Before my experience in Korea, I was a different girl. More princessy, more whiny. Small decisions, such as buying curtains or replacing my fridge, seemed so overwhelming. I had never seen a cockroach in my life. I had never stayed in a youth hostel. I had never visited a third world country. I had never seen people sitting on the side of the road, selling vegetables. I never had to use a non-Western bathroom. I never had to spend too much time on my own.
I had no idea what I was getting into when I quit my job and picked Seoul as my new home. I was terrified, but also excited, because it seemed so unreal, and I knew it would be a life-changing experience. Reality hit hard when I left my cozy white apartment on that snowy February evening, only to find myself living in a brown, cockroach-infested, cardboard apartment (I did cry when I saw it- go see the pictures!).Working for religious freaks that considered coffee-drinking a sin was quite horrifying. And the sewer smells in the streets of Seoul... and inside my own apartment? I was not prepared for that, and I used to get so frustrated.
But eventually, things got better. I spent my first few months hating life in Korea, but I knew it was a good experience, so I kept trying, and trying. I realized I'd have to go out of my comfort zone in order to be happier. I joined some meetup groups, met some great girl friends, started discovering Seoul, and all of a sudden I had a life there. I never quite got rid of the cockroaches, and avoided non-Western bathrooms at all costs, but I loved my lifestyle. I knew it was only for a year, so I had to make the most of it... and the most of Seoul.
Living abroad definitely made me grow as a person, and perhaps I needed it a bit more than other people. I became surprisingly independent, and way more open-minded about everything. I'm not shy about meeting new people, and I appreciate every little thing that was missing from my life in Korea: drinkable tap water, availability of cheese, fresh air, green spaces, a bug-free apartment, a clothes dryer, a shower that doesn't spray the whole bathroom. I learned how to be more respectful, and more understanding. The garbage smells in the summer heat just reminds me that I've smelled way worse in Seoul. Everything just doesn't seem like a big deal, and most importantly, I'm grateful for the small things. There's more to life than owning the latest trends. (I don't think I knew that before). I still love shopping just as much, but I shop at Zara so I can have more money to go on trips.
I'll always be one to encourage my friends to take the plunge and do something different. Even though it's difficult at times, the outcome is always positive, and it gives you friends and memories for a lifetime.
And, am I still princessy? Peut-être un peu.