Growing up in Farmtown, USA, where the Asian population, uhh… well— any population (besides white farmers) was basically non-existent, definitely sheltered me. My town wasn’t even a town, it was a village. My parents both grew up on farms; I grew up in the woods (I mean, in a house in the woods— I wasn’t a part of a wolf pack). That being said, my decision to move to Seoul, South Korea- the SECOND largest city in the world- post graduation wasn’t a huge surprise to my closest friends and family, even though I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to use chopsticks. I am not joking.
My resolution to move and work abroad was decided from the first day of my education program at university. I wanted to be trained as a teacher, but the life I wanted to live did not include settling for a teaching job outside of Michigan (as that would have most likely been the case— my state is not known for having an abundance of teaching positions) and getting “stuck” there for the next forty years. Okay, I shouldn’t say, “stuck” since so many amazing teachers choose that (and make incredible impacts in their communities), there isn’t anything wrong with the traditional route- I just knew it wasn’t for me.
I just needed the tools I could use to help people in other places around the world- teachers are welcome almost anywhere, did you know that? My dream is to end up in the Philippines (an entirely different story from this one— centered around my faith) building schools, and helping the education system (known for its corrupt ways) there.
After completing my undergrad, I was 24 years old and the world was my oyster (I am not exactly sure what that expression means, but it sounds cool). I had to pay off my loans before I could head off to the Philippines, and I had this burning desire to immerse myself in a completely different culture. Three years later, I am still living in Seoul, and I continue to learn about this culture— which is DEFINITELY different than my small American “village” (we do have a stoplight, I will have you know). I teach second grade at an international school in this grand city, and I visit home every summer. There are times when I mentally freak out, “Why am I living in KOREA? Why am I living so close to NORTH KOREA? Why am I choosing to be so far away from my family? WHY?” And then I realize that I could be doing anything with my life; small, simple, big, or crazy… And I would be asking myself the same, yet different, questions. I love where I am, and what I am doing— and the best thing I have going for me is the support of my family (all seventy-eight of them! joking, I only have eight brothers and sisters and two great parents).
Living here is teaching me the skills I will need to live abroad elsewhere. There is a saying amongst the expats in Korea. “Once you have lived in Seoul, you can pretty much survive anywhere else!”
Now, hand me any kind of chopstick; wood, metal, round, or square, and my skills will amazing you.
Melody works the international elementary school circuit and is an avid blogger over at Spit on the Street. She recently started an educational blog, Two Apples A Day, with a friend and colleague. If you get a chance to check it out their Facebook page. Also follow her on twitter at @melodyjoywelton.
If you are interested in contributing to the Quarterlife Crisis series feel free to contact me.