Have you ever left a place and had it feel final? Knowing it’s a possibility that you may never get back there or that you may never see some of the people again? That’s how this feels. The finality of leaving Korea and ending my grant year is the most difficult part for me. I have never felt this before.
I left home for college, but I always knew I’d be back. I did go back often and still do to the people and places that make it home. Last May, I left Scranton and the four years of amazing friendships, memories, and growth. I know I will be back there and I will definitely see my friends and professors from there again and relatively soon.
I leave Korea in 9 days and can honestly say I don’t know when or if I’ll ever return. I will leave behind my beautiful host family, energetic students, caring co-workers, and countless friends that I have made. Some will stay here. Some will go back to the States. Others will travel on to new adventures in Japan or England. I guess the good news is the number of places I have to visit and stay just went up exponentially.
My experience this year has lead me to think more critically about myself and the way I view the world. Some of the greatest advice I was given this year follows:
“Love your students and the rest will take care of itself.”
“Be comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
To my students and co-workers, thank you for challenging to become a better teacher. You helped me learn how to best communicate even in seemingly impossible scenarios. I have learned more than ever the power of a smile or a pat on the back. You have shown me that it’s ok to laugh at myself and not take things so seriously. Language can create barriers, but in our own ways we have gotten through to each other. I have truly been blessed for our time together.
To my host family, thank you for taking me in and making me a part of your family. Seo Jeong and Seo Yeon, you are the little sisters I never had. You have taught me patience and the joys of being an “older sister”. I will certainly miss coming home to the two of you running to the door, yelling my name. Nothing beat that especially after a hard run or a long day of traveling on buses. My host parents, you opened your home and your life to me. You allowed me to be a part of not only your lives, but the lives of your children. The selflessness embodied daily by both of you is something to be admired and I hope to accomplish that some day. I look forward to your visit to NY (hopefully next year!).
To my fellow ETAs, you have become my Fulbright family this year. In Korea, most of us were away from our family and closest friends. We became each other’s support network and sounding boards. We sympathized, laughed, vented, cried, endured, traveled, and loved. The entire group of ETAs was dynamic as a whole and outstanding as individuals. You have challenged me and pushed me in a number of ways and helped me become a better version of myself. I am eternally grateful for all of our experiences together this year. I am so excited to see where all of your lives and adventures take you. If you ever need a place to stay, I’ll have a couch in NY with your name on it.
With 9 days left, I’m going to make the most of my time. It’s not goodbye. It’s see you later.