See Ya Later!

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Goodbyes are never easy. But this isn’t goodbye; this is “See ya later!”

One of the best parts of travel is meeting and connecting with people at the most unexpected places and moments in time. It’s always a little sad to part ways, but life has a funny way of bringing people together again (and it’s always a surprise!).

You cross paths with people halfway across the world; on the streets of Singapore, on a train to Seoul, at a hostel in Japan, or on a bus tour around Europe. What matters isn’t how long you’ve known one another, because a brief moment can make a huge impact that can last a lifetime.

As Maya Angelo said, “At the end of the day people won't remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” So, make everything around you beautiful - especially your heart.

You might be in touch with these people for many years to come. Even if you lose touch, when you’re in their vicinity, you’ll reach out without hesitation because you know - that the connection will continue from where you both left off.

And this goes with all the people in your life. If the connection was truly meaningful, they’d forever have a special place in your heart.

Teachers of the World

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Teachers of the World was written near the end of my teaching journey in Korea. After having been a teacher in both Korea and Canada, I've grown an immense admiration for all teachers. It's highly challenging yet rewarding and will leave you a feeling of fulfillment that will last a lifetime. This isn't the end; teaching happens beyond the walls of a classroom filled with students. For all aspiring and current teachers – you may not be able to see it, but you will make a difference. An everlasting impact.

 

Teachers of the World

So you have a dream to change the world,

to make a greater impact,

to touch lives.

You feel called to do something meaningful,

rewarding,

and life-changing.

So you take a leap of faith,

hop on a 14-hour flight

and land in another country,

halfway across the world.

You immerse yourself in an entirely new culture,

experience language barriers,

and you’re all on your own.

 

You have no idea how your year will go,

but you trust your intuition,

'cause this feels right.

 

You've worked hard to be here,

stepped outside of your comfort zone,

to challenge yourself every single day.

 

You came with the purpose to teach English,

but your role consist of so much more

as you strive to be a role model,

positive influence -

on all six hundred of your students.

 

You're more than just a teacher -

you're a mentor,

a motivational speaker,

and everything in between.

 

Smile,

give your best attitude

and performance,

and your heart and soul into everything you do.

 

They may not understand you,

but they can feel your passion,

your love.

 

Nobody said it'll be easy,

keep going

and remind yourself the reason you're here in the first place.

You're meant to be here.

 

You may not always get along with your co-teachers,

feel frustrated from time to time,

countless hours spent lesson planning

and coordinating camps,

only to feel overwhelmed and underappreciated.

You now understand,

how difficult teachers have it.

 

Too much change

to wrap your head around,

the honeymoon phase is over,

but don't give up on your students.

 

They bring joy

to your world,

and at the perfect moments,

they remind you

this is why you do what you do.

 

You're stronger than you believe,

and if you wholeheartedly believe in your students,

why can't you do the same for yourself?

You need to give yourself more credit.

 

As a teacher,

don't take things personally.

Be invested in your students

but realize,

you can't control everything they do.

Their reactions are not directed towards you.

 

It's okay to mess up,

just be an example of a lifelong learner.

Remember,

it's not so much what you do,

but who you are,

that matters most.

 

You've shared cross-cultural experiences,

showed them your published piece of your first anthology.

You've accomplished your childhood dream,

and now you share your message,

that anything is possible.

 

You've grown with every struggle,

became more self-aware,

confident,

brave,

and independent.

You didn't just change the lives of your students.

They changed you.

 

And now,

you're an even better person than you were,

one year ago.

This is the result of being a teacher.

 

With a new perspective of the world

and hope for the younger generation,

you will forever treasure the memories of teaching abroad,

and develop a greater appreciation for all teachers of the world.

An Eye-opening Experience in South Korea!

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Dedicated to those interested and reached out to me previously about my teaching overseas experience! Here's my Q&A article originally published on MyWorldAbroad. (November 2017) #FirstPaidWritingGig #DreamComeTrue

When and where did you teach abroad? Did you go with a program? 

I taught English in Daejeon, South Korea for a year. I applied to a competitive, government-sponsored program called EPIK (English Program in Korea) and was placed at a public school. I taught a total of 600 elementary school students from grades three through six. For a few months during my time in Korea, I also applied to teach English to 20 high school students as part of a 40-hour after school program.

What made you want to teach English abroad?

I had a burning desire to travel, meet people from all over the world, and immerse myself in an entirely new culture while making a positive impact. My purpose was not only to help my students improve on their English language comprehension and speaking skills, but to help them build the confidence, character, and habits required to become successful in their future endeavors. I strived to create a fun learning environment for my students, all while sharing cross-cultural experiences and growing in the process.

How did you select your program/country and/or find an employer abroad?

At that moment in life, I wanted to work overseas more than anything. After research, informational interviews, and workshops (MyWorldAbroad at the University of Waterloo), teaching English seemed to be the perfect fit for me. It would be challenging, rewarding, and a great stepping stone towards venturing out into the world, while gaining work and life skills.

It all started when I interviewed a friend who inspired me with the idea of getting paid to travel. This, in turn, led to her connecting me with others who had also taught abroad. Eventually, I honed in on South Korea, which appeared to be a safe country for first-time teachers and travelers. I applied with the EPIK program because I wanted the support and training they provided, as well as to have a stable position at a public school. It also had great hours and benefits such as provided accommodation and reimbursed airfare.

When it comes down to deciding which country and program to work in, you have to do a ton of research and conduct informational interviews to know what’s best for you, while taking into consideration various factors such as the cultural lifestyle, cost-of-living, qualifications, hours and vacation time.

Describe the application process. What made you successful?

The application process took about six months, but it was worth it for the experience I ended up having. My program required me to take the TESOL (Teaching English as a Second Language) course, with a minimum of 100 hours, and that took a few months to complete. My application also required me to answer a few questions in essay format, as well as attach to a sample lesson plan. I worked with the recruiting company, Korvia, who helped me to organize everything that I needed and to meet all my deadlines. After waiting several months, I was offered a brief interview with EPIK and was asked several standard questions about myself, my intentions and my experience, as well as being challenged with a few situational questions. About a week later, I learned that I had been accepted into the program, knowing only in which city I would be placed (not which school). Signing the contract, submitting medical documents, and applying for my Visa were the next practical steps. The process took a long time because I knew I wanted to work in a public school setting. In addition, my chosen program only accepts applications at a certain time of year. So, it took a lot of self-discipline to keep myself organized. The recruitment team who helped me stay on top of things also helped me to be successful.

