Packing Joys and Regrets: What I Regret or Don’t Regret About Packing for Living Abroad

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” – Lao Tzu

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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:

  1. 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.

  1. 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:

  1. 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.

  1. 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…

  1. 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:

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

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  1. 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.

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  1. 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.

  1. 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.

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  1. 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.

  1. A Weekender Bag and a Backpack

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!

—The Adversity Rose—

Kaitlyn Rose

DREAM. PURSUE. EXPERIENCE. GROW.

This blog will cover travel, personal growth, and life in general.

Spreading the Wings of Hope

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Hope is like the sun, which, as we journey towards it, casts the shadow of our burdens behind us.” –Samuel Smiles

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As Christmas time approaches, an eager expectation and excitement rises within me. Christmas is my favorite time of the year. I love the lights, the music, and the warm feelings it gives me. I love the magic of Christmas. I love that it is in celebration of what Jesus Christ has done for us—coming to such a crazy world as something as lowly as a human being to save us from ourselves. Everyone knows life isn’t easy, and throws us many curve balls we are not quite ready to handle…or at least feel like we are not ready to handle. However, Christmas reminds me that hope really does help us through so much and brightens our lives.

Although Christmas is my favorite season, I have always seen it as a time celebrated with family. This year, I find myself several miles away from my family in another country watching all my coworkers leave. A couple of weeks ago, it was really getting to me that, for the first time, I would not spend Christmas with my family. I really wanted to go home. It was even harder hearing all my coworkers make their plans (half of them going home) whereas I was still trying to figure out mine. Oh, the relief I felt when I finally was able to make plans with a friend from high school who is currently teaching English in Japan. Truly, I am so relieved and happy that I will not be spending my Christmas holiday alone.

Soon after, I was invited to a friend’s wedding, which was exciting and added to my relief. Then I found out a cousin will be in South Korea over the Christmas break, which really brightened my whole week. I would see some family after all.

Today was the start of my Christmas break. It’s amazing to think I have been here in South Korea for four months and have not seen any of my family or friends (except a few in September) since I have been here.

It still feels surreal that I am achieving a dream that I have had since I was thirteen. I’m living in another country teaching English! Does it really take this long for it to sink in? (Ha!) I have had so many adventures since coming here, and so many struggles as well. A month ago, I really started fighting to change my circumstances because things were turning sour so quickly, and I did not want to spend this year of doing what I felt God wanted me to do crying every other night and sinking into depression.

Why was I sinking in depression anyways? Hadn’t I defeated this before?

Well, for one, working at a high-stress, intense job can be really difficult especially when moving to an unfamiliar place in an unfamiliar land. However, I had mentally prepared myself for this, because I was aware of what I was stepping into. What I had not prepared myself for was getting sick so often, reacting to the water so badly that my skin feels like it is burning, or my face breaking out worse than it had ever had before. I lost so much weight, I was basically swimming in all my pants. My acne was so bad that I couldn’t look people in the eye, and constantly tried to side-step the many questions I received from students about what was on my face (or just told them it was mosquito bites—which some of it was). Oh, those mosquitoes. I feel like I have scars on my body from those darn mosquitoes. I’m so glad they died with the incoming of snow. Not looking forward to the resurrection in Spring.

There were other mental games that I was struggling with as well. I recognized the signs of falling into depression… The grey outlook on life. The hopelessness. The withdrawal from people. The constant tears. The drained feeling. The disappointment of some unrealized hopes I had coming to Korea. When it dawned on me that I was falling back in, I knew I needed to pull myself out quickly before I fell too far.

I reassessed what I was doing. I was eating poorly, sleeping poorly, managing my time poorly, allowing my life at home to slip, not doing anything that brought joy to me outside of work, and withdrawing from people around me and at home. So, I sat down, prayed for help, and made a plan. So grateful for a God who hears and a God who helps.

It was slow. I focused on food and sleep. Focused on changing my negative thoughts to positive, and focused on reaching out to people. Maybe people would not come to me, but I could go to them. Almost immediately, I started to feel a lot better. I still struggled—still am struggling (primarily with physical problems)—but things are so much better. I am continuing to alter my lifestyle in order to change how I approached my circumstances.

