At the beginning of my senior year at the University of Wisconsin, I joined all of my fellow students and friends in the “here comes the real world scramble”. Looking for jobs and trying to figure out what to do after graduation became a stressful conversation that came up often, but was always quickly shunned away with a “let’s not talk about this right now…” or “I don’t even want to think about it…”. The newspaper was full of stories about unemployment and all of us knew it was going to be a struggle finding a job I felt passionate about.
My search began when most of my friends were applying to law school, studying for the GRE, or interviewing at companies in New York or Chicago. I had no hesitations in knowing I wanted to Teach English abroad instead. Now was the time to go and nothing was holding me back. But where would I go?
I can point to my study abroad experience my junior year as a major turning point in my life. I studied abroad on a program called Semester at Sea, allowing me to visit 13 vastly different countries around the world. A “buffet” of some of the cultures of the world, you could say. I had no interest in going to Asia before I got there – I always envisioned traveling as going somewhere like Paris or Rome – but the second I stepped onto the Asian continent I was mesmerized. I had to come back. I had to live here.
After some research, I finally found the program I was looking for – teaching English in South Korea.
I had never been to Korea and I didn’t know very much about it but that was a huge part of why I wanted to go.
One of my goals was to be completely independent of my parents and set out into the real world completely on my own. Korea would let me do this. Even my friends with hefty student loans managed to support themselves and even go on vacation with me to Thailand over our winter vacation for two weeks.
The application process was complicated, but South Korea wants to make sure the people they’re hiring actually want to come and are willing to put in a little work. It was worth it. The year I spent in Korea was easily the best and most rewarding year of my life. Of course, it was terrifying and challenging at times, but that’s what makes you grow and change into a stronger and smarter person. It’s also shaped my life and who I am back here in the USA. I have a job here at Greenheart Travel where I get to encourage people to go and do the same thing I did – leave the graduation job scramble behind and go see the world instead. You won’t regret it.
Sara Thacker is Greenheart Travel’s Associate Director of Marketing. She is an avid traveler and misses the days where she ate kimchi every day while living in Seoul, Korea!