What was the biggest surprise about your teaching experience abroad?

The biggest surprise about my teaching experience abroad was learning about the educational system in Korea. Korea places great emphasis on education, and many of my students attended hagwons (private academies) after their day school or English tutoring, along with other extra-curricular activities. There were some strict rules and teaching methods that I didn’t particularly agree with, so it was a different and very eye-opening experience. I was also surprised by how close the relationships are between teachers and students. The students’ admiration and respect for their teachers is truly fascinating. While abroad, I realized my passion for teaching and developed a greater understanding and appreciation for every teacher around the world.

Did you participate in extra-curricular or social activities while abroad? If so, how did they differ from social activities in your home culture?

I joined a writers' group in my city, which was organized by expats. They ran weekly meetings and anyone who loved to write or wanted to meet people could join. We published our first anthology – a collection of various short stories and poetries by writers of various backgrounds. It was titled 'Fleeting', and was based on the idea that we were all in Korea at the same moment. On the day of the book launch, we were partnered with another group called the Wordsmiths, which held spoken word performances. It was truly a memorable night, because – despite the fact that it was totally nerve-wracking – I performed my published poetry, and all proceeds from sales were donated to a local animal shelter. There are numerous clubs and social activities abroad run by other expats which will allow you to meet people and make connections. Things like this make it easy to develop a friend network.

What made your experience abroad a success?

My experience abroad was successful simply because I maintained a positive attitude and stayed focused on personal growth throughout. You will encounter a number of difficult situations abroad, but it's important to stay open-minded to new experiences, people, cultures and perspectives. It helps to reach out to other English teachers who are in similar situations, as well as your school staff, and especially your family and friends back home for ongoing support. It's a constant reminder of your purpose abroad, the obstacles you've overcome, and a way of realizing that you have what it takes to succeed.

What was the most important thing you learned about communicating in a foreign culture while you were abroad?

The most important thing I learned about communicating in a foreign culture is to be open-minded and understanding. My biggest struggle abroad was the language barrier. There will be times you will feel lonely and frustrated when it comes to conversing with the locals or teaching your students and communicating with the staff at school. I took evening Korean classes to learn basic Korean and it made my life there a lot easier. Even though it's hard sometimes, continue to make the effort to talk and engage with others, especially your students. They may not understand you, but they can feel your passion and your love. Also, remember to use body language to communicate! And smiles are universal – they work with anyone, anywhere.

What is your number one tip for anyone hoping to follow in your footsteps?

My number one tip for anyone hoping to follow my footsteps is to follow your intuition. If you feel called to go abroad and teach, then just do it. It's a leap of faith, but everyone I know has returned home stronger than they’ve ever been. The experience changes you and you will also make an impact on those you touch abroad. Also: do a ton of research, talk to as many people as you can, and if the answer is still "YES", then go for it. There is no time like the present! Five years down the road, you will remember it as one the best investments you could have possibly made.

Do you have advice on how to handle a cross-cultural classroom?

Teaching in a cross-cultural classroom is an extremely rewarding experience. I worked with four different Korean co-teachers at my public school. It's important to communicate well with your colleagues, since they all have different expectations and teaching styles. Generally, at an elementary public school you will work with co-teachers and be expected to follow materials from the textbook. The students in class will be mixed levels and a lot of the times they won’t understand you. If you’re teaching on your own, as I did, you can always ask a higher-level student to help you translate. Also: When it comes to your classroom, use games, fun and creativity to demonstrate your enthusiasm and create positive energy.

Describe an experience from your time abroad that made a particularly strong impression on you.

One of my most memorable experiences was my final two weeks in Korea at the end of my contract. As I reflected back on my year, I couldn’t have been any prouder of myself. I’d accomplished so much, and overcome so many challenges and obstacles. Knowing that I would only be there for a year, I did everything that I wanted to do and was present for every moment. Of course, there were a lot of difficult times, but when I taught my final classes and said my goodbye speeches, I gave it my all and I chose to end on a positive note. It wasn’t until then that I realized the impact I’d had. My students thanked me and showed huge appreciation for all that I’d done as their teacher. It’s heart-wrenching, enlightening, and bittersweet moments like these that leave a strong impression on you for years to come.

What are your future plans for going abroad and for your career? 

I’ve been experiencing intense reverse-culture-shock and post-travel blues since I’ve been back. It will take some time to re-adapt and regain momentum, but the key is to be patient and practice gratitude. Travel changes you, but you carry the lessons learned and memories in your heart forever. My year overseas was a catalyst, cultivating my passion for teaching, writing, and social impact. I look forward to undertaking various international opportunities while building my career doing what I love.

Turning Reverse Culture Shock into Positive Change

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So what happens after you return home? What's next? These are questions you don't really worry about when you first decide to venture out into the world. At least, I didn't. You return home and nothing is the same anymore. Even if some things are still the same, you know from deep within that you are no longer the same person.

It's been three months since I’ve been back. Every day, I wake up feeling like it was all a dream. I’ve been frustrated and experiencing major reverse culture-shock and post-travel blues. The city that I grew up in and the country that I love so much now feel like a foreign place.

When you return after immersing yourself in another culture, here are some of the thoughts and feelings you might encounter:

Disconnection

You may feel like an alien, disconnected with some of your peers and dearest ones closest to you. In the beginning, you will experience joy from seeing everyone again. While some are genuinely interested in the stories of your time abroad, you will find others don't even ask.

When they do ask you about your experience you may ramble on with some, but mostly find yourself tongue-tied. Where do I even begin about my experience? So much has happened, but instead, I end up summarizing it in a single sentence and muttering something else along the lines of "it was a great experience." When in fact, it was the best investment I've made for myself and it was truly life-changing.

They then proceed to ask what's next and tell you that you should "commit." The reality is that my priorities are not the same anymore and I feel misunderstood all the time. Although their concerns for me usually reflect fear, I know that it's also out of love and that we're all doing the best we can with what we know. However, I’m no longer asking for permission or being apologetic of my life choices. My journey is a never-ending learning experience.

Change in priorities

My priorities have changed and now I have the intention of living my passion. I can't live the same "normal" life as I used to. My path was never conventional to begin with and I know that I want to live in different countries now. I value freedom and passion more than comfort and stability.

In so many ways I feel that travel has killed my ambitions and ruined my life, but I know that it has actually changed me to take bigger risks and live a life with no regrets. I left South Korea for several reasons but I'll definitely do it again in another country. What I thought was a one-time thing is actually an ongoing process. Travel is not a destination but a lifestyle that I choose to live.