Sometimes I wondered if this was the wrong choice to come to Korea. However, I cannot make myself believe that. I truly believe I am supposed to be here right now. Although I hate the physical difficulties I am facing, it is not the worst thing in the world. I don’t regret any choices I’ve made in coming here (except for a few purchases I made when I first got here—Ha!). I’m reminded that just because it may be harder than I wanted, it does not mean that it was the wrong choice. Maybe this is a battle I just need to overcome with God’s help in order to go after the dreams God placed in my heart. I already feel I’ve changed so much since coming here, but I expect to change a lot more before this season of living abroad is over.

I was able to meet with a graduate from my university that is living in the same city as I am here in Korea last week. Thank God for divine appointments! She was a God-send. I left feeling so encouraged and so inspired. She reminded me, just through sharing where she was right now in life, that even though this time spent here in Korea feels temporary, it does not excuse us from spending it wastefully. We should use this time to continue to grow towards the person we want to be and the life we live after. Time does not freeze just because we are in another place.

I found myself finally dreaming again for the first time since arriving here.

I finally caved, and when to see a dermatologist in order to seek some medical help for my skin—the acne and the after-shower rashes. I just pray I continue to get closer each day to overcoming the adversities I am facing here and am able to fully enjoy the time I spend here. I really want this to be a time of growth and not a time of being stagnant. Especially in my relationship with God.

I truly adore teaching the babies here. I love finding out a little more who I am as an individual. I love living alone and experimenting with adult-ish things. Grocery shopping is getting easier. Maintaining my life at school and home is getting better. I am slowly learning how to maintain mental, physical and spiritual health. Although I am still working on how I handle stressful situations and still figuring out how to manage my time wisely, I’m allowing myself to hope again.

Christmas can be a great time to help remind us the sweetness and simple joys of life. It is actually so sweet to me to see how God is using Christmas during this season to help heal me, whereas only two years ago it had caused me to sink to the lowest I had ever been (not because of Christmas itself, but because of what it represented and how my life was not comparing—I wanted Christmas to be a happy time and it was not).

Christmas celebrates the hope Jesus brought when He came into this earth. His birth was a sign that not all was lost. Things could still change. All we have to do is continue to hope in the Lord. For, “those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

I am truly so grateful for all Christ has done for me and for everyone else. May your Christmases all be filled with joy and peace.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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“And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10).

—The Adversity Rose—

Kaitlyn Rose

DREAM. PURSUE. EXPERIENCE. GROW.

This blog will cover travel, personal growth, and life in general.

Adjusting to a Foreign Country

The more you like yourself, the less you are like anyone else, which makes you unique. –Walt Disney

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Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul, South Korea

This is a much-needed update about my time in Korea. I feel bad for not doing well in keeping up with my posts, but transitioning to a new life makes it hard to find time for anything except breathing and eating. I’ve been in Korea for a little over a month now and have been officially teaching English for four weeks. If you are looking for someone to paint you a false picture of all rainbows and sparkles about moving to another country, then don’t look here! I will be honest and say it is a big adjustment and I am trying to learn to love myself through the process.

First, I’ll start by sharing my experiences with teaching. I have to say that week one of teaching felt like a disaster and was one of my more stressful experiences. I had so much to learn and so much to do and was making a million and one mistakes every day that it is no wonder that I cried my first day of teaching. Despite this, I was pretty excited to be teaching and adored the kids. The weeks that followed were much better and I have been adjusting pretty well to the crazy teaching schedule. I really do love teaching these kids and they are so adorable!

I teach five-year-olds five classes in the morning and early afternoon (Korean age is actually a year or two older than American age, so the five-year-olds are actually around three- or four-years-old). They are my favorite classes to teach because they are so sweet and loving! They tell me constantly that they love me and give me many hugs. I really do love them! After a short break/prep time, I teach four classes of first graders that come from another school. I am slowly learning to enjoy teaching them too. They definitely were not my favorite that first week, but now I actually enjoy teaching them on most days. Because they are older, I feel they can sometimes be a bit hard to control. However, after getting some classroom management help, I’ve been doing much better.

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My first graders drawing and reading after their monthly exam.

I still make a lot of mistakes every day, but teaching is a learning experience. I know I will continue to get better and learn the best way to help my students the most! I want them to do well. Grading, although sometimes a lot of work, can be quite entertaining. It is fun to see what the kids think about and their thought processes. I have laughed many times, because who would not laugh when a kid compares himself to a parrot because he is a good listener? Or when they are supposed to create a new creature and one says that his creature has 100,000,000 billion teeth? It is pretty entertaining.

