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! 🙂
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!
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!