Why Community is Important in Korea
We love South Korea. However, the adjustment phase from getting your living arrangement settled to adapting to a new culture can be a unique process, easy for some and difficult for others.
In this post, Lindsay McKissick, an English teacher living in South Korea, gives her insights on why community is important in South Korea, no matter where you’re from and how much you’ve experienced other cultures. Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, Lindsay is a teacher by occupation and an artist at heart. She finds the most fulfillment in the dance, music, and art that’s so readily available in Seoul. Lindsay tweets at @LindsayEryn and blogs at LindsayEryn.blogspot.com
On the Importance of Community.
I signed up with a one year contract to teach English in Korea. My anniversary passed one week ago, and I’m still not going anywhere for a few more months. What I expected to finish in 12 months has extended into 17 because, well, I’ve fallen in love.
Seoul, South Korea has been so good to me. The delicious food never ends. The majority of the one-on-one encounters I’ve had with the locals leave me smiling ear to ear. I adore the kids I teach. The ease of living is the best I’ve seen. I love this city, and it loves me back, but the biggest reason I’ve decided to stay isn’t necessarily specific to Seoul at all.
As is expected when teaching English in Korea, my job is half amazing and half not amazing. On the rough days, I’ve got to get away and back to being who I am outside of “Teacher.” It’s out there in the real world that I come fully alive. And, did you realize that the Alive that Korea brings out of you can be so different from the Alive you were back home? The way you react to your new friends, your environment, and your situations here will ignite facets of you that you may have never seen. There are opportunities galore here that you may have never thought to try. There’s an explosion of life in Korea, and you may stumble upon a piece of the shrapnel you’ve never noticed that certain way before.
Get out there and explore who you are through this lens of Korea. Allow yourself to be drawn out by the friends you make along the journey. Most experiences are best when shared anyway, and life gets even richer when the sharing goes deeper.
Expat communities are always transient with people moving in and out of the country. Letting that keep you from making close friends will save you heartache, but you will also miss out on having people invest in you. The richness that my own close friends here have added to my life have made me so hesitant to leave them, I’ve resigned my contract. While I’m not recommending everyone make the same decision I did, I am challenging you to milk every ounce out of your time in Korea. You’ve heard that more than once, I’m sure, but I’m asking you to take a second look and think about how you can add richness to your experience.
I’ve found community. Real community.
I’ve found people I care about and who care about me. They join me in my adventures, they invite me into theirs, and we all keep each other from doing things we’d later regret. They’ve given me a place to share, to laugh, and to go deeper.
As my blood family has given me so much to be thankful for, my Korea family, too, has made this season of life what it is for me. Thanks to them, I’ve loved it so much that I’m staying for just a little longer. No matter where you are and now matter how long you’re going to stay, you owe it to your soul to make a home for it. I wish you the best of friendships and the greatest of stories.