Category Archives: departure

Oh, and one more thing. *Advice about The Arrival Store*

I’m home. Phew. That was a long flight.

I’m ecstatic to be home. Everyone said it would be weird and strange and that reverse culture shock is a monster, but honestly it’s been pleasant so far. Perhaps it is because my family has been amazingly supportive, I have so many friendships to catch up on and a few babies to meet (New people arrived while I was away!), and I am super busy networking and job searching.

homehome sweet home

I have a few more words to post about life in Korea and I hope to create a new post-Korea blog soon (Any ideas are welcome!), but I wanted to give a shout-out to The Arrival Store (Check them out.) for making  my Korea departure just a bit less hectic. Back in 2011, when I was preparing to move to Korea, I found TAS to be a valuable resource for making my expat transition a smooth one. TAS sent me comfy pillows and a plush mattress pad along with a transformer to keep my computer powered and my unruly hair tamed with a beloved straightener from home.

the arrival store

I also, after a handful of other new teachers recommended it, bought a smart-phone through TAS. As many of you know, acquiring a mobile phone in Korea can be tricky and can sometimes involve a long period of waiting. My new TAS phone was delivered immediately and was easy to use. While other friends were phone-less and relying on I don’t know what, telekinesis? to make plans and navigate Korea, I was texting, chatting, and downloading awesome apps that made adapting to life in Korea a piece of kimchi cake.  I found the bills easy to pay. I could walk up to any ATM and with a few pushed buttons I was set. When I decided to stay in Korea for an extra term of teaching TAS told me it was no problem and included directions in an email for my future departure.

When the time came to leave Korea (tear tear) I started making lists and boy those lists were long. I packed up my Korea life and said goodbye to some amazing people. TAS made my departure so easy because I was able to hold onto my phone until the morning of my flight. It was too easy! I simply put the phone in an envelope and shipped it back to their Korean office. I didn’t have to go to a store or fill out crazy forms. When my phone reached TAS hands my final bill was calculated and then the remainder of my original phone deposit was put back into my PayPal account. Score: Money I forgot even existed was now mine again!

So all in all I can give you a lot of advice about moving to Korea (Email any questions to drmeserve@gmail.com.) and my single most important piece of wisdom is: GOSH, JUST GO! But my other advice is to check out The Arrival Store. I’m all for making things easier. I promise life in Korea is easy and fun and gorgeous and TAS can make it that much more convenient.

Other advice:

1) Soju: If it’s offered, drink it.

2) Learn *some* Korean.

3) Smile and love Korea.

4) Know Chincha.

5) Make friends on SHG trips.

& HAVE FUN!

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So Long, Farewell: It hurts when friends leave Korea.

 

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I won’t lie, last week in Korea was rough. I should have been elated for the upcoming weekend forecast of warm weather and birthday celebrations for yours truly, but my heart was a little crushed. A handful of fellow teachers departed or began preparations for the journey home. Each time someone leaves I realize how much they’ve influenced my time abroad. I mean, come on, they basically made it.

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Before moving to Korea I was worried most about encountering loneliness while abroad. But after saying goodbye to my mother at the airport in Boston I was only really ‘alone’ for a brief flight to NYC. In NYC I met another teacher headed to Korea and we bonded over packing stresses and teaching applications until our plane began its slow descent into Seoul. I hadn’t known this girl for more than a day, but we already had so much in common. We were doing this ‘teaching in Korea’ thing and we were anxiously enthusiastic to finally get to it.

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My fellow plane buddy and I recruited a few other wide-eyed soon-to-be-teachers from our flight and we together conquered customs and baggage claim. Although my new friends soon departed for different parts of Korea, I continue to check-in with them on Facebook and I luckily ran into one of them this past summer at Korea Burn, Korea’s ultimate hippie soiree. We hugged and chatted like we had known each other for ages. As cliche as it sounds, we had started the journey as English teachers together in NYC and it was nice to know we both were excelling at the expat ESL life in Korea.

After the airport I joined 50+ other newbie teachers in Seoul and we trained together for the week. There were no awkward first conversations. We were all here to start a life of teaching and living in Korea and that fact was the only necessary key to unlock friendly conversation. I instantly realized I had more in common with these people than I did with most I encountered everyday back in Boston. After a week of late study nights, new foods and embarrassing attempts to figure out the Seoul Subway, we were separated and sent to our new schools scattered across Korea. And yet, although we have settled down in our respective Korean cities, we still keep in touch. I traveled to Busan this past June to visit training friends. I love running into others in Seoul. And we all laugh at comedic teaching moments we share with each other using social media.

