The Mountain

I have officially completed EPIK Orientation and real teacher life is about to begin. Between the orientation classes, endless kimchi, and occasional bottle of Soju, I’ve barely had time to process the fact that I am actually here. It’s even crazier to think I’ll be here for a whole year (or more). But so far, I am so overwhelmingly excited about this experience.

Before I came here, I tried to picture the type of people who would go on an adventure like this, and it was a little hard to do. But, as a good friend predicted, they’ve all turned out to be people quite like me. There were about 50 other Ulsan EPIK teachers at orientation with me. These people come from 7 different English speaking countries, including Canada, South Africa, and even another Nebraskan. They range from education newbies (like me) to people with years of impressive classroom experience. We are from all different walks of life, the thing binding us together being exactly what we’ll be teaching: English. To me, that is pretty amazing.

If you’ve kept up with me at all over the last year, you know that the application process for the EPIK program has not been easy. The last seven months have had a constant anxious shadow as I waited to find out if I would actually be moving to Korea. Of course, to give myself a little confidence, I told everyone OF COURSE I was going to Korea. But in actuality, I didn’t really know.

Though the application process was strenuous and discouraging at times, I see now that it was absolutely worth it. EPIK is a very competitive program. But it is competitive for a reason. Orientation has been mixture of summer camp and basic training, listening to lectures and working on lesson plans for about 12 hours each day. Though there were many “it depends” situations, I feel I’m about as prepared as I could be. 

I am experiencing a moment-to-moment jump between “maybe I can pull off this whole teacher thing” and “wow I have no clue what I’m doing”, but the excitement and anticipation has failed to cease.

When I arrived in Ulsan today, I was overcome with one million emotions. I was ridiculously tired (don’t worry, I found coffee), nervous to meet my coteacher (don’t worry, he is great), and anxious to see my school (don’t worry, it’s beautiful). Above all, I was astounded that after a year of chasing after this dream that seemed unattainable, it was finally happening. I am in a coffee shop in Onsan drinking coconut bubble tea. I am (taking a break from) writing a less plan. I am an EPIK teacher in Ulsan, South Korea. My home is a cute little one bedroom apartment in Onsan with a yellow kitchen. On one side, I have a coffee shop, a pizza place, and a norebang. On the other side is a massive, beautiful mountain. Just down the street is my school, equipped with all the stickers and colored pencils a teacher could ask for.

My apartment may not have wifi yet and I may not have enough closet space, but those things are minuscule compared to the joy it is to have this opportunity. Every time I want to complain about orientation curfew or the humid weather or the lack of shitty Mexican food in my life, I take a step back to look at the mountain of adventure waiting for me in this new life. And though it may be daunting, I cannot wait to climb it.

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The Great Life

The Great Life

One year ago, I returned to the United States after the best month of my life. I had just finished studying abroad in South Korea. Upon my return to Nebraska, which is known as The Good Life, I declared to my parents that in one year, after I graduated college, I would move to Korea. My mother had a miniature panic attack and my father scoffed in disbelief as they welcomed me home with love, laughter, and food from my favorite Mexican restaurant.

Here I am, one year later. I am sitting on an airplane back to the place I have missed so dearly to begin a career as an ESL teacher with the EPIK program. A year ago, when I made the declaration that I would be teaching English in Korea, the concept seemed slightly far fetched. Graduating college, applying to the EPIK program, and preparing for life abroad have all presented me with many challenges. There were times when I began to think that this dream was too ridiculous, and that maybe I should just settle for The Good Life in Nebraska.

Nebraska would be comfortable. I could go to graduate school or get a decent job. I would be near the people that I love most and get to eat at that Mexican restaurant as much as I wanted. But over the last year, every time something has gotten in my way that seemed unmovable, certain opportunities have continually pushed me towards my goal.

Small, but promising signs have popped up everywhere. The more people in my life looked at me like I was crazy for wanting to live overseas, the more motivation I had to make it happen for myself. And now, after a year of constant anxiety about every single aspect of this adventure, I sit on this airplane. Achieving this goal is absolutely the most satisfying thing I have ever experienced.

I believe that in order to be truly happy, one has to find purpose. Whether that purpose is being a supportive parent, a loving partner, or an inspiring role model, every purpose is equally as important and impactful. For me, right now, my most important purpose does not exist in The Good Life. And that may change. But for right now, my purpose exists in a school in South Korea. And I know that no matter how hard it is to be away from The Good Life, that purpose will allow me to be happy and fulfilled.

Before I left for this great adventure of mine, my mother gave me a bracelet she made me. On it is a charm that said The Good Life. She told me by wearing it, I could carry a part of the Good Life with me wherever I traveled.

For me, The Good Life,  and Nebraska, hold so much. It holds my wonderful family and some great local bands and a whole lot of memories. It holds my hilarious nephew and my sweet niece. It holds the best shitty Mexican food a person can find. It holds the entirety of my support system, cheering so loud for me I can hear them from halfway across the world.

It’s not that I don’t love The Good Life. It’s that I’m searching for the Great Life. And for me, the Great Life starts with this great adventure.