Updated: Jul 9, 2020
| This is the 113th story of Our Life Logs |
I was born in 1985 and grew up in Covington, Kentucky with my parents and two brothers. I had a great childhood full of fun family vacations and playing outside. I mostly hung around with my brothers and their friends, which made me into a bit of a tomboy. I was the kid in school that wanted the right answers, followed the rules, and always tried to please the teachers. I loved schoolwork and getting the highest grades. I was the smart girl, and I reveled in it.
In college, I majored in political science because I thought becoming a lawyer was a profession I’d thrive in because I enjoyed debating. Classes were big discussions, and I enjoyed having educated conversations that questioned the norms and perspectives of the world. I loved my classes and was ready to jump into the world of law. However, after an internship in a law office my junior year, I found that there was a disconnect in what I loved and what a career in law could offer. The days were long and boring, and I never really experienced any sense of good will. It felt like a balloon had deflated. All my efforts to remain at the top of the class were now meaningless now that I had no end goal. I knew I needed to take a year off after graduation to find myself and what I really wanted to do.
I decided that one way to find myself was to travel. In 2008, after graduating college, I climbed Machu Picchu in Peru with some friends. I remember looking out at the landscape and feeling like nothing else mattered, that everything would work out. This was living.
By the time I graduated, the US economy crashed. There were no jobs for me. I had this huge itch to travel after coming back from Peru but couldn’t make enough money to. I began looking for work opportunities abroad. I found a program in South Korea where you could teach English to children. I didn’t have any teaching experience, but the only requirements were the ability to speak English and to have a college degree. Within a month, I took the opportunity. I saw it as a chance for me to get away, find myself, and determine what matters to me to help me decide the path I wanted my life to go down.
My family thought I was crazy for taking the job. They worried that it was a scam and that I’d be kidnapped. My mom thought I’d get snatched up immediately upon arrival, and my dad actually didn’t think I’d go through with it at first. These were typical responses from parents that had no knowledge of the country. I didn’t have much knowledge either, but after my experience in Peru, I felt certain that I would be okay. I had always been able to make friends in new places, so I felt I could handle this job. So, in February 2009, I packed my bags and moved to Asia, ready to experience a new place.
On my first night in Korea, I met the other teachers in the program, including a guy named Rick who was from Canada. It was like meeting an old friend. As I spent more time figuring out the city, Rick helped me get more acquainted. He showed me around the city and taught me Korean words and the alphabet, so I could start reading the signs. Learning all of it helped me feel much more oriented in the country. Rick and I began dating soon after getting to know each other.
Even with help from others, the first few weeks in South Korea were overwhelming. I hadn’t learned Korean and as I walked the streets, I felt so isolated. I couldn’t understand anyone around me, and I couldn’t read any of the signs. I would try practicing the route from my apartment to the bus stop by remembering buildings I’d pass, but they all looked the same. Even getting on the bus to work was difficult.
Foreigners weren’t common in Korea, so many locals would stare at me. For the first time, I experienced the feeling of being an outcast. While I was teaching there, swine flu had broken out. The newspapers warned the locals to stay away from foreigners because they may have brought the disease with them on the plane. I would ride the subway and people would move away from me, covering their faces. It was hard because you couldn’t communicate that their fears were misplaced, so you had to accept the strange behavior.
Likewise, I quickly had to learn to respect the Korean way of life. In Korea, saying no to your boss isn’t an option. It was a hard pill to swallow, but I had to accept that I was a visitor in the country, and I had respect their traditions and norms. Living there gave me an appreciation for different cultures that I never would have gotten if I hadn’t taken the job. From the experience, I was able to analyze my own perceptions with a new set of eyes. I felt like I was just beginning to understand my true sense of self.
Despite the culture shock, I found my passion. I loved teaching kids. It was an amazing, rewarding experience to bond with them and have them learn from me. I realized that this was what I wanted to do with my life. Since Rick and I were getting more serious, I applied for teaching colleges up near Canada including one in western New York near Niagara Falls. By February 2010, my contract had ended, and Rick and I decided to travel for a few more months before going home. Since I’d been accepted into the teaching college with a one to two-year program, I made plans to move to Niagara Falls after our travels.
Rick reapplied to the police force after we returned from our vacation and got accepted. In the fall of 2010, I began my year and a half long program at Niagara University. Things were going well there until right before I was supposed to do my student teaching. Rick and I had a brief split, and I ended up moving back to Kentucky over the summer of 2011.
The break up was very brief. By the end of the summer, we decided we wanted to get back together, but by that point I had already found a student teaching job in an elementary school in Kentucky. He and I determined that we could commit to a long-distance relationship while I gained teaching experience. After my student teaching, I got hired at a school in Kentucky. The schools in New York and Canada were very competitive, so I decided to stay teaching in Kentucky while Rick was still in Canada. I knew to find success, I needed experience and good connections. Thankfully, the stars aligned for me. I was lucky enough to get hired at a school where the principal was from New York, so he helped me make connections up there and grow as a teacher.