It’s been eight and a half months since I moved to Korea, and it’s officially the longest I’ve stayed in the same home for almost six years. Some of my moves have been within the same town, and some have been across the globe, but it’s never easy to uproot a living space and settle into a new one. However short my stays are, it’s important to me that my living space and community are places I can feel comfortable and grounded. These five simple actions are my strategies for creating a home where I can thrive, rather than just survive.
Organize important information in a safe place
Ideally, you’ll have a lot of important information collected before you even depart for Korea. Things like embassy or consulate information, passport and other document copies, and visas are things you should have prepared ahead of time. But when you actually arrive in Korea, you’ll acquire some more important documents that you should organize in a safe places as soon as they land in your hands.
This include things like:
- Alien Registration Card – you’ll want to carry this all the time, but keeping a copy at home is a good idea.
- Proof of medical plan – in most cases, your ARC will suffice in hospitals and clinics, but it’s possible your information won’t come up in the system, in which case this booklet is key.
- Local contact information – most of us don’t know where we’ll be living and teaching when we first arrive, so it’s difficult to prepare important information like hospital locations, you co-teacher’s contact, and even your own contact information. Once you have all these, make sure you have them on paper. You never know when your phone is going to die and take everything with it!
I keep all of my documents in the top drawer of my dresser in these envelopes.
Join a gym, club, or activity
No matter how much you prepare, you’ll likely feel a little alienated and lonely when you first arrive. Finding an activity to get you out of your apartment and into a routine in the community will help you set down some roots in your new home.
I joined Teukgong Moosul, a Korean mixed martial art in my first week of arriving in Taebaek. We practice five days a week so it has kept me busy, has immersed me more in Korean culture, and has helped me to make some friends in the community (even if we can’t speak the same language!).
Enjoying a night out with the teukgong crowd!
I also joined a Korean language class with other English teachers in town. Although I didn’t stick with it, it was a great way for me to connect with others in town. This was particularly useful in the beginning as it gave me a space to ask questions about the town, teaching, getting around Korea, etc.
Make your apartment your own
Even if you’re only planning to stay in Korea for a year, making your apartment your own space is a great way feel settled and comfortable. For me this meant hanging up some twinkly lights, chucking some things I didn’t need (most apartments come with items left over by the previous teacher) and buying soem plants. This helped ward off any homesickness, because I already was home.
Walk all over your neighbourhood
and go into the the stores! Give yourself a few hours when you first arrive to just explore. This will help you get your bearings and locate the basics around you. I didn’t explore enough when I first got here, and when I later got around to it, I discovered all the great things I was missing out on, like affordable fruit markets, cafes, grocery stores, and tucked away park benches.
Find a good coffee shop (and other places) to frequent
Finding a few spots to frequent helped me feel at home right away in Taebaek. There is a fantastic coffee shop right outside my apartment with a cozy decor and cinnamony-cappucinos and it’s become one of my favourite spots to spend time. The baristas know my name and order, and I can take my laptop there at the end of the way to do some writing and unwind.
My favourite cafe, Man Barista!
Another place I frequent to unwind is Yeonhwasan, a mountain at the end of my street. I’ve enjoyed exploring the mountain through the changes of the seasons and clearing my mind of the stresses of the day in nature.
One of my favourite things to do on Yeonhwasan is hunt down new plants and fungi!