Extreme emotions

You will find yourself questioning why you're here. You've experienced the highest highs and the lowest lows abroad and now you feel heartbroken.

Before I left, my heart felt like it was going to burst. I was excited to return home, but I was extremely sad to say goodbye to everyone especially my students whom I knew I would never see again. I've become attached and built my home in the people that I've met and the places that I've gone to. Once I left, I felt a part of me missing.

Surely, everything is temporary and goodbyes are never easy. Travel, especially solo, brings out the best in me. I'm happiest and most authentic when I'm travelling, which is why I seek my next adventure.

These are just some of the examples of things I wish I knew from other travellers before I left, but there's a number of ways to deal with all of this. Become aware that you're feeling this way and give yourself some time and space. It may take a few weeks or months, but it'll be different for everyone. It'll help to reconnect with family and friends and talk to your fellow expats who may be experiencing the same thing. Remember that you don't have to have everything figured out, prove anything to anyone and that it's okay to live a life others don't understand.

During the emotional mess that I've been experiencing, I need to remind myself to stay grateful. My loved ones welcomed me back with open arms and my love for them will never change. I was able to attract a few opportunities simply by focusing on my passions and the skills that I want to learn. One of my connections reached out to me because she read my travel blog and thought I was a talented writer. I am now a content creator for her organization, which is a dream position because I love to write and their mission resonates with me.

I know that I can build a lifestyle of travel, doing what I love while making a positive impact and inspiring others. This is just the beginning.

The beauty of travel is knowing that your home base is not just where your loved ones are—home is everywhere.

Originally published on Verge Magazine (August 1, 2017)

How Working Overseas Changes You

Growth looks good on you.

Growth looks good on you.

Travel changes you, but you have to be willing to change, too.

After working overseas and travelling over the past year, I’ve become an even greater advocate for travel. Now I have an intense case of wanderlust and here I am, reflecting on all that has happened with a full heart.

I came to South Korea with the intention of growing through travel and making an impact while achieving mindfulness. It wasn’t easy at all, but this is how travel changed me throughout and this is how I believe it could change you, too.

You become the master of your life

You learn to take charge of your life and become braver and more independent with every challenge and obstacle you face. You learn to embrace change, create change and let go of anything you can’t control. You learn to control your thoughts, feelings and how you react to certain situations. You no longer settle for less than what you deserve and now you’re not afraid to go after your dreams and create opportunities for yourself.

You adapt a growth mindset

You become more open-minded, constantly choosing experiences that help you grow and feed your curiosity. You continue to live your truth and not what others expect of you.

You’ve met others that taught you many things about yourself and the world around you. They’ve opened your eyes to new experiences and perspectives and challenged you to step outside of your comfort zone even more. You’re reminded of your experiences that anything is possible and that there are other ways to live a fulfilling lifestyle.

You bring your presence everywhere

You realize how minuscule some of your problems are with every place that you travel to. You’ve seen so much beauty in this world as well as the not-so-glamorous and even traumatizing parts of the world, but you see it all through the eyes of your soul. You become more adaptable and flexible with all the dynamic changes and you learn to live with less. You also learn to live in the moment and enjoy the simple, little things in life more than you used to.

You love a little more

You will definitely feel lonely throughout your journey of self-discovery and uncertainty.  However, you have your support system back home that’s there for you even with the heart-wrenching long distances and 14-hour time zone difference. Your bond with them is even stronger for the time they make to talk to you and listen to your endless adventures and rants.

Then you cross paths with your students, expats, travellers and locals and they become a huge part of your life forever—even if it’s just within your heart. Even when they’re scattered in the distance, you know that you could stay in touch with them through the ever-evolving internet. You also know that the world is a lot smaller than we think. To some benefit, they give you more of a reason to visit their home countries or travel often so that you could meet them halfway across the world someday.

The most important love you learn from this entire journey is the self-love that you needed to stay strong.

You’ve been through a lot, but you learn to be patient and not give yourself such a hard time every time you trip and fall. With every experience you pick yourself up, standing a little taller each time.

If you fall in love with your solitude and spend some quality time reflecting, you might hit one of those big moments where you discover your truest passions and purpose in life. For me, I developed a greater love for travel and a passion for teaching.  I also rekindled my first love in writing and was constantly inspired to share my travels.

You become more compassionate, grateful and appreciative for all the loves of your life and life itself.  Wherever I am in the world now, I constantly remind myself that if I survived an entire year living in a foreign country and traveling solo in three other countries, then I'm sure I'll be able to conquer what’s ahead.

 

Originally published on Verge Magazine (June 18, 2017)

Tips for First-Time Solo Travellers

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From barely making it on time to hop on the scheduled buses, trains and flights; to not bringing enough cash and having none of your cards work; to being yelled at by locals and almost receiving a penalty for your ignorance of the local laws—when it comes to travel, anything can happen.

When you venture out into the world, you will experience unexpected twists and turns throughout your journey. No matter how experienced of a traveller you are or how detailed your itinerary is, life simply happens. Sometimes lessons are learned from misfortunes, other times you experience adventures of a lifetime.

Travelling alone is liberating, but requires greater responsibility on yourself. There will be situations and circumstances you'd come across that you wouldn’t anticipate.

Every country, state, and city is different, and unless you've travelled and lived there previously, you're a foreigner and you need to travel smart.

Here are some quick tips and reminders for first-time solo travellers:

Do your research and plan ahead

Always make time to plan ahead. Every traveller is different and planning itineraries could be quite a hassle. Ask yourself, what type of traveller are you? Are you the laid-back type that just wants to relax and do a few activities a day? Or do you aim to accomplish as many things as you can in one day? Take note of what you're interested in to maximize your time, whether it's sightseeing, hiking, visiting tourist attractions and museums, tasting exquisite cuisines, café-hopping, or more active activities.

Most certainly, your itinerary does not need to be planned down to the minute and jam-packed with activities. Some spontaneity is fun, though a lot of the times it's best to plan your schedule to coordinate with your companions, prevent unnecessary stress, and provide excitement for your travels.

Bring emergency cash

Whenever I travel, I always bring cash with me. I would make the trip to the bank or a currency store and exchange a decent amount of money to survive for my trip. Although ATMs are available at the airport, banks and convenience stores, one should not solely rely on withdrawing money then.

You will likely need cash to reach your accommodation from the airport, it will take some time to find ATMs, and in a worst-case-scenario, your cards may not work. I also usually bring emergency cash with me in USD to exchange into if I ever run out, which has definitely been a lifesaver on several occasions.

