A new place to call home

IT’S OFFICIAL!!!!!! I’ve accepted a job offer. Contract is signed.

Meaning: I’M OFF TO KOREA FOR A YEAR!!!!!!!!!

Though I still can’t believe it’s really happening, it’s becoming more real everyday when each task completed takes me one step closer to departure!

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of events: phone calls with my recruiter, interviews with Korean schools, and conversations with myself trying to make decisions about my future Korean life. Do I want to work for a large company with a chain of private schools all over Korea? Or, would I rather work for a small school with fewer staff, and have a much better chance of getting to know everyone? What age group do I want to teach? Do I want my own apartment for the year, or would I be interested in a homestay option? So many decisions!

Having finally settled on a small private school called JM Story School in Busan, South Korea’s second-largest city and biggest international port, it was time to get the process started! There were errands to be run, paperwork to be filled out and submitted, and affairs to get in order!

I made a quick trip to Toronto to meet in person for the first time with my recruiter, May, the wonderful lady who’s been helping me with the entire process since I first applied. It was nice to finally be able to put a face to the person I’ve been emailing and calling over the past few months. She’s done all the liaising between myself and the Korean schools, finding job postings, setting up interviews for me, and negotiating contract details and living arrangements with the school directors. What a privilege it’s been to have so much help with this exciting (yet sometimes daunting!) process.

We stopped by the Korean Consulate to get my paperwork stamped and verified so that my employer in Korea can apply for my visa. Sitting in the Consulate by myself, waiting for May to arrive, I suddenly became very aware of my surroundings, and had some time to take it all in. Korean pop videos were playing on the t.v., and couples speaking Korean wandered in and out, easily accomplishing what they came in for in a matter of minutes. I looked at all the different stacks of forms sitting on the table nearby, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that I couldn’t read anything on them! This was certainly a new experience for me!

As soon as May arrived, we stepped up to the next open booth, and what happened after that, I can’t really tell you! The lady behind the desk began speaking to May so quickly in Korean that I wouldn’t have stood a chance of keeping up even if I could understand ANY of it! They carried on, with the lady behind the desk stopping her work every so often to smile up at me, and then dive back into rapid conversation with May. My only role in the whole event was to give the Consulate lady my phone number, and to pay her my $16 fee. We, too, had accomplished what we came in for, but it certainly wasn’t because of my part in it! In fact, it had almost nothing to do with my presence at all. I walked away from the counter feeling two things: one, overly grateful that May was there with me,  and two, something I can’t remember feeling in a long, long time – a sense of helplessness.

It suddenly hit me. This is soon going to be my new life!!! I’m about to immerse myself in a culture that is completely foreign to me. In a matter of days now, the feeling of being completely lost, confused, and possibly (more like probably!) even helpless at times, is going to become my reality.

Though it wasn’t exactly a comforting feeling at the time, I think I’m starting to come to terms with it. It’s not going to be an easy feeling to overcome, but I’m willing to put myself up to the challenge! I keep reminding myself that this is what life is all about. Overcoming our fears, making mistakes, and getting lost sometimes are all part of the journey.

After all, what’s life without a little challenge?

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Allison Burney

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