Expat Sam in Japan

Talking with Expats: Sam

I’m really happy that my first expat interview is someone I can say is a close friend of mine. We spent our first year abroad together.

Sam was a fellow teacher at the Jinju Mirae Center who recently made her way back to the United States after spending a year teaching English abroad. For Sam’s personal stories, you can follow her blog.

After being back in America for about a month, Sam has had time to reflect on her year abroad and talk about her repatriation.

Sam in Thailand posing with mural

1 Where did you live when you were abroad? For how long?

I lived in Jinju, South Korea for a year.

2 What did you do? What did you learn from that job?

I worked as an English teacher at an after school center run by the government. I learned lots of things from the job itself, but one of the biggest and most memorable instances was how great kids can be, especially those of a different cultural background from myself. Before moving to Korea, I was never interested in teaching and I didn’t particularly enjoy being around children. But teaching in Korea made me love my job and ignited my own passion for traveling and learning new languages and new cultures.

3 How long have you been back home?

I have been back in the States for just over a month now.

4 How have you changed since living abroad?

The biggest thing about myself that has changed since living abroad is my perception of not just the world, but of my hometown. Before moving to Korea, I figured I would just end up getting a job in Michigan and living around the same area I spent most of my life. But now, I have come to the realization that there is so much out there to explore and now that I have done it, it’s not as scary as it used to be. I know that I am fully capable of moving to a different state, or another new country and making a life that is full. I never thought that was possible before. 

5 What has been the hardest adjustment with moving back home?

The hardest adjustment has been dealing with people’s reception of me. Most of the people who I have spoken to expect me to want to remain in Michigan. Sure, I had a fun adventure, but now it’s time to settle down, get a job, and remain close to my family, according to them. I still have yet to find a job, and it’s weird being in a jobless transition stage, essentially in the same place I was before I left. It takes a while to get back into the groove of things after being gone for a year, but check back with me after I’ve gotten a job and I can give you a different answer. 

6 Where was your best experience while living abroad?

My best experience was definitely my every day life in Jinju. I loved the city I lived in, the friends I made, and the routine I built for myself. It’s definitely something I miss every day now that I am back in the states. It was also really nice that I could easily and affordably travel to other east asian countries with friends. 

7 What do you miss the most about living abroad?

I guess this would go hand in hand with my best experience. 

8 Where do you hope life takes you next?

I hope that life brings me another adventure. A place I can call home that provides happiness for me with friends I enjoy spending time with and a job I look forward to going to each day. No specific places or ideas, but just a general feeling. I don’t have to stay in the same city, state, or country that I grew up in. Those doors opened a year ago and I have a feeling they will always be open.

9 Do you have any advice for anyone who might want to live abroad but is questioning whether or not they should go?

My advice is to go for it. Yes, it’s scary, but muster the courage and take that first step. It’s okay to have second thoughts, but don’t let it limit you. Make the most of what life can offer because you won’t have these chances forever. As long as you open yourself up to new ideas and experiences, you will never regret making the decision to live abroad. In fact, I think everyone should do it. It definitely changed my life for the better.

Author’s note: All photos courtesy of sscenessoliloquies.photo.blog

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