Pack light

Packing less is actually more. A backpack or carry-on will allow your trip to be more carefree, physically and mentally. The idea is to not just pack light but to pack smart. Checking the weather beforehand and packing accordingly and creating lists will make your life that much easier. When packing, ask yourself questions like, do I really need this? Will I wear it? Be a minimalist to avoid paying extra luggage fees, and keep in mind that you will likely purchase more items over time to add onto your load.

Relax

Remember that you are on vacation, so make sure that you actually take that time to relax. There will always be a number of things to do and never enough time to accomplish everything, so prioritize and go with the flow. Some activities may take longer than others, it may take some time for you to locate the area, you might meet other companions along the way, and plans will likely not turn out the way you want them to. But that's life—and that's okay, just enjoy the ride. You worked hard for this moment, to be here for this short while, so stay positive and open-minded to everything anew.

Planning is always beneficial, but you could always go down the spontaneous route of not planning as much and seeing where life takes you. For one of my recent trips to trip to Malaysia, I had a well-planned itinerary down to the dollar, downloaded offline maps, subway maps, etc. Being prepared saved me a lot of time from having to ask around for help.

I met up with a friend and we travelled together for a few days, but due to some unforeseen reasons, we decided to go our separate ways. Upon arriving at the bus terminal to purchase my ticket to the neighbouring city as planned, the ticket times didn't match my schedule. I then discovered that Singapore was only five hours away for a reasonable price. It was right then and there that I knew I had to go and booked a spontaneous solo trip to Singapore for the Lunar New Year. I absolutely fell in love with Singapore. It’s trips like these that are most memorable. I've experienced a new culture, made new connections, and proved to myself yet again that I'm capable of so much more.

When travelling alone, trust that the universe has your back, but also know that there is a place and time to take chances, and there is a place and time to travel smart and stay safe. As a traveller who has experienced many unexpected turn of events, I highly recommend travel insurance for your own safety and peace of mind. And as amazing as it is to be able to tell your story of the time you hiked the tallest mountain in Korea in a typhoon—it was likely not the smartest and safest thing for you to do.

 

Originally published on Verge Magazine (February 25, 2017)

Is Teaching Abroad For You?

Warning: You'll fall, just get back up.

Warning: You'll fall, just get back up.

Ever since I've taken the leap to move halfway across the world to teach, people started reaching out to me. It seems that others not only admire what I'm doing, but they are also inspired to get paid to travel and to travel with purpose. I did the same thing before making my own move. I contacted others who were doing exactly what I wanted to do; teaching English in South Korea. Writing this blog and sharing my journey is my way of paying it forward.

Some of the most common questions I'm asked are "How do I know if this is for me?" and "What will I do after my year abroad?" People worry that they won't gain relevant work experience or obtain a job after their year abroad in their field. They worry that this is a "waste" of a year because it will affect their career goals and life plans. I can tell you one thing; a year aboard may be the most valuable year of your life thus far. You will learn relevant life skills that you can apply at work and throughout your life.

Of course, teaching abroad isn't for everyone. Working overseas is not as glamorous as it seems; behind all the Instagram pictures, there are stories of hardship, struggles, and a constant battle with the mind, illusions and mixed emotions. I think that everyone should travel, but not everyone should teach. When you live overseas, all your problems are magnified 10-fold. The stress intensifies and you deal with a lot in all aspects of your life; work, social, health. Here are some work scenarios to give you a better idea of what you may experience:

Behind all the Instagram pictures, there are stories of hardship and struggle. I think that everyone should travel, but not everyone should teach.

In one class, you're explaining the rules of the game to your students. While most of your students understand you, not all of them do, especially your lower-level students. You look at your co-teacher for help, but she's unaware of what's happening. Instead, she's standing at the back texting on her phone, completely uninvolved with the class. Sometimes, she even disappears from the classroom and you're all on your own.

Can you handle it?

In another class, you're barely doing anything. The co-teacher's English is good, but she speaks so much Korean in class that you don't even know when it's your turn to speak.

Can you handle it?

On Friday, you approach your co-teacher to discuss the lesson for Monday's class. She tells you she hasn't planned anything yet and she doesn’t need any of your help. She will plan it over the weekend and tell you last-minute on Monday. . .except you will be teaching a different lesson for every single one of your classes.

Can you handle it?

You're teaching high school students in the evening and half of them aren't paying attention. Someone has fallen asleep, another is taking selfies, another is applying makeup, a few are chit-chatting. You understand that this is actually normal in a high school classroom, but it feels disrespectful.

Can you handle it?

In Korea, there are many spontaneous events or changes that we like to call the "Korean surprise." You may be told something last-minute, such as cancelled or rescheduled classes. You're constantly thrown off-guard. You might be asked to teach one thing, but suddenly the teacher takes over.

There are clear solutions to the situations above, such as adapting to the situation, thinking on your feet, and always being prepared to teach and manage the class as if you're on your own. Understand that there are cultural differences but also be prepared for confrontations when you feel that the situation is crossing your boundaries.

At the end of the day, you choose your battles. You will find yourself in less than ideal situations at work and while travelling, but you will grow from it all. If you're young, have no dependents, want to travel, make a difference, love to work with children, and want to grow as a person, then this could be for you and there is no better time for you to do it. If you feel called to go, then trust your intuition and trust yourself that you're strong enough to overcome anything.

Ten months in, as I reflect on my journey here, I can confidently say that I am not the same person that I was when I first came and I won't be the same person returning. My perspective on the world—as well as myself—has changed, and I give this experience credit for shaping me into a better person today. It is a year worth investing in, because of the valuable life lessons and self-discovery that I've made along the way.

 

Originally published on Verge Magazine (December 4, 2016)

Making An Impact By Sharing Across Cultures

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When your purpose to teach abroad is to make a positive impact, you will do wonders.

Travel is a choice and an investment. Many of us choose the unconventional path to travel long-term. We aspire to immerse ourselves in another culture and experience an entirely new lifestyle and perspective. Some of us choose to teach abroad for various reasons—one of the many being to make a positive impact.

It wasn't long before my students became my main priority here. My job was not just limited to teaching English, but to sharing cross-cultural experiences as well. It is my purpose to help them build character and the confidence to become successful in their future endeavours. I don't expect to change the world, but knowing that I've made an impact on at least one of my students is enough of a reason for me to consistently give my best effort and heart into everything I do.

