American Expats in South Korea - Interview With Chelsea

Published: 20 Feb at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Korea South
Chelsea and Jeremy met, fell in love, and got hitched. Shortly after the wedding they realized that they were in no way ready to 'settle down' in the traditional sense. So they packed their bags and decided to spend their newly married lives traveling the world. Their current spot is as ESL teachers on a small island in South Korea. They love living the expat life where everyday is a new challenge and a new adventure. They can’t wait to see what happens next as they have no plans as of yet to return home. Welcome to life as an expat, a life lost in travels. Chelsea's expat blog is called lost.in.travels (see listing here)

Meet Chelsea - US expat in South Korea
Meet Chelsea - US expat in South Korea

Here's the interview with Chelsea...


Where are you originally from?
Tulsa, Oklahoma USA

In which country and city are you living now?
Geoje Island, South Korea

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
I have lived here for almost two years and plan to stay for another year, maybe two.

Why did you move and what do you do?
My husband and I first moved because we wanted something out of the ordinary after we got married. So instead of settling down in our hometown, we packed our bags and set off on an adventure. We currently both teach English, I teach kindergarten through middle school students and my husband teaches adults.

Cherry Blossom Festival in Jinhae, SK
Cherry Blossom Festival in Jinhae, SK
Did you bring family with you?
It’s just my husband and I and since moving we have added a cat to the mix.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
I’ll be honest; the first three months were tough. The language might as well have been in hieroglyphics; it was my first time teaching, and my stomach wasn’t handling the spicy Korean food very well. There were times when I turned to my husband and asked what we were doing here. And then…it got easier. We settled into a routine, we started traveling internationally and domestically, we started slowly learning the language and I finally got the hang of teaching students who didn’t speak much English. I’m so thankful for the community of foreigners here and above all my husband who was always so uplifting and encouraging when I was struggling with the adjustment. It made all the difference in the world.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
We were fortunate enough to get ‘set up’ in a sense by friends that used to live in the same city. We have also gotten involved in a local foreigner’s church, which has become like family to us. We have built a tight community over here that we know we can turn to and rely on. It’s made the whole experience not only easier but also more gratifying.

What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
We have loved going to the local yacht club and renting day sailors and kayaks for the afternoon. There is also an excellent bamboo forest park nearby with gorgeous hiking trails and zip lines through the trees.

Holding a baby Orangutan at the Bali Safari
Holding a baby Orangutan at the Bali Safari
What do you enjoy most about living here?
We really enjoy how feasible and accessible traveling to other countries is. In the two years that we have been here, we have been able to travel to several different countries and always enjoy researching where to go on our next adventure.

How does the cost of living compare to home?
We were pleasantly surprised to find out that as far as rent and utilities, living in Korea is much cheaper than in the States. But as far as groceries go, I’ve found that it’s about the same if not a tad bit more.

What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
Some of the times that we wanted to find the first flight out were times when we were missing big moments in loved ones lives. We knew moving over here that it was inevitable but when the time actually came, it was a lot more difficult than we could have ever anticipated. We have missed engagements and weddings of close friends and the birth of my niece. These are things that we knew we would miss when we signed ourselves up for it, but it’s still hard when it became a reality.

Ulsan Bawi in Seoraksan National Park
Ulsan Bawi in Seoraksan National Park
If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Adapt and be flexible. Living overseas has taught me to be extremely flexible. Obviously every culture is extremely different and has different quirks about it. Things that may make you laugh or drive you crazy. As an extreme planner, I like to know ahead of time what I’m going to be doing or where I will be at in the week. Working in Korea, that’s not always possible, plans and schedules can change in a blink of an eye. I have learned to put my personality traits aside and go more with the flow, which makes my work life a whole lot more pleasant.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Definitely the language. Thankfully the locals are so understanding and treat us very well despite only being able to speak a few words. We continue to learn the language but with the pronunciation being so precise it’s a slow process!

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
We recently visited back home for a short amount of time and while the first few days were spent trying to adjust to a different language, currency and culture, we were surprised at how easy it was to slip right back into our old lives. Whether or not that short test holds true in the long run, we’ll have to see when we move back in a few years.


What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Get involved- part of living overseas is the people that you experience it with. There are so many different groups and activities to get involved with, pick one you love and join.
  2. Take up a hobby-most of the time you’re going to have more time than you did back home. Pick something that you have always wanted to start and finally do it! It’s a great way to meet new people too.
  3. Expect every single thing to be drastically different from home; don’t make comparisons between the two places.
  4. Laugh it off- you have to be able to laugh at yourself. There will be times when the cultural differences will seem like too much to handle. But if you develop a good sense of humor and the ability to laugh it off, it will be much more enjoyable.
  5. Have patience- patience is not a virtue I particularly excel at. But when you’re teaching young children a language they do not yet know and you have to explain what to do three times, in three distinctly different ways...patience eventually becomes one of your strong skills. Not to mention, as an expat living in a country where I know very little of the language I need to remind myself to be extra patient as I try to describe what I want or need in a store because after all, I’m the one that should be able to speak their language.


Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
Lost in Travels was started as a way to keep in touch with our friends and family while we were living abroad. It has since turned into a place where I share about our daily lives as expats, world travels, and the occasional traveling tip.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Follow us on our blog (see link below), or feel free to contact us on twitter @lost_in_travels. Can’t wait to hear from you!

Chelsea blogs at http://lostintravelsblog.blogspot.com/ which we recommend a quick visit if you haven't been already. lost.in.travels has an ExpatsBlog.com listing here so add a review if you like! If you appreciated this interview with Chelsea, please also drop her a quick comment below.

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