“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” – Lao Tzu
Since I have been in South Korea for six months now, I have had time to think about which items I am glad I brought and which items I regret bringing with me to Korea. So today I wanted to give my own opinion on packing for anyone who is thinking of teaching English in another country. I have come up with three separate lists to share: Things I regret bringing, things I regret not bringing, and things I do not regret bringing. Most of these lists are just my own personal opinion, but I hope it helps people either follow their gut reaction on what to bring with them or cause some people to rethink what they’ve decided to bring.
One thing I do not regret doing before coming here is watching YouTube videos and reading blog posts on others’ experiences teaching in Korea. I think it helped me understand what I need to pack or what I do not necessarily need to pack. It also helped me be less surprised by some of the cultural differences. (However, the number of videos did not quite relieve the shock I had of how different Korea was from Japan.)
My list of things I regret bringing is very small, as I did not regret much of what I brought.
Things I Regret Bringing:
- Bringing too much clothing.
Unless you are better at controlling your spending than I am, you will buy clothes here. There are several cheap deals, especially in the underground shopping areas. I think I brought too much clothing from home. I haven’t worn everything I’ve brought yet and some of it I do not think I will wear (maybe a sign I should get rid of it). So, I recommend bringing only the clothing you really enjoy wearing because those will be the only items of clothing you will wear. Maybe I’ll make a detailed packing list one day to share.
- The number of notebooks I brought.
There are plenty of cute stores here that sell really cute and cheap notebooks if you are really someone who likes to write or journal. I brought too many notebooks and have only used one of them somewhat regularly.
Things I Regret Not Bringing:
- Bringing more books.
I love books. I always have. I knew I could not bring my whole collection, and since books are heavy, I wanted to try to limit myself to as few as I can. So I tried to limit myself to five books (I know–such a small number). I was just going to use a library app and read e-books for any other book I wanted to read. However, soon after I got here, I immediately regretted not bringing more books. I have always preferred reading from the actual book and reading an ebook is just not the same for me. Therefore, I regret not bringing more books. The funny thing is, I knew I would regret not bringing more books. That is my own fault for ignoring something I knew about myself. Yet, I was lucky to find relatively cheap English books at a bookstore in downtown Daegu, and was able to buy some books. I now feel much better seeing a bigger collection of books on my desk. I do not regret any of those purchases and plan to just mail them home when it gets closer to my time to leave.
- Bringing more medicine.
I brought enough pain medicine (because I know how much I hate headaches and monthly pains). But I did not bring nearly enough cold medicine or allergy medicine. I brought a small amount of Benadryl and that is it. I have a lot of severe outdoor allergies and tend to take allergy pills regularly throughout the year. I don’t know why I thought I would not experience it here. I also did not expect how often I would get sick here. Thus, I regret not bringing some more medicine just because it is hard to ask for medication at a drug store when you do not speak Korean and are not sure what you are taking…
- A pair of heels.
I did not bring a single pair of heels mainly because all the YouTube videos and blog posts said not to bring them. So, I did not. However, I have been invited to a few weddings and I wish I could have a pair of heels to wear to them. I would definitely not wear them on a daily basis or on any days that require a lot of standing or walking, but on those random times I have to dress nicely, I like to wear something other than the black flats I brought. I think this particular item probably depends on the person.
Finally, here is my list of things I was afraid I would regret bringing but I do not regret bringing in the slightest. Quick Side-note: Before going to Korea, I bought a new laptop because my current laptop was gigantic and too heavy to lug around regularly (I have four years of university to prove it). So, I did not want to bring that heavy thing with me all the way to Korea. I do not regret this choice.
Things I Do Not Regret Bringing:
- A Portable CD Drive and a CD/DVD Storage Binder
Since I bought a smaller laptop, it did not have a built-in CD drive. So, I bought a portable one and brought it with me along with a CD/DVD storage binder filled with my favorite movies. I have watched many of them since coming here and do not regret the choice I made in bringing them. It has been a great comfort and also allows me to play any movies or CDs I happen to buy here or people happen to lend me. I have used it regularly and have no regrets.
- My Bluetooth Speaker
I brought my Bluetooth speaker because sometimes I like to jam to music that is slightly louder than what my phone can go. Also, my new laptop’s speakers are quieter than my last laptop. I do not regret my choice to bring it. I did not realize I would use my Bluetooth every time I watched a movie (since my laptop is a bit too quiet by itself when watching movies). I have also used it a few times when teaching Gym at my school. So, it has been used quite frequently.
- My Plush Panda Pillow and My Fuzzy, Soft Blanket
I brought these mainly for comfort. I was not sure how I would handle my first time moving out of my parents’ house and to another country. So, I brought a lot of comfort items. Things from home that would bring me some comfort for days I am homesick or physically sick. When I packed these, I thought I was just giving into some illogical-thinking, but I have used these almost every night and they have brought me much comfort. Probably more than anything else I brought. They may have taken up some space in my suitcases, but I am glad I brought them.
- Enough Deodorant and Toothpaste for a Year
It is kind of nice knowing I do not have to worry about buying more of at least one necessity item while I am here, especially items I can be picky about. So, I have not regretted this choice.
- Part of My Tea Collection and a Mug
I love tea. Although there is plenty tea here in Korea to buy, I just like not having to buy some. I have used my tea quite regularly and enjoy it immensely. I love to sit down with a cup of tea in the mornings or in the evenings. It is another great comfort item.
- My Portable Box of Joy
I have a box of notes or things that make me happy back home for days I’m feeling low. It can be a great picker-upper. I knew I would have days I’m missing home, so I brought some of those cards or notes that make me happy. My best friend made me a portable “Joy Box” as a parting gift for me to put them into. It makes me happy just seeing it, because it reminds me of all the love I have received over the years. Some days it can be hard to remember that you are loved and that some people like you as a person. Thus, it is nice to have something that can help remind you.
Since I have taken many weekend-long trips since coming here, I do not regret the choice to bring a weekender bag with me. Also, I use my backpack every day when going to work. They are used quite regularly and are nice to have.
I think these are all the lists I have for now. I will probably make a packing list someday soon for anyone thinking of teaching in another country! I found any posts I read or YouTube videos I watched before my move here to be very helpful, and would love to send out my own list to maybe one day help someone who was just as lost as I was at the idea of packing for a year in a foreign country. I hope the lists I made today are helpful as well!
Blessings from South Korea!
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