Five Months in Seoul that Changed My Life Forever — A Series of Living Abroad
12 months have passed in a blink of an eye, and we all could agree; a change is hard but inevitable. On this day a year ago, during the pandemic situation, I still remember how anxious, sad, and lost I felt. I was wandering at Incheon Airport by myself, not knowing how to speak with people, which road I should take nor where to go. Well, maybe you could presume that I was reckless.
Let’s jump back in time, it all started when I became the only exchange student from my uni that is accepted at Chung-Ang University, South Korea. Of course I was super-happy, but I was scared at the same time. Before I departed from Indonesia, I tried to get used to take care of everything myself. However, I foolishly wasn’t prepared for the little things even tho I knew that I’m going to live 3,318 miles away from home all alone. Long story short, I got a culture shock when I arrived in Seoul realizing that it was totally out of my comfort zone. I felt like physically and mentally misguided.
Furthermore, the five months there was filled with a lot of unexpected yet interesting twists. There comes a time when a sort of events happened to be very delightful, but then followed by a very desperate one. However, the ups and downs on this experience has been a life changing moment. Here’s how this can happen:
I saw the world from multiple perspective
The moment I set foot in Seoul, the world grew in size. The boundaries of my former life pushed out. I’ve embraced foreign cultures and traditions, the scenery outside my window changes along with everything and everyone I once knew. The change of pace and quality of life, equipped me into a brand new person. On this journey, I learned more than just differences — people, places, language, culture.
I get used to the challenges 24/7
Stepping into the unknown, I’m no longer able to do the regular things instead of facing uncertainty and accepting frequent unease. The complexity added because South Korea is a country with a new language to me. Those language barrier moments at the restaurant and the places outside Seoul that almost got me stuck at Paju and Muido Island are still vivid in my mind. It was tough going, but got easier as time went on.
I discover myself and find out people that matters
Living abroad changed the core of who I thought I was and who I am right now. I started to redefine my original idea of success. I grew into someone stronger yet softer. I faced setbacks and dealt with them on my own; I became an extremely independent woman. I overcame obstacles, beat back the naysayers and I earn the scars to prove it. Some scars are good, some are bad, but nothing can ever be the same. Things that were once important no longer matter, going abroad made me realize that ‘things’ don’t define my happiness. Things that didn’t seem important before now matter more. Within five months there, I met interesting people and discovered a lifelong partner.
It help me develop tolerance and empathy
I learned that I shouldn’t make particular assumptions and stereotypes of people, because everyone is different and it’s caused by a certain reason. It gives me a better understanding about how people from another walk of life acts, what their motives are, and how they think. Living abroad has also given me a better insight to appreciate the lives of others, despite of the races, cultures, religions, and all of the differences. As a result, I became more respectful and tolerant to the differences and have an easier time putting myself in someone else’s shoes.
I learn to live my life to the fullest
The most important thing during five months abroad is; accepting that whatever will happen, will happen. Just like when my laptop was broken on the day right before the final exam. I was totally desperate and depressed at that time. I could say that it was my lowest point in life, but I learned to accept what happened and face it. I tried to enjoy every moment for better or for worse, appreciated every little thing, learned that what may seem as a lost, could be a blessing and took notes on what may seem as a grace, could be an ordeal. Everything happens for a reason, isn’t it? Although indeed, it’s funny how life works in such a paradoxical manner.
Amidst of all the chaos, the off-plans, the unexpected, the roller coaster ride, I’m exceptionally grateful for having this priceless experience and thriving well through a very very tough year.
As for the following years to come, I hope to be content. I hope for more pink skies above. May the world find its own way of healing, and I genuinely hope we’re all doing well, both physically and mentally. The future is scary and uncertain, I hope we could enjoy every process along the way.
“Our homes are not defined by geography or one particular location, but by memories, events, people and places that span the globe.”
– Marilyn Gardner