by the end of my first year here, I was comfortable enough and confident enough to be able to travel alone to a different city, stay there for a longer duration of time, and get around without getting lost. A miracle indeed. Sure, I had a friend who I would contact when my anxiety would get the best of me because of unfamiliar surroundings but he would calm me down and give me tips on how to easily survive in a unfamiliar city and by the end of my time there, I was going places with no help at all. Small win, but still a win for me! 😊
#2. I can speak to strangers in Korean on the phone (sorta).
When I first moved here, answering any Korean related phone calls was petrifying. I wasn’t sure what the appropriate way to answer was, nor was I comfortable enough with my Korean to feel comfortable in engaging in small talk with a stranger. Then one day, for some reason I was able to talk to the normal delivery guys that call and know how to spot the telemarketers. Even though I don’t always understand what they are saying or if I’m responding correctly or not, they seem to understand me well enough to do complete my requests. So progress!
My Korean Speaking Growth.
Here’s a short clip of me trying to speak in Korean. 😭😅 I shortened the original because I just wanted to show the progress of my Korean. It’s still very much in the beginner’s stage and I’m far from natural (free speaking is insanely hard😭😭), but if you’re studying Korean or interested in learning, keep at it because it’s definitely rewarding. Also, if you’d like to see more videos of me learning Korean with my friends, or speaking in Korean (with subtitles of course), let me know and I’ll make some! (Btw, it’s easier to speak Korean if you’re practicing with a friend who is familiar with you. That way they understand your speaking habits and you understand theirs. But eventually go out there and meet more people to get better).
#3. I can eavesdrop. 😌
I know this is rude, but there is something strangely comforting with being able to understand conversations around you without even trying. I remember when I first came here, I couldn’t really understand Korean well. If they weren’t speaking in simple terms or talking to me directly I wasn’t able to follow the conversation. I felt alone. But then, one day, while I was in class, I randomly heard one of my students tell another student in Korean that he forgot his homework. Thinking that I couldn’t understand him, he launched into this elaborate plan about how he was going to ask to use the restroom and run into the homeroom to get his things. Hearing this, I smugly smiled to myself and when he raised his hand asking to use the restroom, I promptly denied him, repeating, in English, the very plan he had said to his friend. Everyone laughed and the class realized that they couldn’t pull certain things over me anymore. Ah, good times.
Even though I can’t understand everything a Korean says in or out of context, I see some improvement, especially with my listening skills which makes me super elated.
#4. I am learning how to spot genuine people instead of users.
I don’t talk about this a lot, and I definitely won’t go into detail today, but in every place there are good people and there are not so great people. Sometimes, in an unfamiliar place where you don’t know even the basic way of communication, where culture interfere, and you’re all alone, your judgment gets compromised and you let in some people that may use you or hurt you. It sucks, but it’s definitely a part of life. I have been blessed to meet a TON of great Koreans and make amazing friends and I definitely haven’t had a lot of run-ins which users, but it still hurts when it happens. Making genuine friends is never easy, but I’m glad that I’m starting to recognize the ones who want to get to know me and not just use me for their benefit.
#5. Learning more about myself.
Lastly, I want to touch on my personal growth. I don’t know the person I’m meant to be or how this journey that I’m currently on, self-discovery and self-appreciation and living in Korea, will affect my life in later years, but I want to keep traveling and surprising myself. I never thought I would make it this far in another country but I have, and I keep finding out things about myself that I love and things about Korea that keeps me wanting to learn more. This year has definitely been an interesting one and one of the more prouder years in my existence on this planet. I mean, I moved to another country, was mentioned in a published book and started my own blog! As I dive into my second year here, I hope I can continue to individually, intellectually and understand this country more.
Things might seem bleak now, but if I learned anything here is that we can do anything if we have the will and the discipline to do so. You may not get everything you hoped for but you’ll get more by trying than by not. And that, my friends, concludes my first year analysis.
So, as they say here, 화이팅 (fighting)!
Until next time,
See ya around, friend~~