South Korea for 8 years

by Julia-Louise Missie
(New Brunswick, NJ)

I had always wanted to live overseas, and after graduate school teaching abroad was the next step. So, I decided for no particular reason to live in Korea. After all, it was only going to be for a year. Living in Korea at first was exciting, but not at all what I expected. It was harsh and eye opening in the different way of living and working. I thought I had made the biggest mistake of my life the first month I was there. I didn't' know the language, couldn't read signs, or know if I was buying simple items for cooking like salt or sugar. I ached for the familiar surroundings of home, my friends, my family, comfort in the everyday life of an American.

Choosing to live overseas is different from taking a trip or going for a short time, and I was committed to the decision I made to live in Korea no matter how much I missed walking through a shopping mall at home.

So much of me has changed since then. I have changed. Travel should never be familiar or routine. It is out of the ordinary that makes it so inviting. It is the hard parts of it that make it great.

Choose the uncomfortable part of a journey and it will change you forevermore.

Ed. Note: Isn't it amazing how perspective can change if you just give it a chance? I've been in that situation before. In fact, the first few weeks of what turned into a round-the-world journey I was utterly convinced I'd made a dreadful mistake but in this case, thank heaven for pride, because I was too proud to go back. Of course things turned around but for a moment there I was terribly unsure.

Even further back, years ago, I had been living in Canada when I was offered a job in Europe. I mean - who wouldn't, right? But after living a seedy hotel for a month (the job was in Geneva and there was a housing shortage, at least housing I could afford) I was aching to go back to my old job and friends and life. But I remembered my huge going away party, and pride was clearly going to play a role in my life because I certainly couldn't backtrack now.

Both times were life-changing events. If I had acted out of fear, I would have gone back and missed the amazing experiences I had as a result. I'm glad you didn't give into your homesickness and gave it a try. It sounds as though you too feel you made the right decision.

You might also find these stories interesting:
Teaching English in China
Teaching English Abroad

Comments for South Korea for 8 years

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Jan 06, 2013
Teaching Overseas
by: JoAnne Simson

Julia-Louise Missie, Wow, that's a long time teaching in a foreign country! Why did you decide to stay for so long? What did you learn there? Are you back yet? What did THAT feel like?

I taught in South Korea for two years, on American military bases. It is a fascinating country with a tragic history. I'm currently writing a book on that stay, which will focus on the country and its past.

My travel blog is

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Teaching in South Korea - and beyond

by Denita
(Bedford, MA US)

I was teaching in the States and feeling a little bored which led me to look into other opportunities. As I was searching the web, I came across an advertisement looking for people to teach in Costa Rica. This intrigued me, so I called the number. The person I spoke to was working for a recruiter in Canada and said they only had openings in South Korea. I had never considered traveling to Asia but decided to hear what he had to say. Well, six months later I was on a plane to Seoul.

After a week of training I was taken to my new job at an all girls Korean middle school. This was a great experience. I learned how to acclimate to a new culture, education system and adapt in ways I never knew I could. I learned how to get my needs met, even when I could not speak the language. The year ended and I returned to the States, knowing I was ready for more time overseas.

Lucky for me an International school in Busan, South Korea called me and hired me to teach middle school science. This was even better because I had a mix of Western and Eastern. Due to the fact that the school was international and everyone spoke English and most of the staff was from Western countries, it created a sense of home while living in another culture. I met some wonderful people and found out a lot about myself.

Six months later I was living on the island of Aruba. Interestingly enough I found this more difficult than living in South Korea. The island felt too small and once you left the coastal area, for me it was not very beautiful. I did like that I did not have to deal with snow and cold weather, but I did not find the culture very welcoming and never felt as if I fit in.

Returning to the States, I thought I was ready to become more stationary. I realize that this is not accurate. I miss taking pictures, learning about new cultures and just being on the move. Not sure where my next place will be but excitedly waiting.

Comments for Teaching in South Korea - and beyond

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Apr 22, 2011
Be prepared!
by: Leyla

Denita, isn't it amazing how things happen when you just let them? You certainly sound as though you've taken to teaching overseas like a fish to water - and I'll be curious to find out where you end up next.

Apr 23, 2011
Speaking As Your Sister
by: Dawn


I have to tell you that the whole family was amazed that you, of all the family members, would live overseas - not to mention, living in a country that is vastly different than the US. What amazed us all the more was that you took to the experience to heart and let it open up avenues - personal ones, particularly - that you previously closed to yourself. You are now willing to try foods that may look strange to you and to expose yourself to experiences that put you in unfamiliar territory because you've discovered that the only way to know if something is for you is to try it, at least once. You've learned that what you think is weird actually may not be. In fact, once you've tried it, you sometimes embrace it.

I'm glad to see you becoming a more well-rounded person with a larger sense of adventure. These experiences have helped to make you a more compassionate and deeper thinking person who's able to share her experiences and understanding to others.

Your experiences will enhance the American classroom where the average student's experience is typically limited to the US, maybe Canada or the islands south of us, perhaps Europe.

I say this as a sister American who has also lived in South Korea for a combined 6 years and came back to questions such as "Why do you need a winter coat in Korea? It's in the tropics, isn't it?" or who don't know that the reason why the US has a strong military presence in South Korea is because North and South Korea are, technically, still at war.

Continue to expand your horizens and to share them with others. In fact, your example will encourage others who may hesitate to step outside their self imposed boundaries and reach for all the world has to offer.

Good job, Little Sister!


Apr 25, 2011
Teaching in South Korea - and elsewhere
by: Mom/Rachel

Dee, you are an inspiration to people who are afraid or apprehensive about taking that "giant step." It is not easy to leave your "comfort zone" and go so far away from home. It was very difficult for your family because of the distance. The holidays and special occasions left a void because one member of the family was absent. But, you knew the importance of immersing yourself in another way of life.

I had taught all four of you to go out and experience life. I encouraged all of you to be financially independent; have your own vehicles; have your own homes; have a social life; and to travel. All of you have succeeded in accomplishing all of it and more.

There are definitely two proud parents in this world and that is your Dad and me.

We are proud of all of our children and cherish each one of you.

Please continue to be a "beacon of light" to others, especially children and young adults. Sometimes, they need someone to reach out to them and encourage them to take that first step. Once they do that, they are on their way. God bless you for doing that.


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