- This corner spot at this cafe, where I go only when I’m by myself
- Killing time by people watching
- Sitting outside in the sunshine when it’s fall
- That moment when the first student comes into the classroom and says “good morning teacher”
- Watching the Seoul sunrise during summer runs when the streets are empty at 5 am
- When the soju bottle is empty and we look at each other and without a word know that we need another one
- That really friendly crossing guard at work that always smiles and says good morning; he always made our day
- All of the hilarious things that happen in a school day; things the kids say in English, Jana coming to my classroom and messing with the kids, eating snacks together, when Jean and Jana send their kids to my class with cups of 꿀떡, 편의점runs with Allie during break time
- My legs feeling sore when I sit down for the morning teacher meetings
- When restaurant workers know our order because we’re regulars
- Getting service
- Riding the bus to visit the first city I lived in; getting 계란빵 from the best stand ever in downtown Gumi
- Walking to work listening to 00000 Million after 7 am yoga
- Walking anywhere, anytime, with both headphones blasting, and never feeling unsafe
- Solo hikes in the fall
- Going to to run with my crew every Thursday night
- The routine that makes me love the life I created in this city
- That old man who I always see running on summer mornings (who sometimes passes me cause he’s a speed demon….)
- The grandpa who I always see walking on the track that waves and cheers for me when I run
- When the soccer players accidentally kick the ball toward me while I’m running on the track and I panic that it’s gonna hit me in the face, then it doesn’t and I laugh at myself
- When my crew or yoga friends say “우리 크리스틴” and my heart is happy
- When random children (or anyone really) try to speak English to me
- When I zip my kids’ jackets up and for like half a second I pretend that they’re my child and I’m sending them off the school
- Going for evening walks by myself in the winter, wrapped in a scarf and listening to music
- Fighting at the restaurant about who’s gonna say 여기요
- Seeing my yoga teachers handing out flyers in the morning when I walk to school and getting hugs from them
- The way people hug at the studio
- Crossing the Han River on the subway and looking outside thinking that I came to this city to be a part of it but instead it became a part of me
- DK, our favorite chef guy at the BBQ restaurant 한남돼지집
- Having the fastest internet in the world
- Never carrying keys ever
- My favorite Hershey’s cone
- When Jana and I go on trips and get excited for our “airport sandwich” which we later discovered exists in Paris Baguette stores everywhere and not just at the airport
- Transportation apps that accurately live track the subways and buses and also tell you exactly what door to stand at to make your transfer the fastest possible
- Blending in, in a country of Asian people, and for the first time not feeling like a minority
- Being an invisible foreigner
- Going to Daegu to visit Michelle
- All of our favorite restaurants
- Random moments where I feel like I really made a life here
- Walking around and reading signs and advertisements even though I have no clue what they mean because just reading characters makes me feel accomplished
- Convenience stores actually being extremely convenient
- Being in situations where being a foreigner makes things so much easier / Playing that foreigner card
- Living in the same building as my best friends
- That feeling I get when I do something by myself for the first time and with no help from a Korean person
- Standing in a store perusing Korean snacks
- Getting to see the moon change phases every single night while walking home from the yoga studio
- Feeling like a proud New Yorker when I completely disobey crosswalk signals
- Bowing to every single person ever
- Monster pizza
- All the people we meet when we go out; the next day when we recap the night and laugh so hard
- Staycations with Michelle
- Heated floors
- Heated subway seats
- Awesomely cheap medical insurance
- Meeting Koreans who lived or studied in America and asking them what they miss, and hearing “Chipotle” as the answer
- Going to the grocery after school and buying basically the same exact things
- Costco trips and taking the wrong bus and ending up somewhere far away; aborting the mission and going to get food
- Crazy and hilarious taxi drivers, and taxi drivers that speak English
- The anxious and possibly exciting feeling every time I go to the Sinsa area that I’ll run into Sway
- Drinking soju at convenience store like the foreigners we are
- Ordering 네네치킨 and watching a movie in my cave
- Leaving school immediately after the last bell on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays so that I can make it to yoga class on time
- When we sit and have tea together after class and the people at the yoga studio discover that I’m not Korean
- When Jana has to buy BTS tickets and it’s the funniest thing in the world because life depends on this moment. Literally
- Waiting on line at Downtowner and feeling VIP when Mojito personally delivers our burgers and gives us free french fries
- When people visit me and I already know exactly what we’re going to do and what they’ll love
- When people ask to do tarot
- All the help from Jean and Harim when it comes to Korean stuff
- Walking behind Rob and looking at all the girls that stare at him in adoration of his 스몰 페이스
- Beerday Sunday Fundays!!!!!
- Waking up early and going to run races
- Meeting up with Margaret to eat ice cream and laugh about how we met in Korean class and bought matching pants an hour later
- Eating endlessly basically every meal
- How so many things feel like second nature after two years in Seoul
- Requesting music at the club (sometimes by screenshotting “Rihanna” and holding it up to the DJ booth ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ”
Leaving home gets harder and harder every time I do it. And I’m always asked, “Why do you like living abroad?” and “How do you do it?”
After years of thinking about it, I finally found some potential answers, thoughts repeated in my mind if nothing else.
I have developed a deep, deep passion for the world. I’ve had it for years, and I’m guessing I always will. It keeps me going and partly blinds me from the pain that I inevitably feel when I leave. This world just has so much to offer. There are so many people and lessons and activities and views to meet and learn and do and see. The fact that all of this is available and waiting is pretty insane to me and I can’t miss out. Long ago I told myself I would see as much of the world as I could and this goal is never-ending and doesn’t get easier the older I grow, but until that promise no longer serves me, I must go and go and go.