As a guest English teacher, there isn't much that I can do. My position does not allow me to be very flexible, express individuality or creativity. Collectivism and a social hierarchy is the cultural norm in Korea, so a lot of the times I find that I have to stick to the textbook and adapt to my co-teachers' teaching styles. However, like everything else in life, sometimes you will need to take the extra step and speak up for what you truly believe in to create a change.

I definitely experience many overwhelming days when I mess up or feel completely frustrated and under-appreciated by both my students and my co-teachers. Occasionally I would ask myself, "Why am I here?" Fortunately, there will always be students that remind you of the reason why you're here in the first place and why you need to keep going.

Three months into the job, I received a surprising phone call from the mother of one of my students. At that moment, I felt my heart beating fast, body heating up, and voice shaking as I spoke. But I shouldn't have worried; she was calling to thank me for taking care of her son and for being a positive influence on him. His parents were appreciative of my efforts in creating a pen-pal system and writing to my higher level students, allowing them to improve their English language literacy. As I was completely at loss of words, she continued and said they would like to drop by the office to hand me a gift for Teachers' Day, a holiday in appreciation of all teachers in Korea. It was moments like these that I remind myself that I need to give myself more credit and this is why I'm meant to be here.

Four months later, I was given the opportunity to be my authentic self and showcase my creativity. I was asked to do a live broadcast at my school to teach all 600 of my students about Canada. I was more excited than anything to be able to share my culture with them. I could've done a simple PowerPoint presentation, but instead, I wanted to do more and created a fun, yet educational 10-minute video. The video was not just for my students, but for myself and everyone back home as well.

I created a script with a short story where I played two characters, added one-liner facts for both my family and friends to make their appearance in, added videos of Toronto landmarks, and incorporated some slides, narration and an interesting commercial to end it off. The video was a huge hit, and it was truly a blessing to be able to witness my students reactions and to see my family and friends take part of this project. Not only did I learn so much more about my home country, but I had so much fun filming and creating this beautiful memory for years to come.

Originally published on Verge Magazine (November 29, 2016)

Why I Fell in Love With Solo Travel

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To travel solo is to make your own decisions without accommodating or compromising to anyone else's preference or schedule. To travel solo is to be free of the influence of others, to be nobody but your true self. The first time I travelled solo was when I left for my work abroad placement in Korea. It was exhilarating to say goodbye to my comfort zone and everything that I loved. I hopped on a 14-hour flight without knowing a single soul at my destination.

Fortunately, I wasn't entirely alone because I was with the EPIK program and so I travelled with others for most of my trips. As a female, I was wary of travelling alone, but that changed after meeting a number of brave, inspiring solo travellers (including women) and actually doing it. I now recommend that everyone try travelling solo at least once.

I wasn't just addicted to travel—I had fallen in love with solo travel.

It started with a small trip to explore a park in my city. I felt excited to do it at the time, even though I'm terrible with directions and had a high probability of getting lost. Yet, I knew that I would be alright; I just had to keep calm and trust myself.

It was a huge accomplishment for me. As I hiked up to beautiful, breathtaking scenery, I knew that I had to do this more.

Months went by and I went on more solo trips. I craved showing up at the station and hopping onto the next available train to explore another city. I wasn't just addicted to travel—I had fallen in love with solo travel.

Although I love to create and share memories with good company, here's three ways solo travel changes you:

Freedom

You feel a type of freedom like no other. You wake up at any time of the day, travel anywhere you want based on your interests, eat whatever you want whenever you want, rest at any time, or stay at a certain place at your own pace. If you're into photography and you want to take a ton of pictures of the same scenery, or you want to make videos and talk to your heart's content, nobody is going to rush you or judge you. The choice is yours.

"Me" Time

Everyone is so busy caught-up with the workload and people in their life, they barely make time for themselves. Solo travel allows you to enjoy your own company and to be comfortable with your own thoughts; to take some time to reflect on who you truly are and learn more about yourself throughout your journey. You will make mistakes, learn major life lessons, go on unpredictable adventures, and realize that you are braver and more capable than you'd ever thought possible.

Personal Growth

I believe that my burning desire to travel is my soul's longing to grow. Travelling solo is extremely challenging, but you will become more independent and develop so much as a person. Even if you are not comfortable doing so, know that you are never really alone. You will meet others along the way, whether it be locals or expats like yourself. You will be exposed to their cultures, lifestyles, and intriguing stories. You will learn to have faith in humanity, to trust strangers and ultimately, your own intuition.

You don't have to go far to consider it solo travel—what matters isn't the distance, but enjoying yourself and growing in the process.

 

Originally Published on Verge Magazine (October 8, 2016)

4 Important Lessons That I've Learned From TEFL

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What defines a "good" teacher?

My biggest concern coming to Korea was becoming a good teacher. The term varies—but for me, I strive to be a teacher that my student looks up to; someone who is approachable, positive, confident, patient and knowledgeable. A teacher who is friendly and fun, yet well-respected.

In my first few months of teaching, I was determined to create lesson plans that were not only educational, but fun for my students. I noticed many of my students were very shy to speak English. My hope is that they feel more comfortable speaking English by the end of the year, and enjoy learning English. I would spend countless hours researching, planning and creating my own content. Every grade and class are different, and while some activities work out for one class, it may not for the other. As time went by, I learn more about each grade, class, the students, and teaching in itself.

Here are some of the most important lessons I've learned from teaching:

1. Communicate well with your co-teachers

Teaching English abroad in Korea is very different from what one would expect. As a guest English teacher in a public school setting, we are assigned to work in one or several schools with one or several co-teachers at each school. Fortunately, I was assigned to one school where I am able to see my some of my students on a daily basis. I work with three co-teachers, all with different teaching styles and expectations.

Most of the time, I teach equally with my 3rd/4th grade co-teacher. My 5th and 6th-grade co-teachers, however, prefer that I lead classes while they support me on the side with translation and classroom management.

I've learned the importance of communicating clearly with each of my teachers on my role and expectations. It's crucial to discuss the rules, attention cues, rewards, punishments, and motivation systems at the very beginning of the semesters. How much responsibility you carry and flexibility you have will depend on your co-teachers.

Your relationship with your co-teachers and your students will determine your work and living abroad experience.

2. Always be flexible

While in class teaching, you're explaining the next activity, when your co-teacher suddenly cuts you off and continues explaining in Korean. Then she starts teaching something on the board in Korean, which was not discussed with you previously. You don’t always know what’s going on, or what will happen next, you just have to be flexible and go with the flow.

