Confessions of an Expat

Photo taken by the talented Kimberly Williams.

Between weekend adventures to new cities, trying exotic foods, and delving into another culture headfirst, there is a secret that all ex-patriots share.

Life overseas can be lonely.

The truth is that living in another country is often less glamorous than it may seem. Just like anyone, I have bad days at work, errands to run, everyday struggles, and days that are just "blah".

There are many moments that are unworthy of making it onto Instagram.

And then there is the raw sense of feeling left out. Over the past year, Ben and I have missed weddings and births. We haven’t been there to meet new boyfriends or fiancés. And we’ve been away for more than just the big events. We have missed nights out with friends and watching our niece and nephew’s basketball games.

While it’s easy to feel a little alienated, we knew that this journey would come with sacrifices. Most of the time we are okay with it, but there are certain times when it is just a little harder than usual.

It’s December now. The time of year I've been dreading since I arrived in Korea. It’s the time of ugly sweater parties, nights spent drinking apple cider by the fireplace, and time with family and friends. This year has been a bit different. Koreans wear ugly Christmas sweaters, but not to be ironic. I haven’t found apple cider here, and our family and friends are a 20-hour flight away. Our Thanksgiving night was spent eating leftover stir fry and watching Breaking Bad.

The holidays have magnified a undeniable ache of homesickness I’ve never experienced in my life until now.

I have lived away from my hometown for most of my adult life - six years and counting, to be exact. The difference in the past has been I was always able to go home for the holidays. Never have I been this far away.

I am incredibly thankful for the wonders of the Internet that have allowed us to easily stay in touch. But the same technology that allows us to video chat reminds us of all the things we are missing out on.

Social media can breed jealousy, and trust me, it goes both ways. While people have told us they are envious of our travels, we have those moments too… they just look a little different. Everyday things like a status update from a friend on a lunch date with her mom only reminds me that how many months need to pass before I can do the same.

I feel so blessed to be able to go through this experience with Ben, and being together has certainly made being away from home easier. Creating a life in another country has forced us to rely on each other in every aspect of our life, and I think it’s safe to say we have grown more in the past four months than we have in our entire 9 years together.

There is not even a small part of me that regrets moving to Korea. It truly has been one of the best decisions of my life. There are moments though, that I just want to talk to my best friend or family, but there is a 15-hour time difference standing in my way. And it seems like those moments are more common during the month of December.

The thing I’ve realized about living in different places is that each city takes a little piece of your heart. I am not just homesick for Minnesota, but also my university town of Ames, Miami, and Florence. And I know that when my time comes to leave Korea, it will have a piece of my heart as well.

So for now, I am trying to live in the moment and absorb all that this country has to offer. Because I know that someday not far from now, I will feel a little pang of homesickness for Korea.