I look around and think to myself that the reason life is so wonderful is because we get to choose. Sure, there are some givens, but at the end of the day I hope we can all recognize that we have the power to change what surrounds, consumes, inspires, angers, and pushes us, simply by making different choices. Sometimes I look at the places I spend most of my time, at the things I own and use, and at the people I share my days with. When I see each of these truly, I am able to trace back to the moment I let them in, and more importantly, the moment I let them stay. Through this consistent practice I’ve come to the understanding that I am allowing what and who surrounds me. When I leave home, I recognize fully that it is my choice, and that there is no one else to thank or blame for what I see when I open my eyes.
I love home. I love coming home and I love being home. I love the place I get to call home, and the people from home that I get to keep in my life regardless of whether I’m physically there or not. I treasure this place so deeply because I only get to have it sometimes. At this point, many places feel like home, and I can’t afford to take that for granted either. But home has always been people for me. It just so happens that a large percentage of the people I love are in the same place, and for that fact alone, I love home.
I crave stories. How else would we learn and grow from each other if we didn’t share them with each other? Most anything we say or exchange in conversation, on social media, through music and film, while people-watching, and when we lie awake at night thinking about our day, is a story. They are being shared in different ways, selectively, and again we can choose and craft them how we want to. Anything that happens to us is one story, and the way we choose to see it once it’s done or tell it when it’s over, are other stories. Every place I go gives me another story to tell, and many to listen to. At any time I can draw from this archive, and I can learn.
I like being uncomfortable. I like placing and finding myself outside of the zone I would describe as “comfortable”. I like the rush of new environments and unfamiliar ground. I like how it feels to know that time is all it takes to adjust to most change and most difficulties. And I know from experience, that when we are uncomfortable, we are growing. It’s easy to stay, but I prefer a little bit of pushing my boundaries if it means expanding my growth as a human through the days I have been given. I don’t like leaving because it’s uncomfortable, I like leaving because of where it gets me. So, here I am again, getting through the uncomfortable changes to find what is waiting for me. And something always is.
Every time I leave home, I cry at the airport while waiting at the gate for boarding. It’s never because I want to stay, but because leaving doesn’t feel as good as arriving. The last few months I spent at home have been everything I’ve dreamt of and more. I am so grateful for all the time I got to share with so many people, all of whom I consider myself lucky to know and connect with. I’m thankful for all the food that I got to eat, and that I am always missing when away. I know that home isn’t everyone’s favorite place, so I know my luck for all that it is, to have been brought to a place that fills me with good love and good memories, each and every time.
I thiiiiink that this might be a very lengthy post…but I always say that and then get tired of typing and stop after 5 minutes. So I’m sorry in advance if that happens.
WELL. It’s been an extremely busy crazy awesome happy two weeks since I have posted.
Like come on, isn’t that the cutiest thing ever?! It makes me so happy and I would love to hang out with the pug or person who tweets as Dr. Pug.
ALSO. I discovered a show on Animal Planet called “Too Cute: Fluffy Puppy Party”. I never watch TV but I was stuck on the couch for a Too Cute marathon for a whole day. Thanks, Animal Planet.
Okay, now that that’s out of my system.
I moved into my house at school with the best roomiez a girl could ask for!! They love bacon, are happy, laugh a lot, like drinking beer and wine, enjoy Taco Tuesday and Sunday family dinners, and most importantly they tolerate my weirdness and loud music. It felt like home the second I walked in, and it makes me giddy inside when I go to sleep that I’m surrounded by a lot of love and happiness.
Pictured above is Wiener and Banana (the best duo you will ever know) in their prime; having beer and playing video games within the first few hours of reuniting after 9 months apart.
For the last three years I have been a Hofstra Welcome Week Leader, and this year was no different. I absolutely adored the group of students that were assigned to me. As I sat them in a circle I introduced myself and watched them to do the same, it took me back to 2010 when I was in their shoes. I looked at all of them and found that the last three years of college have changed me incredibly. I mean, the age difference between an 18 year old and a 21 year old is not very big, but the life experience that college has introduced to me is sort of mind blowing in retrospect.
It was a very nostalgic Welcome Week. It kind of hurts to be a senior while participating and working on events and programs planned for freshmen. And sometimes I think I have more school pride than a normal person should.
But at least I got to lead a trip to Radio City Music Hall (and I didn’t lose any students!) for a stage door tour. We met a rockette and also got private tours of the halls and stages at Lincoln Center. Incredible!
During Welcome Week, I was also asked to speak at a study abroad panel for new students interested in studying abroad, and I had what I like to call the “study abroad glow” happening for at least a week after those two study abroad sessions. There is nothing I love more than answering questions about Spain, study abroad, API, or my time abroad.
It’s been a weird thing adjusting back into life at school and not in Spain. It’s crazy to understand if you’ve never been through something similar to study abroad because it seems a little overdramatic when I talk about the transition home, but it’s so real and so difficult. I remember reading about reverse culture shock and blah blah blah before leaving for Spain, and I kind of skimmed through that material, but now it’s hitting me that it really exists, and it’s not easy.
I love life at home and here at school, but the love I have for my life in Sevilla is of another kind. And I think that’s okay.
I have a feeling this semester will be tough in several ways but I’m ready for it.
- The Study Abroad Process (sowhymorocco.wordpress.com)
- Study Abroad Photos (andrakay.wordpress.com)
- Study Abroad 101: Is studying abroad right for me? (marvelouslymonogrammed.wordpress.com)
- Preparing to Study Abroad? These 4 Tips May Help (allstate.com)
- Things I’ve done right in college so far (christinemeetslife.com)
- For American Students with Wanderlust, International Universities… (prweb.com)