3 Lessons I’ve Learned While Living Abroad

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“I’m working on myself.”

This is my motto. I say this all the time, usually after I’ve done something a little crazy, like lose my phone for the 3rd time in a year. Or forget someone’s name minutes after they’ve just told me.  Or double-book my time because I’m low-key a hot mess who can’t function without my planner. Or… Listen, you get the point.

But the truth is, we are all works in progress and no one has it all figured out. When you make a major life change, whether it’s moving to a new country, starting a new job, or even quitting your old one, you’re bound to grow in ways that you’ve never imagined. And that’s kind of the point. I mean, who puts in all this work just so that they can stay the same?

Living and working in Korea for the past year and a half has definitely had its ups and downs, but it’s also forced me to step out of my comfort zone and reflect. Whether positive or negative, everything that has happened during this journey has shown me something about myself.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned so far during my time here in Korea. They aren’t in any particular order, and I’m sure that I’ll have more to add to the list as the year progresses.

1. Not every battle is worth fighting. 

I’m very vocal and I don’t allow people to treat me any kind of way. I like that I stand up for myself and that I’m not afraid to speak up. But, if there’s one thing living abroad in Korea has taught me, it’s that sometimes you just have to let shit go.

Keyword: SOMETIMES

This doesn’t mean that I just sit back and let people disrespect me. But I’ve realized that everything that annoys me also isn’t worthy of my time or anger. Yes, I hate it when older Korean women and men bust in line in front of me on the train. And yes, it annoys me when people stare at me like they’re trying to see into my soul, which happens numerous times a day. But if I let these things bother me all the time, then I’d never be able to focus on anything else. I wouldn’t be able to give my full attention to the people and things that make me happy, which are more important.

If you’re irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?

-Rumi

2. Every friendship is not meant to last. And that’s okay.

I like to believe that my good friendships will stand the test of time. I’m definitely not the kind of person who calls and texts everyday but every time my friends and I link up, it’s like time hasn’t passed at all. Those are the kind of relationships that I consider my most honest friendships.

However, being an expat in Korea has shown me that some “friendships” are not the kind that will last forever and people will come and go. Some people are only interested in certain aspects of who you are. There will be people who you’re close with but once they move away or go back home all communication stops. And then there will be people that you meet who are stuck with you for life, meaning that ya’ll are going to be cool no matter where life takes you.

And I’ve learned not to take any of these things personally. It is what it is. I can appreciate people and moments for what they are now and not try to make them into something they’re not.

3. There’s no need to fear riding solo. 

Prior to moving to Seoul, I had never considered travelling solo. Sure, I’d explore my city alone, but I’d never consider going to another country by myself. Who’s going to make sure I don’t get lost? Who’s going to help me read this confusing ass map? Who’s going to get us all home once the beverages have started pouring? It sounded like a disaster just waiting to happen. No thanks, I’m good.

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Mekong Delta // Can Tho, Vietnam

But here’s the thing: once you move halfway across the world, alone, to a place where you don’t know anyone or the language, taking a short flight to visit another country where you don’t know anyone or the language doesn’t seem like such a big deal anymore. It doesn’t seem as impossible or as daunting as I once thought, because I’ve already done something bigger.

I then began to realize that there were other aspects of my life that I could take control of and deal with alone. I’m the Olivia Pope of my own life. Problems arise and they’ll get handled. It won’t always be easy, but I’ve got this.

I still have a lot more work to do in order to become the best version of myself, but I think that it all comes down to understanding that I’m in control of my own experience. There will be obstacles, but I can always choose how to let these things affect me. I decide what’s important to me and how to make it work. After all, it’s all part of the learning process.

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2 thoughts on “3 Lessons I’ve Learned While Living Abroad

  1. Keisha says:

    Great read. I am finishing up my first year in the ROK. Your three lessons resonate; I am truly forever changed. But I also have a greater appreciation for home as a result of my experience here.

    Liked by 1 person

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