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So, even before I arrived in my city I had a handful of close ‘Korea friends’ and loneliness was a distant worry. And then I met my Uijeongbu family. Sometimes we laugh about how we all met each other. Sometimes the details are fuzzy. Korean friendships are different. They are fast. They are necessary. They are void of awkward introductions and pleasantries. Upon meeting the fellow teachers in my city we did not hesitate to share phone numbers and weekend plans. We each had jumped head-first into a new life in Korea and we needed each other. We ignored our differences in age, life experience and nationality. It was quite refreshing.

These friends became my family. We have celebrated holidays, birthdays and Friday nights together for the past year and time has flown. I haven’t had much time to feel lonely. My friends helped make Korea home and each has helped to make me feel confident about where I am at this point in life and also enthusiastic about what the future holds. They get me, and this understanding is rooted in the shared itch we all had at some point in the recent past to travel, teach and live abroad.

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Although abroad friendships are quickly created, they also change in the same manner. Living abroad is not permanent for many and teaching contracts have end dates. So, earlier this month I said goodbye to a dynamic couple who were always eager to coordinate social outings, religiously brought home-baked goodies to the bar and loved to laugh. Last Monday I painfully said goodbye to one of my closest friends in Uijeongbu. I can’t think of much we didn’t experience together in Korea. We arrived at the same time, bonded over a misspelled salad sign that read ‘Crap Salad’ at an expat dinner and stuck together for the rest of the year. Friday I helped a neighbor and dear friend carry her bags to the bus stop and endured another goodbye hug. Now I have a few weeks to prepare for the April departure of a friend who has been a constant source of laughs, optimism and honest and intelligent advice throughout this hectic year.

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I know these friendships will continue and flourish in the years to come. I will be in Korea for a bit longer, but we will stay in touch and I am excited to visit each of them and learn more about their post-Korea adventures. I know I am lucky to have friends in crazy area codes, but for now I’m letting myself miss them, because in doing that I am able to truly see just how much they mean to me. Thank you friends, you know who you are. 😉 ^^

“No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other’s worth.” – Robert Southey

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Preparing for a Korean Goodbye: Don’t leave my friends out of this.

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Time is running out, so please stop saying, “Yeah, we will have to do that some weekend.” I have exactly 6 weekends left in Korea and each is pretty much full from 8pm on Friday until late Sunday afternoon. I am lucky in that many of my friends in Korea are also leaving close to my departure date. Most of us are in a rush to eat lots of kimchi, find Psy socks to bring home and most importantly soak up each others awesomeness before some depart for homes scattered all over the globe and others remain in Korea. And oh yeah, I still have to find the confidence to make a jjimjilbang date. Umm, a little help please?

So, here is my list. I believe if I write it, it will happen. Isn’t that how the saying goes? Please comment with other things I must do, see, taste, try or buy before I leave this fantastic country I have loved calling home.

I hope to…

1) tour the MOCA. I recently learned that Seoul’s National Museum of Contemporary Art offers free admission for select exhibits on the 4th weekend of each month. See you there?

2) have one more epic weekend adventure with my favorite SHG guide. If you are moving to Korea or are here already I strongly suggest you check them out. But only if you like to have fun. Otherwise, forget I mentioned it.

3) stock up on my favorite Korean cosmetics. Great timing Sheryll, I was getting worried I would leave before you shared this.

4) finally suck it up, strip down and visit a jjimjilbang. If this story doesn’t make you want to visit one, I’m sorry.

5) get lost at the Korean War Memorial and Museum for an entire day. I am proud to say I am related to the late Captain Joseph McConnell Jr. who was a leading jet ace of the Korean War. I hope to learn more about him and the war.

6) norebang with my favorite girlfriends in Uijeongbu one last time. The first night my friend voluntarily put on Call Me Maybe I knew I was going to be just fine in Korea.

7) pretend to know something about electronics and peruse the Yongsan Electronics Market.

8) Stuff my face with one (or two?) Casablanca Moroccan chicken sandwiches. I visited HBC a few weeks ago and almost cried (like real tears) when I found the storefront dark and closed for renovations. A Twitter friend swears they are reopening before I leave. She better not be throwing fake promises around the Internet. You know who you are, and I know your Twitter handle.

9) finally make it to a Hongdae Silent Disco. Check it out.

10) dress super classy and do it up Korea Style.

11) successfully order takeout to my apartment.

12) not go overboard, but add a few more key pieces to my arsenal of Korean fashion. I can’t help myself, I WANT EVERYTHING.

13) You tell me.

I have a lot to do, but I am grateful to spend these next weekends with friends who have kicked it with me in Korea for the past 11 months and have put up with me and my geeky love of planning. Last week we had an early Saturday morning outing scheduled and more sites to see in the afternoon. Friday night rolled around and we found ourselves at a favorite local bar enjoying cheap drinks, stories of teaching mishaps, college card games and a few sloppy rounds of darts. As you can guess, we didn’t make it to bed until the early morning and our plans were scratched in exchange for recovery rest. My Saturday was spent sleeping and Sunday was also quiet with a friendly coffee shop session and a long walk in the evening. Our lazy weekend meant I had to rearrange my planner notes, but I promise, no one is freaking out.

