If you come to Korea to make new friends, seek new adventures, save money and travel, you have definitely made the right decision. Korea provides all that. One thing to consider, that you may not bargain for, is that your new friends will be saying “see ya later” in a short time. That is, if you plan to stay beyond your first contract year.
Anytime you live abroad, friendship seem to grow closer and at a faster pace than in our home countries. This largely has to do with the situation/stress of the experience. Ask any military personnel. S/He will likely tell you that they form bonds quickly with other soldiers while deployed. Now, there are many more factors for soldiers– like defending one another’s life– that should not be discounted. In some ways, the bonds are similar here. We lookout for one another. We share our woes, victories, frustrations and surprises with one another. We look to others for advice and feedback about our situations. We develop friendships that can’t be easily explained to people who haven’t experienced the “abroad experience.”
Most English teachers here in Korea sign a one year contract, albeit renewable upon mutual agreement. Thus, by the nature of the setup, many people must make a decision each year whether to stay or to move on to the next adventure in their life. For people like me who moved here planning to stay a few years, it would be natural to assume that we would be forced to say good-bye to friends who choose to move on.
The hard part comes when the person has left a permanent mark on your heart. The kind of friendship that you can’t imagine your life being the same without them in it. I have been privileged to experience a few of these friendships in my short time here. Each time a friend leaves, it’s as if I grieve the loss of a friend. It’s strange to me how that happens. I literally feel like they are taking a piece of me with them. I guess, emotionally, they are.
Recently, three of my closest non-Korean friends have moved on to their next chapter of life. I am excited about the adventures and endevours they are embarking on. I am grateful for the laughs, tears, experiences and joys we shared together. They have taught me a lot about enjoying the moment– EVERY MOMENT. So, if you are in Korea (or anywhere in the world, for that matter) and you find yourself grieving the loss of a friend’s physical [in the sense of distance] closeness, just know that they must move on in their own destiny. Be grateful for the time you had with one another. Cherish who they are and what they were able to teach you and share with you while you were together. Know that this world is TOO SMALL for your paths NOT to cross again.
If you’re reading this, and I have had the privilege of calling you friend, yet you have moved away from Korea, know that I am thankful for you. Please keep in touch. I am waiting for the day our paths cross again! MUAH!
Oh, and for those of you who are still in Korea, I haven’t forgotten you either. I will cherish our moments together, knowing that one day, by the nature of working here, our paths will likely separate. It’s ok, I can enjoy the moments! MUAH!