Expat Interview with Elicia, US Expat Living in South Korea

Published: 30 Oct at 1 PM
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Filed: Interviews,Korea South
Elicia is a teacher, a go-getter, a lover of adventure, hiking, and island hopping. Leaving their comfortable life back in the USA for a new journey abroad- Elicia and her husband said "goodbye" to the their life stateside, and "hello" to adventure in South Korea. She's currently teaching English to over 300 kids in Korea. Discovering unknown places & people is an addiction she's proud of and will be an endless journey that she'll continues to seek. Elicia's expat blog is called Life's a Journee (see listing here)

Meet Elicia - US expat in South Korea
Meet Elicia - US expat in South Korea

Here's the interview with Elicia...

Where are you originally from?
This is a tough question for me! I grew up as an US-Air Force kid. So with my dad in the military I was moving around quite a bit. I am "originally" from the United States. We'll leave it at that :)

In which country and city are you living now?
I am currently living in the beautiful little coastal city of Yeosu, South Korea. You've probably never heard of it. I hadn't either before I moved here. I have the gorgeous sea, plentiful mountains to hike, and we also get to experience all four seasons here in Korea. It's best known for hosting the World Expo in 2012.

How long have you lived in South Korea and how long are you planning to stay?
I've been in Yeosu for just about 6 months. Planning to stay for 2 years OR more, but at this point anything could happen. When I make plans they always seem to change/grow/evolve so at this point all I know for sure is that anything could happen!

Why did you move to South Korea and what do you do?
I moved to seek adventure. A change of pace. For a new journey. To teach English. What do I do? I'm a teacher. I do my best to make kids reach their full potential. I sing.I dance. I laugh. I illustrate words. I make them practice/repeat. I do my best to make English applicable to their every day lives. Most of all, I simply have fun with the kids that I teach. That's what I do.

With my better 1/2 on the summit of the highest peak between the Himalayas and New Guinea. Such joy at the peak of Mt. Kinabalu where we climbed it in ONE day!
With my better 1/2 on the summit of the highest peak between the Himalayas and New Guinea. Such joy at the peak of Mt. Kinabalu where we climbed it in ONE day!
Did you bring family with you?
I did! My husband Tom. We were married in the Dominican Republic 8 months prior to moving to Korea. He's pretty rad.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
The transition to living abroad in a foreign country was absolutely GREAT! I blame the amazing souls of the South Koreans. They are the most generous people I have ever met in my entire life. What you'll find though is that the more you get to know (the majority) of South Koreans the more they reveal their generosity. In the beginning it was a complete and utter whirlwind. I learned to shrug off the hardships or difficulties I had right away, and just kept smiling. Things were different than back home, but that is what I had signed up for. We wanted change. We wanted adventure. We were seeking a thrill. We sure got one. I think back to the first couple months in Korea and to me it didn't really seem like a "transition." It felt like we were coming home. Yes, life looked a bit different...but we loved different. I remember when we first moved to Korea I caught a cold. We were trying to meet up with new friends for dinner without having working phones yet... 45 minutes passed when we decided that we were in the wrong meeting point. Hungry, jet lagged, and sick I sat down on the corner of the sidewalk. An elderly Korean man came over. Sat down next to me. He spoke only Korean. I smiled hoping that my inability to communicate wouldn't frustrate him. He pulled out the most beautiful orange. Handed it to me. Grinned from ear to ear and walked away. It's the countless stories like this one that made our "transition" into living abroad so effortless.

Exploring a local island named: Sado. Near our home in Yeosu
Exploring a local island named: Sado. Near our home in Yeosu
Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
Since we work in the Korean public schools and have Korean co-teachers who teach alongside us- it made it really easy to meet people! We also had an orientation to our jobs with 60 other foreigners from around the world coming to teach English in Korea. We socialize with both Korean natives and foreigners. We have a pretty good mix actually. My husband and I are both intrigued by the culture, and love learning about it authentically. It's important for foreigners to make an effort to get involved in the culture/community that you live in. That's why we came here! We also enjoy hanging out with foreigners as well, and have learned more about other parts of the world while traveling/living in Korea from other expats!