Every time I step into a classroom and greet my students, I feel that I am stepping into an arena, battling for a successful teaching and learning experience for my students and I. No matter how I feel at the moment and the energy that is circling the classroom, I try to put forth my best attitude and performance. The truth is, you never know what will happen in the next 40 minutes, but you do your very best and adapt to the situation and the environment that you're in.

3. Don’t take things personally

Sometimes I don't feel very confident while I'm teaching, especially when it comes to disciplining the students. Sometimes I make up stories in my head due to students' lack of participation, the few tired or bored faces, or when I'm having a difficult time getting them to listen. After having to deal with many situations and challenges of teaching, I learn to not take things personally, and let go a little. I continue to do my best for my students while understanding that their reactions are not directed to me personally and that I cannot accommodate to them all as I relate back to my younger self and perspective as a student.

4. Trial-and-error is the way to go

As a new teacher, I have many ideas that I want to try out. Some of the time, my co-teachers will disapprove of these ideas, but I will continue to push forward because I believe that you won't know until you try. Sometimes my ideas flop, sometimes they turn out better than I've expected, but the important thing is to not be afraid of failure. There are many resources out there that you can use, but it's important to amend these activities so that it would fit your students level and abilities.

Teaching has to be one of the most challenging professions. Teaching ESL to young children is simple, yet incredibly difficult at the same time. You're not just an educator; you're a parent, a babysitter, an entertainer, a motivational speaker, a mentor, a role model. You take on so many roles and responsibilities as a teacher, and once you step foot in the classroom, every move that you make and everything that you say has an effect on the students. Display the right attitude and your students will reflect the same to you.

 

Originally published on Verge Magazine (Sept 19, 2016)

What's It Like to Teach English for the First Time?

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It was only during my EPIK orientation—a mere week before I was supposed to start teaching—that I found out I had been offered a position at an elementary school. Not only that, but I would be teaching 600 students in grades three to six, 23 classes a week. I was excited to meet my students, but at the same time, I was worried. I didn't have the teaching credentials or experience to manage a classroom. I felt that my online TESOL course and prior ESL tutoring experience wasn't enough to prepare me for what I was about to experience as a TEFL teacher.

Fortunately, orientation was very informative for us newcomers; we had a practical component to evaluate and provide one another feedback before we were thrown into the classroom. It was comforting to know that we would have a support system and meet other foreign teachers placed in the same city, many of whom were also first-time teachers.

As I entered my first sixth-grade classroom, I was faced with 25 wide-eyed students, who all looked quite similar to me. I'm Asian like the rest of them, but I’m Chinese-Canadian, and I could only say a few sentences in Korean. I started off by introducing myself and Canada through a PowerPoint presentation, then playing a quick four corners game where they had to guess my favourite things and run to the corners of the room. I also gave them time after to ask me any questions that they had and was surprised to come across some very interesting, yet personal questions.

Here are some of the most common questions I heard:

"How old are you?"

It is perfectly normal to be asked your age when you meet someone for the first time. This is so the other person knows whether to speak to you in a formal or informal manner. It is in their culture to have a hierarchy system where greater respect is given to those older than you, as well as the elderly. This is shown in many forms of expressions and gestures.

One of the most interesting discoveries I've learned is that I'm older in Korea. They use a different age system, where everyone is born as one-years-old. You are another year older on New Year's day, so you will be one to two years older than your Western age.

"Do you have a boyfriend?”

It seems that everyone wants to know your relationship status. Korea is known to be a country of romanticism, but it is simply a conversation starter to get to know you better.

"What is your blood type?"

They will give you strange looks if you're unable to answer what your blood type is. It's of importance to know for emergency situations.

Fortunately, my first class and week went better than I anticipated. I was surprised to know a number of the higher-level students in each class as well as how disciplined and well behaved most of my students were. The level of class participation is astonishing, especially for the younger grades. They are also taught to stand up from their seats and answer in a loud, clear voices.

My initial impression is that the South Korean education system is very different to Canada's—but in a good way. Teachers are highly respected in their culture. The Korean education system is extremely strict, yet highly valued and reputable. Grades are placed in high importance, and students are expected to earn perfect scores. I later discovered a good majority of my students as young as grade three attend hagwons (private academies or institutions) or private tutoring, along with other extracurricular activities several days a week after school. They would finish in the late evening hours with very little time to do their schoolwork.

As the months go by, I learn so much about teaching, being a teacher and co-teaching.

I've gained a deep appreciation for teachers and educators all around the world—past, present and in the making. Teaching is not an easy job.

 

Originally published on Verge Magazine (August 24, 2016)

3 Challenges of Working Abroad

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Travel isn't always comfortable—and it shouldn't be. I believe that if you're not struggling, you're not growing. Being completely outside of your comfort zone and learning along the way is a rewarding experience in itself. There are so many challenges that I've had while working abroad in Korea. I've gone past the honeymoon phrase, and am now riding an emotional rollercoaster of confusion, frustration, homesickness and loneliness. Some days I could not be any more content that I'm here, and then there are those off days where I want to be in the comfort of my home country, surrounded by my loved ones. Here are some of the top challenges that I've dealt with so far:

Staying Healthy

In a span of three months, I’ve been sick three times. Since moving here, I've been mentally and physically drained, and in my most vulnerable state. It's exhausting being sick and alone on the other side of the country. You have to take care of yourself like the adult that you sometimes you forget that you are.

It wasn't until I experienced being ill in another country that I truly understood how important my health is.

My doctor told me that it was quite common for foreigners to catch the flu as they adjust to a new environment. It could be caused by all the changes, such as the change in season, dehydration, and the amount of yellow dust floating around. It might be the stress of living abroad and having to speak so frequently on daily basis as a first-time teacher. It might even be my overwhelming schedule, which makes me sleep deprived from time-to-time.

Thankfully, from my experience, Koreans are extremely caring and generous. Finding medical services is not difficult in my city, as there are many clinics and pharmacies in close proximity. I was fortunate enough to find clinics with staff that speak English. It wasn't until I experienced being ill in another country that I truly understood how important my health is. Your health determines your entire experience, and should always be your number priority.

Language Barrier

It's a whole new level of loneliness when you're surrounded by more people than you could count, yet feel completely alone. It's when you're feeling down that you suddenly realize that you're alone in a country, 10,000 kilometres from home.

Not being able to communicate with others on a daily basis is one of the most difficult aspects of living abroad; the constant struggle for both parties to express themselves to to understand what the other person is saying.

There will be a gap that prevents you from truly connecting with your co-teachers, staff and, especially, the students. A great amount of frustration and time it takes when it comes to performing basic, daily routines such as ordering food, opening a bank account, getting your phone plan set up, and asking for directions.

