December 15, 2012

Moving Abroad: The Emotional Aspect

Recently, I wrote about the increased number of American individuals moving abroad and working in well-paying jobs. I now feel I should highlight what some people consider the issues with moving abroad, because moving to a new country can be a very emotional trip.

The typical one-year contracted person goes through a myriad of emotions during their stay in South Korea. The following are partially my experiences and what I have observed among other teachers here in South Korea.

My personal experience was not that peculiar, but when I first arrived I think the most overwhelming feeling I had was anxiety. The original anxiety I felt was not the super bad kind that left me paralyzed in my room, but the kind that of anxiety I used to get before a basketball game when I was younger. The anticipation of standing in front of a classroom full of students who were eager to learn English made me very anxious and nervous. However, I was also very excited to have my own class and be able to work with my students.

I was in very unfamiliar territory when it came to teaching a pack of elementary school children English. At first, it is all very exciting. Meeting the children, messing up and saying their names wrong by accident. Then practicing how to say each other’s names, and still failing miserably.

After about two weeks I had some minor homesickness, but I was able to get over it because I had started to meet new people and I made new friends. It helped being around them. The friends I made at this point really helped me through some of the tough times in Korea.

Then in the second month things started to click and I started to settle into the idea of working abroad. Work was still a little rocky as I was still trying to figure out how to work in a different setting, but things were going better at this point.

The third month is when it usually starts to become extremely difficult for many individuals. Many teachers, including me, start to get depressed and very homesick sometime during the third month of working in Korea. My personal theory on this is that people are so used to living here at that point, that they start to really miss home and miss their families, especially if part of that is during the holiday times.

The holiday time is a very difficult season for people who are used to spending such times with their families. That is part of why I am personally hosting a Christmas party for my friends and the people I went to training together with. One of the best ways to deal with homesickness is to keep moving and keep busy with different activities.

After the third month and the beginning of fourth month people seem to become complacent and accept Korea overall. Then, usually around the ninth month, they start to get excited about the prospect of going home and seeing their old friends and family. Most people start a countdown of days left until their contract ends and they can go home.

Around 11.5 months is when they start to realize that they will be leaving behind a lot of the great friends they have made and met in Korea. This often leads to an emotional turmoil of sorts people are going home to see friends and family, but in return, they have to leave a large number of great friends behind.

The Good: making connections and amazing friendships in Korea that helped me through the bad times.

The Bad: the emotional roller coaster known as the first year was terrifying, but in the end it is usually a great experience.

Image Credit: gorillaimages / Shutterstock

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