Monday, May 9, 2011

How to be happy in Korea

Not every day in Korea can be an awesome day.  Just like living anywhere else, life in Korea has its ups and downs.  Not every day teaching English to students is a walk in the park; there are tons of challenges around every corner.  Some days after teaching you will want nothing more than to escape school and find the closest, quickest, and cheapest way to blow off your stress.  I will admit not every day is 100% the best day in Korea, and some days could go down in the book as truly terrible.

What you do with your stress and bad days in Korea is what makes all the difference.  I've found that if you don't have an outlet in which to relax yourself then it becomes harder to enjoy day-to-day life in Korea.  This is especially true if you find yourself feeling really homesick when you arrive.  Creating a routine for yourself that resembles what you would do at home is one way to combat these feelings.

For me, I like to do a variety of activities to get through any stress or negative feelings I might have.  After school I will usually head to the gym for a workout to burn off the day's stress.  Otherwise, I like to settle down with some of my favorite American TV shows and some tea, write in my blog/journal, read a book, listen to music, play my guitar, or spend time with friends.  Having good friends in Korea helps a lot since you all are doing the same thing:  teaching.  One thing to remember when making and keeping friends here is to find those who encourage you positively rather than breed more negative feelings.  It is easy to get swept up in a group of people who like to drink and complain about how much they dislike Korea.  But that doesn't really help you in the slightest, right?

It's not always Korea that can cause people stress while living here.  Sometimes things happen at home that bring the potential for heartbreak, worry, or confusion on how to handle a situation whilst living thousands of miles away.  This year has brought more than a few occasions of this for me, and thus I struggled with how to deal with these events.  One thing I had to remember, and that people from home repeatedly told me, that it would be easier for me to stay where I am, rather than trying to rush home without knowing what to do.  The hardest thing about living away from family and friends is trying to help them, but not really being able to do so.  I found that the best way for me to handle things was to not dwell on them too much; so I attempted to keep my mind occupied with school, friends, and hobbies.  I told a few friends what was going on so they wouldn't worry but mostly kept the details to myself, just trying to hold onto "normal" as much as possible.  I won't deny that my mood changed a good deal during those trying times, but that was to be expected to an extent.  I am starting to feel more like myself these days, now that time has passed, and happy to know that there is a strong support system here with my friends and coworkers.  That is the greatest thing that anyone living in a foreign country could hope to find, and I encourage you to seek that if you find yourself in this situation.

What are your keys to staying happy in a foreign country?

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