Sometimes you just have to remind yourself that you are a foreigner entering someone else's home, therefore you have to follow their rules. Just because they speak your language, doesn't mean that they should accustom to your needs. After all, it is their second language and it isn't second nature for them.

My co-teachers and staff should help make my life easier in Korea, but they are not obligated to. I have to make more effort in learning the language for my own sake. Knowing even the basics can make my experience more enjoyable. And never forget that the universal language of a smile goes a long way with anyone, anywhere.

Finding Balance

It's never easy prioritizing your time, especially when you're overseas. You want to make the most out of every single day and you try to push yourself explore whenever you have the time.

Time here seems to fly by 10 times faster than it does back home. I've somehow managed to overwhelm myself with an ambitious schedule. On the weekdays, I have both Korean classes and yoga classes twice a week, on top of full-time work and household chores. My weekends are dedicated to socializing and exploring.

I like to keep myself busy, and I've always been big on trying new things. I say yes to pretty much everything, because I've adopted the "you only live once" mindset. However, what I really need is time for myself. I need to focus on myself more and take things one step at a time. After all, I have the entire year to explore and see the world.

The best thing about all of these challenges is when you handle them all on your own. When you share these struggles with your family and friends back home, you're reminded that they will always be there to support you on your journey.

A close friend of mine reminded me several things when it comes to living abroad: You will experience stress, hardships, and loneliness along the way, but you have the power to create the change in any situation that you're unhappy in. More often than not, it is all in the mind and you will need to change your perspective. Over time, you will learn to adapt. It probably won't get easier, but it will definitely get better.

 

Originally published on Verge Magazine (May 24, 2016)

Finding the Bravery to Live Abroad

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It has officially been a little over a month since I’ve stepped foot into South Korea. I still wake up every single morning and think to myself how unreal it is that I am here right now. I am living my dream of working and travelling abroad. I made it happen all on my own.

Two years ago, I was still in school and had a strong desire to live and work abroad. I wanted to immerse myself in another culture, meet people from all around the world and make a positive impact in the lives of others. I wanted to step out of my comfort zone, challenge myself and grow as a person. I wanted to live life a little differently and become more self-aware—all while continuously learning and enhancing my skills.

I wanted to immerse myself in another culture, but I never thought that I would be brave enough to live overseas. 

However, I didn't think that I would actually pursue it. I knew that living overseas meant facing dozens of challenges, including homesickness, culture shock and language barriers. I never thought that I'd be brave enough to live abroad on my own for an entire year.

After graduation, I landed a permanent full-time position in the field that I studied in. It was a valuable experience, but it also reminded me of what I really wanted. I knew that I didn’t want to stay in my nine-to-five soul-sucking job much longer. So I applied to teach at the competitive government-sponsored public school program EPIK (English Program In Korea). Unfortunately, I didn't get past the interview.

That didn't stop me, though. Several months later, I reapplied and was accepted! The entire process took a good six months; from applying, completing my TESOL course (Teaching English as a Second Language), gathering my documents, the interview, and obtaining my visa. The waiting game was intense, but it was definitely worth it.

Fast-forward to today and I’m loving it here. Korea is so breathtakingly beautiful. I love learning about the country's culture and history. Everything here is so new, fascinating and different compared to my life back in Canada. I absolutely love my school, my incredibly caring staff and co-workers, and my adorable and bright students. I developed a passion for teaching. I’ve also met some of the kindest and the most welcoming group of expats in my neighbourhood.

I'll admit that my first week was rough. I had a fever on the first day of arrival, lost money, and was left behind at 4 a.m. in the morning while I was still finding my way around. However, every time I struggle, I remind myself why I’m here in the first place and why I need to stay positive.

I refuse to allow fear to get in the way. I don’t know how my year will go, but I can only hope for the best and make the most of my experience. My intuition tells me this may be the best decision that I could've made for myself. I promised myself that I will be strong for my family and friends who have been nothing but loving and supportive throughout this entire process. I came here knowing all the challenges that I would have to face, and I came here knowing that I am strong enough to overcome it. Subconsciously, I knew that I would come back even stronger and this is why I'm here.

 

Originally published on Verge Magazine (May 24, 2016)

Now and the Unknown

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Now and the Unknown

When you make a conscious decision

to step outside of your comfort zone,

to challenge yourself to reach

your full potential,

you will realize you are braver,

and more capable,

than you could ever imagine.

 

When you have a

burning desire

to create change in your life

and act upon it,

you gain control of your destiny.

 

When you adapt to an

abundant mindset

and take charge of your emotions

and responses

to different situations,

you will change.

 

That is when you will no longer settle

for less than what you deserve,

and instead,

you work on creating opportunity.

 

When you consistently put yourself out there and

embrace vulnerability,

seek help,

and genuinely help others

without expecting anything in return,

you will find faith

in humanity and self-confidence.

 

When you

choose happiness,

accept that certain things are out of your control,

and let go of anything that no longer serves you,

you will understand your power and self-worth.

 

When you embrace your flaws and become your

authentic self,

you will achieve inner peace,

and self-love.

 

When you take a leap of faith

and trust the timing of your life,

you will understand

that everything happens for a reason.

 

When you encounter

adversity and failure,

but learn from your mistakes,

persist

forward or move on

from the obstacles or setbacks you face,

you will become stronger than ever before.

 

When you encounter difficult decisions

that will greatly impact others and yourself,

but have nobody to rely on,

you will learn

independence.

 

When you choose to

invest in yourself

and you choose to love a little more,

you will grow into the person you're meant to become.

 

When you surround yourself with those who lift you higher,

and make the effort to build these relationships,

you will be loved,

supported,

and inspired.

 

When you aspire to make an

impact

to change the world,

start with yourself,

then move onto one other person,

and you will see results that exceed your expectations.

 

When you

dream big and hustle,

always remaining on the go,

you will learn to slow down,

and that less,

is actually more.

 

When you are curious and open to

new experiences,

new people,

new cultures,

new perspectives,

you will learn more about others,

yourself,

and the world that you live in.

 

When you travel around the world and

travel alone,

you will experience incredible adventures,

trust strangers,

and ultimately,

develop your own

intuition.

 

When you focus on the now and not the unknown,

appreciating the little things in life,

and realizing how blessed you truly are,

you will

live life

and experience little

miracles

along the way.

 

And when you strive to be

bolder,

braver,

and

better,

you will become the best version of yourself.

 

Check out my live performance here!

Originally published on Daejeon Writers’ Anthology ‘Fleeting’

Book Launch & Spoken Word Performance

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Last night was so unreal.

