New teacher living abroad tricks of the trade

Unsure, perplexed, unclear or bewildered are some of the words that come to mind when we think about leaving our comfort zone and traveling around the big bad world. No matter how confident or brave we are the thought of going to a brand new place, learning a new culture, settling in to a new work environment and making new friends seems daunting and frightening ( and rightfully so). Here are some of my personal tricks on how to deal with settling in as smoothly as one possibly can in a new work and living environment. All advice is based on real life bumps in the road I have personally experienced during my first few weeks of living abroad in South Korea.

1. Do not assume everyone can speak English, they most definitely cannot: 

Landing in a foreign airport after countless layovers is hard enough without the shocking realization that the people around you barely speak English (if they speak any at all). Make sure to have your translator app open and ready for use. This will make asking questions about bus routes, accommodation or general inquiries significantly easier.

2. Set priorities for your first week:   

The first week will probably be the hardest, learning your way around your new town by foot, searching for the closest supermarket, attempting to figure out the new bus routes which are not available in English and in my case desperately searching for new friends. No matter what priorities you set for the first week bear in mind you probably won’t achieve them all. More importantly give into the fact that you will most definitely get ridiculously lost at least once or  twice but also remember that one day in the near future that memory will become a funny story to tell.

3. Train yourself to be mentally calm:

We tend to be our worst enemy by working ourselves up in a crisis. This has a terrible domino effect as stressing out inevitably leads to panic mode and as a result we can’t allow ourselves to think of a solution. This freak out happens largely because when we are too busy focusing on the stress we are so busy creating for ourselves to think clearly. Once you learn to not freak out and take a deep breath – simple solutions such as just taking a taxi after getting on the wrong bus for work will come to you much quicker (and is a way better alternative than having a big cry on the side of the street -believe me, been there, done that).

4. Be proactive rather than reactive:

Weird situations that you are not prepared for or ever think could happen will occur. For me it was initially making friends with the wrong person. I met a guy at the bus stop I went to every morning who I immediately considered as just a friend. He took the alternate route and considered us to be much then quite literally made a move on me out of the blue. To this day I still don’t know why – maybe because of my friendly, forward approach of asking him whether we could hang out because I was new to the town and knew a total of 0 people. Or maybe just because he was hoping because I was desperate for friendship I would accept more. Who knows? Two weeks, two hang outs and an awkward encounter later I had lost my first and only friend. The most crucial thing to remember when abroad is that even though you might be in a new country that doesn’t mean that you won’t experience the same petty issues you have had in the past at home. After cutting ties with someone who clearly wasn’t the right fit I realized I wasn’t just going to settle for any type of friendship just because I wanted ‘friends’, little did I know that two days later I would meet the coolest crew around town. Be prepared for a few bumps in the road and try adopt a positive approach to whatever tough or hard situations might come your way because life will happen.

Hopefully these tips will help you settle in to your new home and school, happy unpacking! 🙂


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