What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
There are SO many amazing things to do in our area of Korea. We live in the southern province of Korea named Jeollanamdo. I believe the southern part of Korea is the most beautiful. Specifically, we love hiking and island hopping so I would recommend both. It really depends on what you want to do. The perfect day to me would include a stroll through the rice fields, lunch in a small village, a hike up one of the mountains, and watching the sunset on the beach. We always meet the coolest Koreans hiking! Yeosu is a port city where you can easily jump on the ferry for a few hours to take you to small island to explore. We've done lots of that too. AH! There's too many things to recommend. Can I recommend you just come visit?!?

Volunteering in the Dominican Republic
Volunteering in the Dominican Republic
What do you enjoy most about living here?
I love the Korean kindness. I love the calm country side that's only a 15 minute drive/bus ride away. I enjoy the beaches. I love my job. I enjoy exploring a new place. I enjoy the plentiful hiking. I can't pick just one!!!

How does the cost of living in South Korea compare to the USA?
Well, our hosing is paid. It's part of teaching contract! So, I don't have the best grasp on comparing it to the USA from my own experiences. I do know many Koreans live in apartments. We live in what Koreans call a "two bedroom." It's basically a one room studio, but it's free and it's cozy. We've made it home. One thing that stands out is the considerably low cost of eating out. They serve plenty of food for a low coast compared to the States. So that rocks!

What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
Negatives. Well our family is far away. Both of us are family people. It's a sacrifice we've made, and prepared for. Skype, Facebook, blogging, and emailing help a TON to feel connected. We also discovered an app called Kakao Talk that we use to call and message friends/family back home for free. It's pretty much the coolest thing since sliced bread. That's about the only negative I can think about. The positives far outweigh the benefits of living here. We have great jobs, great coworkers, an expat community in the city we live in. I have very few complaints. Life is SO good here!!!!

Teaching in Korea! My kind of happiness
Teaching in Korea! My kind of happiness
If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Don't compare. Don't compare your job to that of other expats. Don't compare apartments, coworkers, or friends. Your life here is YOUR journey! All of ours may look different. That's what makes it great. The grass isn't always greener. You took the leap to move abroad, now plant seeds to make it incredible. You have the opportunity just as the next person to explore, learn, and live big. Take it. Stop comparing, and start making your journey unique.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Since, I'm a teacher... I'd say in the beginning that it was difficult that I couldn't communicate perfectly to the kids when there was a conflict between them. Eyes say it all though. I learned quickly that a hug, a smile, and the extra hello goes a long way to help a student. I learned to communicate in other ways.I do my best to make them feel loved, appreciated, and valued. I learned I didn't need to speak Korean perfectly to communicate effectively to the kids.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
I'm not sure! That's a hard one. Ask me this question if we ever move back to the states. Korea feels like home right now, and that's all that I know. I'm learning, I'm exploring, I'm growing as a person. At this point I think my husband and I will make "home" wherever we are together.

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. The grass isn't always greener.
  2. Don't compare.
  3. Make friends with the locals.
  4. Show the world your kindness.
  5. Love all.

Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
The name “lifesajournee” stems from the desire to take the unknown path not knowing where it will lead, the life long journey of discovering unknown people and places, living for moments that take your breath away, taking risks, my journey of being an English teacher in Korea, a wife, and most importantly my journey of faith as a Christian.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Via my blog or Twitter (see links below) I'd love to hear from you, and I always try to make myself quickly available for any/all questions you may have.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingElicia is an American expat living in Korea South. Blog description: A desire to take the unknown path not knowing where it will lead, the life long journey of discovering unknown people and places, & living for moments that take your breath away all while living in South Korea as an English teacher.
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