A New Adventure!

When I initially made the decision to move abroad and teach internationally, I can remember telling my parents (and everyone else) that it was just going to be for 2 years, and then I’d move back home. At the time, I actually believed that’s how it would play out. Fast forward to now, ten years later, and I’m finishing my contract in my fourth country, with no plans to return home anytime soon.

The life of an expat, while not for everyone, is my preference. It’s afforded me many opportunities I never would have had living in the states. Apart from the obvious travel opportunities, I have been able to meet some truly remarkable people, learn a great deal about myself, become a better educator, teach in the PYP, immerse myself in new cultures, develop some long-lasting friendships, and work through some very challenging times. In the past ten years, I’ve lived in Shanghai, China; Tirana, Albania; Bangkok, Thailand; and Jakarta, Indonesia. While I’m sad that this chapter is coming to an end, I’m so excited about my new adventure!

I’m thrilled to announce that this summer, I’ll be moving to Jeju Island, South Korea! To be honest, Korea was never really on my radar because, despite loving it when I visited Seoul in 2011, it was too dang cold for me! What I’ve learned about Jeju is that while it does get cold (and even snows a few times a year), it’s generally 10-15 degrees Celsius warmer than Seoul. Plus, Jeju is known as “the Hawaii of Korea,” and you can’t go wrong with that!

Firstly, I am really looking forward to joining my new school, Branksome Hall Asia (BHA), which is a prestigious all-girls boarding school. It’s all girls and boarding in the Secondary School, but there are a mix of boys and girls in the Junior School, which is a day school. What first drew me to BHA was that it’s a full continuum IB World School, offering the PYP, MYP, and DP. They are known for being innovative and they push the boundaries of what most schools think is possible. BHA was recently awarded the International School Award for “Initiative to support students as future-thinking innovators.” During the interview process, I was so impressed with the Head of School and the other administrators I spoke with about the work their students are doing. I’ll be joining the Junior School team as the Deputy Head of Junior School and PYP Coordinator, tasked with leading the integration of transdisciplinary and innovative practices in the younger grades. I can’t wait to be a part of it!

Branksome Hall Asia’s mission is “Each day, we challenge and inspire girls to love learning and to shape a better world.” This is something I can get behind! 🙂

This video highlights so many things I love about the school, including the gorgeous campus!

Now that you know more about the school, which is the reason I chose to move there, let me highlight what I’m looking forward to exploring in my new home on Jeju Island!

Aerial view of Jeju Island Source
Jeju Island is the purple island south of the mainland. Source

Jeju Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and as such, it has so much natural beauty with plenty of opportunities to be outdoors. A quick Google image search of Jeju revealed these amazingly beautiful images, and I have to say, after seeing these, I cannot wait to explore all that the island has to offer. I did mention it’s the Hawaii of Korea, didn’t I?

I’ve been researching all that I can about my new home. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  • Jeju has over 360 volcanoes, most of them dormant.
  • The island is small, with a surface area of 1,846 sqkm and a perimeter of just 274 km, so it’ll be, by far, the smallest place I’ve ever lived abroad. Jeju is even smaller than Rhode Island, USA!
  • Not much English is spoken in Jeju, so I’ll be learning Korean. I’m really excited to learn another language, although I’m a bit intimidated about this one! So far all I know how to say is hello and thank you. I’m going to use my quarantine time to start learning Korean using an app.
  • The population of Jeju is roughly 600,000, which is a far cry from Jakarta’s population of 10 million+. Guess this means a lot less traffic to deal with!
  • I’ll need to drive a car there, which I’m actually anticipating, since I haven’t owned a car while living abroad. Of course, I’ll be getting a Hyundai!
  • Being an island, it has tons of fresh seafood. There are also lots of other food options on the island that I can’t wait to try.
  • I’ll be less than a 15-minute drive to the beach, where I can watch the dolphins jumping in the surf.
  • After living in an urban area for the last 10 years, I’m looking forward to being close to nature, where I can go for walks and hikes in my free time. I’m not a hiker, but this is something I hope to change.
  • I can get to Seoul in about an hour and for less than $50, which means I can get my big city fix whenever I want! Fun fact: The Seoul to Jeju flight path is the most regularly flown in the world, which means there’s always a flight coming or going.
  • Shanghai is only an hour and 20 minutes away and about $150. Looks like I’ll be getting a 10-year tourist visa for China!
  • The currency will be easier to deal with since 1 USD = 1,2335 KRW (Korean Won).
  • The cost of living will certainly be higher than in Indonesia, but I’ll be able to save more than 50% of my salary, which includes my travel expenses throughout the year. Hello retirement!
  • Jeju has a humid subtropical climate with 4 distinct seasons, which I am actually looking forward to experiencing again. After 3 years living in a climate that’s either hot and dry or hot and wet, with no need for a sweater ever, I’m excited that I’ll need to wear boots and a coat for part of the year! Jeju’s yearly temperatures range from 3-30C (38-86F), with mild winters and hot, humid, and rainy summers. Annual rainfall is 58-75 inches. After Jakarta, I think can handle some rain!
  • The lifestyle on the island is much more laid back than in big cities like Shanghai, Jakarta, or Bangkok. This will be a welcome change.
  • I’ll be able to breathe clean air, as there’s no air pollution on the island. What a bonus!

I know there’s so much more to learn about my new home, and I’m really looking forward to exploring it in a few short months!

So…who’s coming to visit?

35 thoughts on “A New Adventure!

  1. cmargocs

    What a big move with great benefits! You definitely have an adventuresome spirit, taking on this travel and opportunities by yourself. The new school looks like a dream! My daughter is an expat in Japan, and even recently married a Japanese young man, but they are ready to move back to the US; she didn’t realize how much she wanted to be home until their recent visit back here in January.

