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Monday, March 17, 2014

The Reason I Left {The Expat Experience: A Link Up}

Happy Monday Y'all. I hope your weekend was a great one. Matt and I just hung around the apartment and had a nice and relaxing time. I'm already looking forward to next weekend. 

Anyway, it's time for the second week in Molly's Expat Experience link up. 
{Just in case you missed it- Molly blogs over at The Move to America and it's pretty awesome, so you should check it out.}

A couple weeks ago, I talked about an unexpected challenge since moving to Korea. This week the topic is all about why we left, and I'm pretty excited to talk about our reasoning for moving to Korea since I've never really explained it. {PS- This may get a little long.} 

Week Two: The Reason I Left 

After Matt and I were married, we moved back out to Hawaii so we could finish up with our undergrad programs. The greatest thing about going to BYU-Hawaii {other than getting a bunch of leis when you graduate} is it is such an international school. 70 different countries are represented at BYU-Hawaii. While we were out at school, we were surrounded by all these students from all these amazing countries and our wanderlust was sparked. 

I graduated in December of 2011 and then went back and finished my student teaching with a license in secondary education in April of 2012. While Matt was finishing with his program, I started teaching at a middle school in Mililani. It was a perfect scenario  I was able to both support our little family while Matt finished school, and I was able to get teaching experience right out of school. At that point in our lives, we were really content. We were happy with how things were, but we were always looking ahead. When we thought of our future- we came up with a couple of options: 

1. I teach for a second year and Matt apply to a graduate program in Hawaii
2. Move back to Georgia and I teach and Matt go through a graduate program 
3. Move to Florida to teach and Matt go through a graduate program 
4. Move to Asia and teach English 
5. Apply to be in the Peace Corps 

Any option would have been fine. I could work and support us and Matt could quickly get a masters in Social Work. The plan was Matt would go to school- then I would stop working and I would go to school. Financially,  that would have been great. The problem was- it wasn't the adventure we were looking for. I was afraid if we put off option 4 or 5- we would never have the chance to do it in the future. So we decided that grad school could wait, and we started taking the steps to make option 4 or 5 work out. 

After a lot of research and a lot of contemplation on our part, we decided teaching in Asia was the best plan for us. We made that decision in December of 2012, and started making the plans right away. We chose Asia for a couple of reasons 1. We had a lot of connections because of the university we attended 2. We would be able to save the most money and 3. Matt is half Chinese/ Japanese so we wanted to be able to explore that side of his ancestry. 

We would have been cool with Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, or Korea- I just wanted a place in Asia that was more modern and a little more Western. I had a roommate in my pre-marriage days that lived in Korea and loved it, so I was really open to that idea. My professors through the School of Education had contacts in Hong Kong, so that's were I thought we would end up… However, I just casually mentioned our plans to a Korean friend at church and he happened to know a director of a school here and then bam we had jobs. It was actually really easy for us because our friend helped us out so much. By April of 2014 (about a day after Matt graduated), we had a signed contract for Matt to start June 1.  

And we never looked back. Okay, at times I feel nervous because we will both be starting our graduate programs at the same time when we get back, but I am really happy we jumped into teaching overseas. If I'm being honest, sometimes I really hate the teaching part. Teaching here is quite different than teaching back in the states. But then Matt and I go explore some really cool thing and it makes it all worth it. 

This was a big sacrifice and a big change from our lives in Hawaii. We miss our families a lot. We miss the comforts of home. I wish we could be going to school at different times. But I am so thankful we have this opportunity. This is such a great experience and I really wouldn't change anything. We will only be in Korea for another 13 months, and I want to take advantage of every opportunity we have. 

If you are thinking about the expat life- here are few tips. 

Helpful Hints When Thinking About Becoming An Expat: 
1. Have a backup plan- Sometimes plan A doesn't work out. Shoot sometimes B and C don't work out. Always have a back-up just in case. Matt and I really felt the Peace Corps was perfect for us, but the more research we did the more we didn't feel it was the right fit. Luckily, teaching in Asia was our back-up, and Matt applied to schools in Georgia just in case, and just just in case- I didn't terminate my teaching contract in Hawaii until I signed a contract for Korea. 
2. Do Your Research- Make sure you know what you are getting into. Try to know the country you are planning to move to. Figure out what you should bring from home. Know your options. Nowadays, there is so much information out there- it makes the research a lot easier. 
3. Really Take Your Internal Temperature- Try to really think about how you would feel. Ask yourself questions about the move. How do you feel trying new things? Are you flexible? How do you feel being surrounded by a different language? What is a squatty potty? Can you travel home on your visa? Are you picky about food? The biggest question I asked was- Can I live without seeing my family for a year? Regardless- if you are moving to an English speaking country or a country in Southeast Asia or South America- there is going to be culture shock. You have to really know yourself and what you can handle before jumping into the expat life. 

I am so happy we have this opportunity, and I'm really happy I finally shared our story. Sorry if this got a little long winded. If you have any other questions for us, please let us know. 

{Linking up with Molly

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- Alex