Adjusting to Life Abroad: South Korea


Moving to a new country is a lot like the first week of college: in the midst of trying to organize your stuff, you want to meet new friends, you want to go out, and you want to sleep- all at once.  It is overwhelming.

First of all, relax! You moved to another country and you should be proud of that.  Now, get rid of any jet lag and get yourself on the local schedule.

Now it’s time to get out there. And just like those exciting, and awkward, first days of college, you’re going to have to put yourself out there and make friends.

And work is usually a good place to start.

During my first two weeks in Korea, I hardly left my coworkers’ sides.  Whatever they were doing after work or on the weekend, I just went with it.  This “just say yes” mentality took me to my first Korean mall/Walmart-type store, it got me acquainted with the village our apartments are in, and it took me on my very first trip to Seoul.

In short, it helped me explore this new place with people who have been in the exact same situation. I didn’t feel quite so lost anymore. And it kept me from sitting in my apartment on Skype, feeling homesick – this is key.

My coworkers also knew what they were doing, much to my benefit. They told me which restaurants to go to, which hairdressers spoke English, and which buses to take to Seoul. Far better than any guidebook, my coworkers got me through those first few weeks when I had literally no idea what I was doing, in a place where I couldn’t speak the language.

So what’s the single best piece of advice I can give you? Dive on in! Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, even if you feel like an idiot.

my time to fall has come.

Everyone has been in the same situation, and they are ready to help you, just like you will help the new arrivals a few months down the road.

Say yes to everything, be brave and start exploring.

There will be plenty of downtime to sleep and Skype with friends later, once you feel more at home in your new country.

What is some advice you can share for making the big move- cross country or jumping continents?


About Author

Claire is a recent college grad turned expat, who is currently teaching English in South Korea. When she's not exploring Korea and writing about it, Claire enjoys fantasizing about future trips, shopping, dancing, and drinking dangerous amounts of caffeine. She plans to move to Buenos Aires in 2012. You can follow her adventures at


  1. Good advice Claire! I know when I first moved to New Zealand I was pretty homesick. Mostly in like my 2nd week, when the initial shock wore off. Before I left a friend of mine took a bunch of photos of our friends and gave me a small photo book, and I would put those pics up in all of my NZ houses and it made it seem so much more like home!

  2. A little weird, but my wave of homesickness came 3 months into my stay in Argentina. Guess it took that long for all the newness to fade…which wasn’t a bad thing. 🙂 But Great tips Claire!!

    It’s also great to join clubs. If you’re in to biking it’s relatively easy to find weekly bike clubs where you can meet people and get comfortable with your surroundings. I’m a big fan!

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