We had a pajama day for the five-, six-, and seven-year-olds this last Friday, which was probably the cutest thing I have ever seen. I wore my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fuzzy pajama bottoms and was petted and hugged by many little children that day. My favorite was either the dino slippers one boy wore, or the boy who was so proud to show me his alphabet pajamas. I am glad I work at a place that has dress up days! Halloween is next!

 

 

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Brayden’s dino slippers for Pajama Day.

 

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Yeonjun’s alphabet pajamas he was so proud to show me.
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My homeroom class on Pajama Day.

I love talking about the kids and can probably talk about them all day. I obviously will not–But here are some more pictures!

 

Since I am at work most of the time, my time outside work has been spent relaxing, cleaning my apartment, cooking, eating and sleeping. I have struggled with figuring out how to shop for food the most. I can clean, organize, and do laundry just fine. Cooking and shopping for food? I have no clue what I am doing. I never knew it was this hard to figure out. My first two weeks were ramen and curry every night. Not doing a whole lot better about my meals now, but have been taking it a meal at a time.

There are no driers here, so I hang my clothes to dry. I have no problem with doing this until it is an extra humid day and the clothes take three days to dry. Or when they dry wrinkled and I have no way to unwrinkled them. Still a struggle. I probably will invest in a steamer. I do find that I do better with laundry here though than I did back home. I am not entirely sure why, but it is true.

I have figured out how to handle the wet floor from the showers (since you just shower on the bathroom floor), so it is no longer that much of a problem. However, my skin reacts strongly to the water here. Maybe because of the chemicals used to clean the water, but I wash my face with bottle water and am looking for a shower head filter. Itching on my hands after washing my hands is not too bad, but itching on my back, arms, chest, neck, and head while showering is something else entirely. Also found out I am allergic to the body wash I have been using for the past several months. Yay! Now I have to be weary about all the products I use. My face and hair have not liked the move here either, and am currently looking for ways to solve those problems.

I have enjoyed exploring my city during the weekends, taking time to explore stores, restaurants, cafes, churches, and just getting used to how to get around. My friend/coworker and I have decided we like the trains better than the buses, against what most of our other coworkers think. Trains seem much more straightforward to us and less stressful than buses where you have to find the right bus and press the stop button when you get off. We had several bad experiences with them and no bad experiences with trains. So, we like trains. We walk so much here that I think I lost some weight from it all. I am used to feeling my feet and legs ache.

However, maybe because of the stress of moving, teaching, time change, food change, weather and air change, I think my immune system is down. I’ve been sick the past two weeks which makes it hard to explore as much as I would like. I am in the process of trying to build my immune system back up. I’m ready to not have to cough every five minutes.

Because this week is a big Korean holiday called Chuseok, I have three days off work so I was able to go to Seoul this past weekend and meet up with some friends and explore. It was a great way to release some stress and just have some fun, even if I got sick after coming back. We explored Myeongdong, Gangnam, did some karaoke, and went to Namsan Tower and the Gyeongbokgung Palace. It was a blast and I am excited for my next adventure! It was also nice to see some familiar faces and I really enjoyed hanging with my friends!

Since I have been struggling with some acne and hair problems, I have been trying to learn to love myself with those imperfections. It is much easier to love yourself when you don’t hate looking at yourself in the mirror. It is something I know God has been working with me on. So, I’ve been focusing a lot on trying to love myself with the imperfections as I am trying to find the solution, and how not to stress as I stress about things too much. Everything has worked out so far, so there is no need to stress!

Final update, I have a bank account, my alien registration card, and a Korean phone number even if I am planning to switch around my phone plan. I will get my first full pay check in a couple of weeks, and will have to pay my first month of bills soon after. Little by little I am settling in for my year of living here!

I am really glad to be here and really do love my job, even if things have not been super easy. And I do have some prayer requests!

  • Please continue to pray that I would be able to find a home church while I am here!
  • I would love prayer for my body. I need to build back up my immune system so I can stop being sick.
  • Also, that I can find a good shower filter so I can take a shower without itching like crazy and getting red marks all over my body.
  • Prayer that I will be able to make some more friends here!
  • I would always like prayer that I will continue to learn how to be a good teacher.
  • Please pray for my students as well!
  • Prayer that I will be able to pick up on the language while I am here
  • Prayer that I’ll have a better ease at locating the things I need. I still have had no luck locating a few necessities in stores.