South Korea

Things related to my first time living abroad for an extended period of time.

On Sunday, I Lived

On Sunday, I tried snowboarding for the first time ever.

I’ve been skiing many times in the past, but for some reason, was always afraid to make the switch over to snowboarding. Leading up to my school field trip each year, I’d wonder the same thing: should I try something different this year? But when the trip day finally rolled around, I’d find myself thinking that I better stick to what I know. It’s safer that way. Trying to learn how to snowboard on a school trip didn’t seem like a good idea. What if I got hurt?

Now, a few years down the road, I’m learning more about what it means to “play it safe.” Here’s what I’ve come up with so far. To me, playing it safe means routine. It means being comfortable. It means familiarity. It means safety.

And these are bad things? you ask.

Of course not! Routine can be nice. Being comfortable usually feels good. When you’re familiar with your surroundings, you feel confident that you can successfully navigate your way through your daily life with (hopefully) few problems. You likely also feel safe, because you know how things work (or how they’re supposed to work), and you can adapt accordingly. But routine and familiarity also leave little room for growth, as they rarely challenge you.

Depending on how you look at it, these things can either be your best friend, or your worst enemy.

As I experience and learn more, I’m starting to view them more as enemies. The reason for this is simple: they stop me from growing. They hold me back from all the rich and unique experiences that are out there waiting for me.

Gaining new experiences isn’t always easy. Sometimes, it takes a lot of effort, time, and energy. My journey to the ski resort, for example, was an adventure of its own, and not an easy one! I had to wake up at 1:30 in the morning, take a taxi to a bus, take that bus to another bus, and then ride overnight in order to get to the resort bright and early. We arrived around 7:30 a.m., and set out for a full day on the slopes, shivering and running on very little sleep!

It was certainly a challenging day. In fact, it was exhausting. By the time I boarded the bus back to Busan, it felt like every muscle in my body was lashing out at me in attack. It was a struggle to find a way to sit comfortably for the 4.5-hour ride home.

But when I thought about sitting on that mountain with my feet in my bindings, looking at the astounding view around me, I had no regrets. I knew I had made the right choice. I had tried something new; I had lived, and it was incredible!

Life is full of adventure, for those who are open to the possibility. All we have to do is keep our eyes open, and take a chance when it arises. If you’re willing to try new things, then there are endless opportunities to do so. There are always new activities, foods, and drinks to try, new sights to see, new places, cities, and countries to visit, and new people to meet.

Next time you have the option to play it safe or go on an adventure, why not live a little?

All set to learn in my Canadian colours!

All set to learn in my Canadian colours!

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Views from Above

I’ve now called Busan home for almost two years.

During that time, there have, of course, been many ups and downs. But this is old news. When someone moves to a foreign country to begin a new adventure, they’d best not be expecting the sun to shine every day. (That’s a recipe for a nasty case of disappointment I’m afraid!)

Some things, though, will always catch you off guard. You can never prepare for them, no matter how hard you may have tried to imagine them before leaving home. And you can never control your reaction to them in the moment.

For me, one of these things is the mountains.

As someone who comes from a place with absolutely no mountains in sight until you’ve driven across at least three other provinces, this isn’t surprising to me. I’ve grown to love many things about my temporary home, but the abundance of mountains and the fact that they are so easily accessible is pretty high up on my list. Did I mention that there’s a mountain with a pretty great network of trails directly behind my apartment?

First, let’s get something straight, because at this point, you may be picturing me as the avid-hiker type, up at the crack of dawn to tackle the trails (unless you know me well, of course!). Unfortunately, this is not so, though sometimes I wish it were. In all honesty, you will probably never find me decked out in the full Korean hiking gear from head to toe, complete with poles and a visor. Oh, and don’t forget the kimbap and possibly/probably soju to share with your friends!

I’m certainly not serious enough about it to join the ranks of the Korean masses ready to take on anything that stands before them, but I do enjoy hiking from time to time. I’ve been fortunate enough to stumble upon some pretty amazing sights on my hikes in this beautiful corner of Korea.

I discovered one of those sights a couple of weekends ago.

A friend and I set out to do a little hike up the mountain behind my apartment, mostly to get some exercise and to check out some of the different trails. (Being the non-avid hiker that I am, I had barely set foot on my backyard mountain before this!) We started up the winding road, enjoying the unbelievably warm weather for mid-November. It was a gorgeous day, the sun beating down on us as we made our way higher and higher.

Then we came across a little park off to the side of the road. From what we could see, this “park” consisted of a couple of obscure statues and some rocks. Far from enticing, but we decided to check it out anyway.

And that’s when the best discovery of all was made!

Looking up over the tiny park, we noticed a big wooden patio with some tables and chairs lined up. Assuming it must be a shop or restaurant of some sort, we explored. What we saw next made me wish I had found this place nine months ago, when I first moved to the neighbourhood.

Standing on the patio, we looked out at the blend of light blue sky, baby blue water, deep green mountains, and the tall white buildings scattered everywhere in between them. A few fluffy clouds were drifting slowly overhead. I now knew why that tiny park had called to me. In that moment, I didn’t want to be anywhere else. Everything about this scene was enchanting.

