Who are you?
My name is Raquel Rodriguez, a born and bred 25 year old New Yorker from the heart of Manhattan.
Where, when and why did you move abroad?
I moved to Korea, because it seemed like the perfect time to step outside of my comfort zone whether that be short or long term.My mother used to also watch a significant amount of K dramas and introduced me to a wide range of Korean TV shows that I enjoyed greatly! Coincidentally I also ended up in a field that gave me the ease to travel, with my degree in Education. It seemed like the perfect chance, so I jumped for it!
What challenges did you face during the move?
Although I have not been here too long, I did face some challenges. When I first arrived I dived directly into an intense training with the program I am working under. My first week and a half living in my now home, in a rural area, was also challenging with nothing but crickets outside during midnight which greatly differed from the city I grew up in. Not to add I live in a rural area and reading signs is impossible for me, meaning I have to rely on google translation or a English speaking Korean to communicate through until I am able to learn more Korean.
How did you find somewhere to live?
I applied through EPIK, also known as the English Program in South Korea, which provides housing for all its employees. The opportunity to explore beyond their options is possible, if so they will provide a stipend, but with the usual accommodations that EPIK makes I can’t complain and it is extremely convenient.
Are there many other expats in your area?
There are a fair amount, four to be exact. Surprisingly we have a whole community within Jeongseon-eup that are also all EFL Teachers under EPIK. Living near each other gives us the opportunity as a community to assist each other.
What is your relationship like with the locals?
Great, the locals always greet and smile if they see me. I had occasions where they even speak to me or greet me in English while walking around the community. One brief example how just about every day looks for me: yesterday late at night I went to grab some food at a local 24/7 restaurant and while there I looked at the menu puzzled hoping to purchase a specific dish. A young lady eating in the restaurant began assisting me, and later came over to sit with me, we chatted and exchanged contact information.
What do you like about life where you are?
It’s peaceful. I never knew I would love a rural area as much as I do. Traveling to Seoul this past weekend helped me realize that this area was made for me, or I was made for it! I love the simple fact I can walk around in complete ease without having to navigate in the midst of hundreds of individuals, and while walking around being able to admire nature just about everywhere. 🙂
What do you dislike about your expat life?
Nothing to be completely honest, being here has been an immense blessing in my life and I cannot complain. From the program and schools I work with, to the people I see on a daily basis, and the community I am living at. Everything exceeded my exceptions! I feel that knowing Korean would be a huge asset and I wish I would have learned it previously, but I am in the process of learning it with a tutor so only time will tell.
What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?
The reverence and politeness that is reflected with everyone, especially in the rural areas. Coming from NYC to Jeongseon-eup is a world of a difference as well, there are a fair amount of residents but nothing compared to back home or city areas like Seoul. I’ve also noticed that the area I live in LOVES soups, and that is an understatement, so it’s sometimes hard to find more hardy dishes (which is what I personally prefer).
What do you think of the food and drink in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?
Upon arriving in South Korea I was taken aback by how delicious, amazing, healthy, yet flavorful all the food was in Korea. I greatly enjoy it, but nonetheless there are many times I simply crave eating food from all over the world, ones so easily found in NYC.
Shopping for groceries can also be a task. A lot of the food in the community is catered to create dishes like the ones I eat for lunch at my school – fancy and yummy!
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
Go, be adventurous and learn. Learn by being open, willing, understanding and excited for a new chapter ahead, meanwhile staying graceful and be thankful for being able to experience it. Let’s never forget that we are in their country and that we have been welcomed. Try to always reflect the best person possible so we can leave a lasting impression.
What are your plans for the future?
At this moment I am taking each day, day by day seeing where life leads me. As of now I am slowly but surely falling in love with South Korea, and can’t wait to see what this year and the rest of my life has in store for me in this journey called life.
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