I am impressed with my long list of Korean adventures accomplished in the past year, but just like “감사합니다”  and “안녕하세요” will disappear from my daily routine come March, so will my friends who quickly became family in early 2012. So please, recommend your ‘Korea must-do-see-taste-try-buy’ item for my list, but if my friends aren’t down then I may give it a miss.

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Filed under cuter in korea, departure, food, seoul, travel, uijeongbu

My 2012: While you were busy Googling ‘What is a Gangnam?’…

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Any worries I had about ‘losing touch’ during my year abroad in Southeast Asia were quickly shattered one July night while I lay in a hostel bunk-bed in Taiwan. I opened my iPad to find an adorable yet slightly chubby Korean man decked out in hip glasses, a funky suit and an irresistible smirk busy bombarding every one of my bookmarked websites. That moment and many more in the following days and months reassured me that my move to Korea would not hinder my mission to stay relevantly informed about all things social. I could in fact keep in touch with friends, family and my growing passion (slight obsession) with social media creation and strategy. Gangnam Style gave me a slight home-court advantage. While most Americans were busy Googling: ‘What the heck is a Gangnam?’, ‘Where did K-Pop come from?’ and ‘Who is Psy and is that his real name?’ I had time to catch up on my backlogged and favorited Tweets from Mashable, Gawker, Social Media Examiner and more.

At first my fellow teacher friends in Seoul eagerly posted the horse-dance video, just for kicks, to all available social wall space. Then, when the YouTube view count refused to plateau, I casually mentioned the video in Skype conversation with a friend who was enjoying the summer in New England. She giggled at the elevator dance scene and commented, “Wow Devan, Korea looks like a fun time.” A week later a second reply was digitally served, “So, you know that video you showed me? It’s here. It’s everywhere. It’s blowing up.” And although I scoffed at my real-life and Twitter friends who continued to miserably misspell ‘Gangnam’ in posts and had never been out clubbing in the song’s swanky section of Seoul, I was proud of Psy and the small yet fiercely determined, extremely successful, technologically advanced and warmhearted country that I chose to call home in 2012.

As I prepare to return home to NH in the next few months and further my career in social media strategy and communications, many details are uncertain. Job searching is a job in itself, but throw in 7,000 miles and a 14 hour time difference between you and your target professional setting  and it becomes almost as challenging as mastering the horse-dance while fumbling through a few Korean lyrics about “a girl with that kind of twist”.

I know some may question why I up and left a marketing job in Boston to move to Korea to teach ESL and eat kimchi at every meal. I don’t think I will be able to answer this question fully for another few years, but I can say I am happier now than I was a year ago and I spent 2012 in close proximity to one of the year’s biggest social media stories. My time in Korea will always and forever be smack dab in the middle of ‘The Year of Gangnam Style’. Or maybe I have that mixed up: Psy’s year of fame just happened to occur during ‘Devan’s Korea Quest.’ Please, just for now, let me believe the latter to be true.

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Filed under departure, devan teacher, korea in the news, music, seoul, travel

a bad case of facebook envy & 5 lessons learned abroad (so far)

*Be the person you envy. Live the life you’d be envious of if you saw someone else living it.*

Here is my first travel piece published in my hometown NH newspaper. I hope to write a piece each month for the paper – wish me luck. I have included the first paragraph and you can click the link for the rest. What should I write about next?

Last spring I found myself up too late on a weeknight perusing the time sucker that is Facebook. I pathetically drooled over photo albums from my adventurous friends exploring the world. I fell asleep with a small seed of jealously planted firmly in my stomach. The seed grew, and soon I found myself daydreaming at work and realizing I had to do something to squash this unflattering jealousy. I undoubtably loved each messy, new, hilarious, challenging and delightful moment of my two post college years living with friends and working in Boston, but I was itching for change. It took me a few months and lots of advice and encouragement from my friends and family, but I finally decided to skip town and get lost.

Here are five things I have learned from living abroad (so far)…

Fosters Daily Democrat

 

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Do You Know South Korea?

This video by David Dutton is stunningly beautiful & provides the motivation I need to keep crossing off items on my To-Do-Departure-List!

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February 8, 2012 · 2:08 am

ready, set…wait

“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” Aldous Huxley

After months of pouring over impressively well-written Korean travel blogs, I am surprised at how nervous I am to start my own. But oh well, here we go!

What I know now:

* I will be arriving in Korea within the next 2 weeks. I am still waiting for my visa code & have yet to purchase my flights. My recruiter does not seem too worried, so I guess I shouldn’t be either.

* I will train in Seoul for a week before traveling to Uijungbu (also spelled Uijeongbu) where I will live & teach for the year.

* I need to PACK!

“When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.” Susan Heller

Cheers for now,
Devan

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