    Reply
      1. cmargocs

        She has another school year on her contract; they’re due to return the summer of 2021. That will give her a full five years there! She has grown and learned so much from the experience, more than I ever did living abroad as a military BRAT, I think.

  2. loudenclearblog

    WOWSERS! First of all, how exciting! And the school sounds amazing! And those pictures! OH. EM. GEE. It came by its comparison to Hawaii honestly! So excited for you and can’t wait to follow along on that adventure!

    Reply
  3. bbutler627

    Wow. I mean, WOW. I’ll always be drawn to imagery before words and these are incredible. I’d be pumped for the move too. Can I just say this is one of the few positive slices about travel that I’ve read in weeks. Obvi you left out the obvious 😉 but who needs to hear more on that when this whole post speaks volumes for a very different way of teaching. I do hope you journal and make each place it’s own memoir and that when you do settle for good (if ever) you’ll become one of our country’s foremost teaching abroad coordinators!

    Reply
    1. aggiekesler Post author

      Thanks! I couldn’t not include pictures…I’m such a visual person, too, and my goodness, it’s such a picturesque place, it would be a travesty not to include a few! Writing about my new school and location has put me in such a good mood today. I spoke to a few people today after writing, and they all asked why I was so happy. 🙂 I intend to write more about it once I’m there. I have written about everywhere I’ve lived, but I feel there’s still so much more I could write! I should do that. Thanks!

      Reply
  4. Sara T.

    What an exciting travel-filled life you live! I am quite jealous! What does your new job entail ? I don’t know what PYP stands for. I don’t know much about Korea, and I definitely did not know there was such a beautiful island location like Jeju! It looks so serene, relaxing and beautiful – a great place to get outdoors each day!

    Reply
    1. aggiekesler Post author

      Thanks…it’s definitely a fun life (most of the time). My new job is essentially a combination of Elementary Assistant Principal and Curriculum Coordinator. As the PYP Coordinator, I will help teacher teams collaboratively plan their units. PYP stands for Primary Years Programme, which is a curriculum framework for 3-12 year olds from the IB (International Baccalaureate). It’s an inquiry-based, transdisciplinary programme that is student-centered and very much in line with my philosophy of teaching. After teaching in the US, this was a very eye-opening way of teaching. I could never go back to an American curriculum again.

      To be honest, I hadn’t heard much about Jeju either, but once I started learning more about it…I was so pumped!! I’m looking forward to walks and lots of beach time.

      Reply
  5. pfornale

    You are on one impressive adventure–I had dreamed years ago of doing what you are doing. Life tied me down for a while, but now I am getting ideas again…

    Best of luck with your new assignment, and with learning Korean.

    Reply
    1. aggiekesler Post author

      Thank you! You should totally go abroad…it’s been the best decision I ever made! Thanks…I’m gonna need all the luck in the world to learn Korean! haha

      Reply
  6. jee young

    Ooh congrats on the new job!! The school sounds amazing!!! I enjoyed living in Seoul, but didn’t get to visit Jejudo. Will def. need to visit Jejudo the next time I go to Korea. I heard the food is really good in Jejudo as well. I highly recommend this book: The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See. It takes place in Jejudo and about the all-female diving collective there. It’s a fascinating story!

    Reply
    1. aggiekesler Post author

      Thanks Jee Young! I am looking forward to visiting Seoul again while I’m in Jeju. I can remember when we met up to see the movie! 🙂 I’ll look up the book. I have heard about the female divers there.

      Reply
  7. Meg Looney

    Congrats on your new position and home! Very exciting when you land that next teaching job for sure. I taught overseas in international schools for the past 10 years (Brazil, India & Czech Republic) and returned home to the U.S. in August. Your post reminded me of the enthusiasm and excitement I had each time I landed a new job. During another stint abroad, I taught at an international school in Seoul about 15 years ago and loved my time in Korea. Jeju is gorgeous and lovely and being able to spend time outdoors exploring will be wonderful. Enjoy the time where you are and the planning for what’s to be.

    Reply
    1. aggiekesler Post author

      Thank you! Wow…you’ve had some really great experiences, too. I so want to live in India someday! Where were you? So you’ve been to Jeju? How cool! What was your favorite thing to do there?

      Reply
      1. Meg Looney

        Keep India on your list! I lived in Mumbai and worked at the American School of Bombay for four years. One of my best moves yet! I did visit Jeju. Oh…you’ve got me thinking a lot about what we did while we visited. It was a short visit, just a weekend from Seoul. We did a day island tour and visited Jeju Jeolmul Forest and also Seongsan Sunrise Peak both of which I enjoyed greatly.

  8. mschiubookawrites

    First of all, congrats!!! I’m so excited for you. The pics are amazing!!!!! Hawaii of Korea sounds ideal just about now. I think fondly of my teaching abroad experiences (Beijing and HK) and wish the best!

    Reply
      1. aggiekesler Post author

        How cool- I’ve been to both cities, but HK lots of times. I just love that city!! I’m sure I’ll be posting quite a bit in the future. 🙂

  9. chuizar

    Wow! What an adventure you have been on for the last 10 years and what a fun new chapter that awaits you! I look forward to reading future posts all about the new adventure.

    Reply
  10. livinglife816287820

    How exciting for you, I do hope the current situation won’t hold up your being able to get there and the school year starting on time. It sounds truly exciting and overwhelmingly beautiful at the same time! I think once you’ve taught in prestigious international schools in Asia, it becomes difficult to go back to somewhere like the US where students do not value education in the same way.

    Reply
  11. Joanne franks

    Me… I’m coming….but then I said that about Indonesia. Mind you it was on my radar for April holidays. Ha…..

    Reply

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