Yes, it’s already been 1 month since I moved to Cheongju in South Korea and started working as an English teacher. Time really flies and I’ve slowly adjusted to my new life here. There are days when everything seems “same old same old” but the next day, I’m discovering things I’ve never seen before. It’s an exciting time of my life for sure and I’m so happy to be able to share it with you here on my blog!

New Surroundings

I’ve been settling into my new apartment and neighborhood quite well. My school provides me with a modern furnished studio apartment only minutes away from my school. It’s a lot smaller than the apartment I lived in in China but a lot cleaner and newer! Luckily it comes with an A/C and even floor heating, which is a standard feature in Korean apartments.

My neighborhood in Cheongju
My neighborhood in Cheongju

Besides my new home, the school building is the place I stay at most of the time. The school is quite new and modern with classrooms on the second and third floors. The first floor is a Pascucci cafe which is very convenient for breakfast or coffee breaks. Another advantage is that lunch is provided at my school. Different traditional Korean dishes, including rice and soup, are served every day for free to teachers here. If I don’t feel like eating the food at school, I go out buy something or even go home and eat some leftovers.

Typical school lunch
Typical school lunch

The area around my school and apartment is a fairly new neighborhood in Cheongju. There are dozens of restaurants/bars as well as stores, a McDonald’s, Daiso and a huge HomePlus supermarket where I can buy everything I need and also foreign products. The neighborhood is also very green which is a big plus. 

My neighborhood in Cheongju
My neighborhood in Cheongju

New and Old Friends

One of the good things of moving to Cheongju is that I already know people here, even if it’s not that many. Most importantly I have Jeongsu and his family here but also a friend I met in San Diego at college is from here and I get to hang out with her more often. Making new friends has become one of my top goals during my time of settling in here. Most of the people I hang out with are people I work with who mostly come from the USA, Britain or Canada. We’re all in the same boat here and they help me find my way around the school and the coolest places in Cheongju. 

I also tried making new (Korean) friends using an app called “Hello Talk”. I can search for language partners in my area and chat with them and meet up for studying together. I messaged a lot of people and even went on a “blind language exchange date” which turned out to be quite good!

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Besides making more or less “grown-up friends” I’ve also made lots of new little friends at the school. In the mornings I teach my own kindergarten class of 9 great kids and in the afternoon I teach different groups of elementary kids. I’ve already become quite close with my students and enjoy getting to know them more and more. 

Some of my kindergarten kids
Some of my kindergarten kids

Progress in Korean

I’m getting super frustrated living here but not being able to communicate with people the way I want to. My Korean is still very limited but I am able to buy things and politely greet people and thank them. In China, I got to a point where I was able to get complicated stuff done by myself communicating in Mandarin. Here, however, it’s quite impossible to do so and I am pretty dependent on Jeongsu or friends with better Korean skills.

I’m gradually getting better and better at Korean, though, and already learned new words and expressions since I’m here. It’s great to walk around the city and being able to ask Jeongsu about the meaning of words written on stores or advertisements. Even when I’m out alone, I read as much as possible and can quickly search it on my iPhone dictionary. Since Korean uses an alphabet, rather than characters like Chinese, it’s super easy to search for words in the dictionary.

I read as much Korean as possible when I'm out
I read as much Korean as possible when I’m out

I even pick up some words with my kids at school here and there which is a great advantage. Even though they mostly communicate in English only at school, even during breaks when talking to each other, sometimes some Korean words will come out and I am ready to catch them! 

two of my kindergarten students
two of my kindergarten students

What a Month!

I’ve had an amazing time so far here in South Korea and can’t wait to explore more and improve my Korean to fully embrace the culture. I’m also glad that Jeongsu and I can meet on a regular basis and move forward in our relationship. All in all, it’s been an amazing start into a new chapter of my life and I can’t wait for what’s ahead!

What is your advice for settling into a new country?

  • Sandra Kosmala

    Looks like all lunch boxes in Asia are similar.. Most of the schools I teach in provide me lunch, some schools do it for free, some charge a little amount of money – but it’s not very tasty, probably I’m too used to good vietnamese food 😛
    Anyway, I can understand your frustration about the need of communication with people in normal “street” situations. I’m used to understanding stuff, and it’s actually easier to live in Vietnam if you know Vietnamese language – for example you usually pay less than a tourist 😉 even if it’s just a dollar it’s still nice for my pocket. I’ve been to Bangkok in February, stayed there for only 6 days, and I felt miserable about not understanding Thai @@ Even that I’ve studied Thai (along with Vietnamese) and I still remember the basics, it was too hard for me to communicate in Thai :/

    • very interesting Sandra! Thank you for sharing your opinion here! I’m really hoping to get better and better with my Korean! People are very kind and understanding though. As for the lunch, it’s free at my school too and sometimes it’s the best stuff ever but sometimes it stinks 😀

  • Welcome back to Korea and thanks for sharing your pics of Chungju. I’ve never had the chance to visit but it seems like a pretty awesome place! I totally understand the frustration of communication here, as I live in a less English-friendly place than Seoul or the other big cities. Thanks for sharing this look into your new (old) life!

    Take Care.

  • Laura Nalin

    Welcome to Korea! I’m happy to read you’re settling in well. Your neighborhood looks great! I would love to live within a lush, green space like you. Looking to read more of your posts!

  • Wendy Flor

    Welcome to Korea… just a few weeks ago you posted about coming over and now you’re actually here! Good luck!

    Though it really looks like you’re enjoying your first month here in Korea. Don’t worry about the language. I had been here for ages and I still can’t speak (just very minimal) and I have survived!

  • I can’t wait to hear about your future adventures in Korea. It’s interesting how you get to sorta start all over again in a new country and learning the language. At least you get to see your loved one a lot more now. 🙂

    • thank you so much! <3