Question from a reader: hard choices and homesickness?

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A reader we’ll call ‘J.A.’ writes in:

I saw your blog today. You make it look like a lot of fun to be in Korea. My question is a little personal, I hope you don’t mind. What made you decide to so far away? I have been thinking about going to Vietnam or China to do something similar. Was it a hard choice and you ended up loving it? I mostly ask because I am afraid I will be terribly homesick if I decided to go.

J.A.,

Deciding to leave your home country for anything more than a vacation is definitely a hard decision at first. The first questions are usually of safety, security, and ‘stuff’ are paramount – will I be safe / secure? Will I still have my stuff?

You’ve probably heard of Maslow’s hierarchy:

A reader we’ll call ‘J.A.’ writes in:

I saw your blog today. You make it look like a lot of fun to be in Korea. My question is a little personal, I hope you don’t mind. What made you decide to so far away? I have been thinking about going to Vietnam or China to do something similar. Was it a hard choice and you ended up loving it? I mostly ask because I am afraid I will be terribly homesick if I decided to go.

J.A.,

Deciding to leave your home country for anything more than a vacation is definitely a hard decision at first. The first questions are usually of safety, security, and ‘stuff’ are paramount – will I be safe / secure? Will I still have my stuff?

You’ve probably heard of Maslow’s hierarchy:


Photo: Wikipedia

The point is that safety / security has to come first. (Well, second, if you count the basic physiological needs you’re already doing). Only then can we worry about the higher levels – love, acceptance, self-fulfillment, etc.

What made you decide to [go] so far away?
Was it a hard choice[?]…

To be perfectly honest, no. I found myself at a job that was decent and relatively stable – but it was a little mundane. At the time (not quite 26 years old), that wasn’t really where I wanted to be. While searching for something else, I came across an ad for teaching English in Korea. A whole new mindset! A whole new world! It’s one thing to think of jobs on the other side of town, the other side of the state… But the other side of the world? It never occurred to me. It was an exciting thought, though. I remembering buzzing with excitement over what I might get to see, who I might get to know, and what else may happen while I was in Korea.

I remember counting down the days with anticipation, and otherwise getting things ready to leave the US. The last few days were hectic – sell my car, take a bunch of stuff to the local Goodwill, say goodbye to some friends – but I never felt like I was making the wrong decision. The ‘wrong’ decision, in my mind, was not doing what I thought would make me happy.

For some people, the choice to leave home is a financial or practical decision- Korea is the place where I’ve located a job; it’s a better-paying job than anything in my home country; I’ll be able to save money while living in Korea, and so on. For others, coming to Korea is a choice for adventure – I’ve always wanted to travel to a foreign country; living as an expat sounds so interesting, and so on. Others come specifically to teach or get international experience, of course, but one of the first poll questions I asked might give you some idea of the percentages.

…[did] you ended up loving it?

Yes, I am loving it in Korea. That is, of course, based more on one’s attitude and the situation one finds themselves in. As things go, I have a good-paying job, an incredibly attractive fiancé, the ability to freely travel around an interesting country, and a lifestyle I enjoy – it’s pretty say to easy I’m loving it. The first three months were definitely an adjustment to a new lifestyle, but you get used to changes more quickly each time. After the third or fourth move, you get used to pruning your stuff, packing stuff up, and getting started again in a new place or situation.

…I am afraid I will be terribly homesick if I decided to go…

That’s a legitimate fear – especially if you’re headed to China or Vietnam. I can’t speak about them first-hand, but stories from other travel bloggers haven’t exactly made them sound like places I’d like to call home. I can’t say I was incredibly homesick upon coming to Korea – having lived in my own place for several years before coming to Korea might’ve had something to do with that. For most, it’s the people they miss – hearing English, speaking English, talking to their friends, and so on; it’s those things that will get you out and seeking human contact. Friends around here probably won’t replace those BFF’s from college, but for some people they certainly can. I met my fiancé here in Korea, while a fine gentleman and fellow K-blogger is one of the best friends I’ve ever had. I’d have never met him if I hadn’t come to Korea.

Will you get homesick? Your recent past is usually a good clue – how was college? Did you go home every weekend or did you hang out with friends on campus? When you saw your parents, was it an emotional ‘I’ve missed you so much!’ or a practical ‘when’s dinner?’. After graduating, did you find clinging to your parents, or were you able to move on and live life on your terms?

When you move somewhere new (even, say, to Korea for a one-year contract), it becomes home. Sure, there are some things from the U.S. I miss. The longer I’ve been here, though, the fewer things there are on that list.

In short, living life in a foreign country can be a very freeing feeling. It’s the sort of thing more people should do when they get the chance, whether they go to teach English, to volunteer, or to help others. While you may still have an attachment to home, being homesick will probably not be a problem after awhile.

Readers, how did you get over being homesick? Was it a big problem for you?

Creative Commons License © Chris Backe – 2010

This post was originally published on my blog,Chris in South Korea. If you are reading this on another website and there is no linkback or credit given, you are reading an UNAUTHORIZED FEED.




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