That stunned feeling I get when I stumble across views like this never ceases to amaze me. I never know when or where it will happen, but it’s always a possibility. That’s one of my favourite things about Busan, and it’s one of the things I know I’ll miss the most!

A panorama of the view

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8 Things I Won’t Regret Learning Abroad

8 Things I Won’t Regret Learning Abroad

Blog #10 is about some of the things I’m most happy I had the chance to learn while in Korea this year.

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The Hardest Things About Living Abroad

The Hardest Things About Living Abroad

With adventure, comes sacrifice.

Blog #9 of my series for Verge is all about balance, and the realities of a life overseas.

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Homesick in Korea

Next Verge blog is up!

WARNING: This one might get you!!! Can’t say I didn’t tell you…. 😉

Homesick in Korea

 

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The 11 Best Things About TEFL

My 7th blog for Verge is up! I think this might be my favourite one yet…..

The 11 Best Things About TEFL

Hopefully, it will make you smile, too!

Alphabet practice!

Alphabet practice!

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The TEFL Challenge

This one’s for all the teachers out there – I’m finally beginning to understand just how difficult your job can be!!!

This is my 6th entry for Verge which went online in March.

Enjoy! 🙂

The TEFL Challenge

 

Teaching math to one of my former students

Teaching math to one of my former students

 

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Encountering Language Barriers in Korea

So this post (my fifth of the series) actually went online in late February, but incase you didn’t get around to checking it out on Verge, here it is:

Encountering Language Barriers in Korea

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From Korea, With Love

Well, what can I say? It’s been about three months too long since I last wrote something on here. “So, what happened to you?” my blog asks me. “Why have you been neglecting me? Don’t you have any thoughts?”

I guess the truth is that I just sort of lost my ambition after the excitement of the first month in a new place died down a bit and I started to settle into the routine of my new life. Strangely enough, I guess I got comfortable in my new home! It’s funny how quickly you can learn to adapt to your surroundings, no matter how drastic the changes may have been initially.

I have, at least, still been doing some writing for Verge – so I guess I haven’t completely failed.

But it’s amazing to me that I can still find it difficult to find sources of inspiration – even when I’m in a new city, a new country, and immersed in a completely new culture. Everything around me is foreign – the language, the food, the culture, the customs. So why on Earth am I having trouble writing about it?

I realized today that inspiration isn’t actually so hard to find after all – I just need to open my eyes and realize when it’s staring me in the face.

I arrived at school this morning without the slightest idea that it was Valentine’s Day. Not surprisingly, the date had slipped my mind completely – the days here all seem to blend together, and I often forget what the date is. I groggily kicked off my boots, stuck my feet into my bright pink slippers, and made my way over to the teacher’s area to drop off my stuff.

I was immediately greeted with a warm, friendly “Good morning!!!” from one of my co-workers, who handed me a box of chocolates with a huge smile on her face. “Happy Valentine’s Day!!!” she said, beaming at me. Already, my day had gotten ten times better. Still smiling ear to ear, I was soon handed another Valentine’s Day gift – a bar of one of my absolute favourite kinds of chocolate from yet another co-worker. I do LOVE chocolate, but it wasn’t the chocolate itself that brightened my day so quickly. It was the gesture, and the thought behind it, that really got to me.

Throughout the rest of my school day, I was wished Happy Valentine’s Day repeatedly by students, and given chocolates (sometimes even a small bag full!) and other snacks they had brought to share. A couple of my students even offered to give me the treats that their friends had given to them earlier!!! I was grateful, but tried to explain that they should keep them because they rightfully belonged to them, and I didn’t need them. Sometimes I successfully gave the sweets back to them, but other times, they wouldn’t budge! What a lucky teacher I was today!

I have to say that the best gifts of all I received today were the little kisses that two of my students unexpectedly placed on each of my cheeks as I was correcting their work at the end of class! If my day hadn’t already been brightened, that definitely would have done the trick.

After work, I spent a couple of hours talking and laughing with a co-worker (who also happens to be one of my best friends in Korea and is like a sister to me) as we ran errands and had dinner together. Eventually, I came home to find a sweet message full of love and appreciation in my inbox from a best friend currently across the world. Not only did it remind me of the importance and value of friendship, but it also got me thinking: maybe Valentine’s Day is more than just a couple’s holiday, or a cash-grab for stores, after all.

I’ve never really been the biggest fan of Valentine’s Day. The hype about it doesn’t really appeal to me, and I’ve never been the type to go crazy over it. In fact, earlier this week, I found myself rolling my eyes at its existence, and grumbling that it was approaching so quickly.

However, I can now say that I genuinely enjoyed my first Valentine’s Day in Korea. It may even be my favourite yet – at least of the ones I can remember. (I’ll be honest, though – my memory is pretty terrible!)

Apart from being a lot of fun, this Valentine’s Day reminded me to notice the little things, and more importantly, to take time to appreciate them.

As it turns out, I don’t need to look too far for meaningful things to write about – I just need to open my eyes and be thankful for them.

Happy Valentine’s Day!!!!!

From Korea, With Love

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Korean as a Second Language

My Korean lessons have begun! Wish me luck!

Here is my 4th blog for Verge:

Korean as a Second Language

Categories: South Korea, Travel | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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Allison Burney

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