I accomplished yet another dream. I did something I would have never imagined I would do in a million years.

In the last month or so, I have not been feeling like myself. I was not in the greatest of moods and I feel limited at work. The novelty of living in a new country was gone. I was bored, and had fallen back into my comfort zone. I felt that I no longer had anything to really look forward to here in Korea anymore, besides the final week of February when my family comes to visit. I am more excited than anything for 2017, my travels with the family and returning home. There is so much to look forward to and I had many plans in mind, which allow me to continue to step outside of my comfort zone and grow as a person while doing what I love and accomplishing more dreams.

My thoughts manifested my deepest desires to do something different, challenging and memorable to end off 2016 right. Several months before I came across an event to launch a book with a group of Writers in my city. I knew this was a great opportunity for me to build my portfolio in writing and personal brand. Most importantly, it was exciting to be a published writer and share my writing and messages to the world. I've been slowly getting back into my love for writing, as I have been writing about my travel experiences on Verge Magazine on a monthly basis, but this was the next level.

I wasn't sure what I was going to write, all I knew was that I wanted to share my insights, positive messages, and inspire others in some way.

What came out straight from my heart ended up being a poetry, and a summary of everything that I've learned in the past 2-3 years. From the last term of undergraduate studies to life after graduation, to now - my first solo adventure teaching abroad in South Korea. Reflecting back to these huge milestones of my life, I realized that I had grown and accomplished so much.

I'm extremely happy to know that my poetry was not only going to be published into physical books, but it will also be sold online as an Ebook. Not only that, but 100% proceeds will be donated to the animal shelter. But, I was still in a pretty crappy mood. And so, I did something very unlike me, something that I knew that would make me feel extremely uncomfortable just the thought of it, but was very determined to do it because it just felt...right, oddly enough.

I signed up to perform my poetry at the spoken word event...which was the event of the book launch. After signing up I felt an instant pang of regret. After feeling uneasy for about a week, I allowed myself to let go of that fear. I was not backing out of this and I knew that I was doing this because I needed it to uplift my mood and live up to my poetry - which was simply about living in the now and not the unknown, stepping outside of your comfort zone, and challenging yourself. So, this would be the perfect reminder of everything that I've been through and everything that I've come to believe.

Even up to the day of the event, I was fine, but as I reached closer and closer to the moment that I had to walk up there and speak - public speaking, my biggest weakness. I also despise being the center of the attention most times. So yes, I do this on a daily basis because my job as an English teacher requires me to do so. But I do this in front of little children, not adults my age that understand every word I say as I say it. Yes, I may never see these people again, but...Why did I sign up for this?

Why do I always do this to myself?

The moment came and I stepped out in front of the crowd. The bar was filled with people and I smiled and said hello. Just read it. It's not a competition, you are doing this for myself. The mic stand was too tall, so I took the mic off and bought it closer to my mouth so I could be heard better. Good idea. And then I did it. Honestly, I was dying inside with every passing minute. My poetry was long, and I was shaking and stumbling upon words, and I felt myself heating up and speeding up. I finally finished and ran off back to my seat.

It took me a long time to recover, but when I finally did, I felt relieved. And quite happy. Two random strangers approached me and told me they loved my poetry and wanted  to talk to me more about it. How I was inspired to write it and the story behind it. That it was relatable and they were moved by it. Another also complimented my writing. I was feeling quite good about it, that my poetry strung feelings because that was the purpose. I wanted others to think about their own experiences and feel proud and inspired.

That night as I held onto the book and watched the video of my performance that my friend recorded, I was in awe. I actually looked more comfortable than I felt, and I can truly see how much I have improved as a person in just a year's time. Teaching abroad has given me the confidence to speak up in front of crowds of people. I moved around a bit, I was loud and clear, and I gave eye contact from time to time whilst reading. It was unbelievable...

I am so proud to show this to my family and friends. I couldn't sleep that night. I felt overjoyed for overcoming my fear. I'm still in shock as I write this. It's so unreal. I've accomplished SO much. 2016 was SO hard. But I survived.

New Start: Moving to Korea

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I still remember my last week in Toronto like it was just yesterday. The prior months when I had my interview with EPIK and then bombed it.

Then reapplying and receiving the news that I got accepted into the EPIK program.

The last few months, weeks, and days in Toronto as the days pass by and I was getting closer to leaving my comfort zone and everything I love behind.

When I bid my last farewell to my family, and to my parents prior to departure.

When I hopped on the plane on my own for the first  time on a 14 hour direct flight to Korea.

The feels.

But I was more excited than anything.

It seems like just yesterday when I was telling my family and friends that I want to teach abroad in South Korea.

I didn't know exactly why Korea. I wasn't that into Korean dramas, Kpop, and the culture like some of my friends. I barely knew anything about Korea.

I just knew that I wanted to see the world and grow in the process.

South Korea seemed like a good option - after doing plenty of research and information interviews, it seemed like the best place to teach overseas for a first-time teacher and traveller.

I don't regret my decision of coming here and I definitely don't regret reapplying with EPIK for the next intake.

Coming here, I didn't know exactly what to expect and what I was getting myself into. No matter how much you prepare for your departure, you are bound to experience challenges, hardships, and culture shock.

The experience of working and living abroad was exactly what I wanted for quite some time, and it felt right at the time.

It still feels right to be here, even though it doesn't feel like "home."

Thinking back, it seems that everything worked out the way it was supposed to. That I was supposed to here, at this time.

Everything just fell into place. The transition from the last job to coming here. Everything in between; the things I've been a part of, the people I've met, the things I've learned. All of it was necessary for me to experience prior to coming here.

Because just before I came here, I felt ready. Ready to level up to the next challenge. Ready to create the change in my life.

The last month in Toronto was so bittersweet with all the farewell parties and gatherings. I tried to see all of my different groups of friends before I left. I spent as much time with my family as possible.

All the talks about trips to visit me or not seeing me for a whole year, to how long will I stay and my plans afterwards, to how much I would change and how much everything will be different in a year.

For a while, I was constantly thinking about plans coming back from abroad and I wasn't even in Korea yet. I had all these plans and pretty much everything figured out for when I return. But who really knows when I will return? The plan is a year. (And in honesty, it is still a year for now).

Who knows?

All I know is, I shouldn't think too far into the future. I should be making the most of my experience right here, right now. This may be the only time I have being here and travelling this much.

Right now is the only time that is guaranteed.

Live in the now, because there is so much beauty in the now and the unknown.