Living Abroad & Coming Home: Coy Canada, Please Take Me Seriously

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Living Abroad and Returning Home: Oh, Canada!

I’m back in Canada.  After a year in Busan, 2 in Seoul, a questionable first week in Bali, blissful 2nd week in Gili Trawangan, and a lengthy journey back home chock-full of nasi goreng, kimchi, and caesars, I’m back, Beaches.  To be clear, I’m not quite back in Toronto, yet.  Those beaches I referenced in a 6ix-centric pun were not, in fact, on the boardwalk of my hometown, but actually way East.  I’m in a little town called Port Hope, and there doesn’t seem to be an escape in sight.  One might say I’m still technically “living abroad”.

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Reverse Culture Shock from Living Abroad

Everyone’s been asking me how the reverse culture shock has been.  Well, it’s been like coming home after a vacation (which, hello – Bali, I did!) I mean, it’s crap not having access to public transportation, but beyond that I don’t really feel that much of a difference.  Canada and Korea aren’t massively different.  Off the top of my head, Canada has better snacks, healthier options at Starbucks, and horrible drugstore skincare products (in my opinion).  The only real adjustment has been to tax & grat being added.  I’m happy to pay the tax and grat, but could do without the surprise!

I no longer start my workday banding with the other teachers on my floor, forcing one another to smile and say positive affirmations before our ogre of a boss arrives to derail our classes.  I have gone to the gym and to community events with my parents.  Sleep has been most important while “funemployed”.  The rest of my time has been spent editing photos from my trip to Kota Kinabalu where I partnered with the Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort and the Sabah Tourism Board.  I’ve got work to catch up on, a cough to get over, and a schedule to resume.  I also have distractions everywhere.

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My “Influence” Living Abroad vs. At Home

To be fair, I’ve only been “home” for a week.  It’s been awesome to see my parents and go about their daily lives when I haven’t been impacted by a chest/ ear infection I picked up in Bali or the jet lag I thought I’d be able to avoid with 30 hours in transit from Denpasar through Incheon to Pearson.

Adjusting to life back home didn’t appear to be so challenging from afar.  I started applying for jobs 2 months before my Korean contract was up, and I’ve been applying aggressively since coming back home.  Keeping busy building two brands abroad has been great when submitting to influencer marketing agencies, but tough to get bites from actual full-time jobs with salaries and benefits.  Do these people genuinely think living abroad means a 3-year working (read: babysitting) vacation?

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Living Abroad vs. At Home: Job Hunting

Job hunting in Korea was simple because there weren’t any many options as an E2 visa holder.  Our teaching options are limited to EPIK or hagwon, and Kindergarten, Elementary School (usually at a hagwon you’d teach both the former), middle school, or adults.  The age group of your pupils dictated your schedule, and that was that.  If you have a degree from an English-speaking country, a resume with your name and contact information listed, and a half-decent (but definitely foreign-looking) face, badda-bing, badda-boom you were employed.  It’s not necessarily fair, and I know plenty of native English teachers who are a disservice to their students, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles in Korea.

Now, I’m applying to jobs in Marketing, which is an eco-system unto itself.  I’m open to Event Planning, although I’m not 100% sure I want to go back to the hospitality side in the same way.  I did Influencer Relations in Korea and Public Relations at my 3 previous Toronto jobs, which means I’m all client side/ in house and have no agency experience (= slim to nil job prospects).  I’d love to sink my teeth into Content Production and Copy Writing, but all my experience is from newspapers, magazines, blogs, YouTube, and digital media in Korea.

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Permanently Living Abroad? Never in the cards.

I don’t want to continue teaching English as a Second Language.  I’d love to continue teaching, training, or coaching high school or university students.  I’d love to train sales, marketing, and client service professionals, too.  ESL in Korean hagwons (private academies) is not for me.  If it was something I thought I’d continue to enjoy long-term, I would have stayed in Korea where the cost of living is significantly lower!

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Living Abroad vs. At Home: Perceptions and Instrospectives

A successful and professional friend sent me a job post today.  It was for an online English teaching position starting at $16/ hr part time.  That’s a great way to supplement income while abroad, but there’s no way you can live in Toronto making that.  Also, I was director level before leaving Toronto.  I had a career.  I worked my ass off.  I don’t know if there’s been a moment in my adult life when I felt less capable or believed in by my friends.

Was it unsafe to assume their perception of me was different to that of recruiters?  Did I just imagine they thought of me as an outgoing, motivated, polished, and accomplished young professional?  She then followed up with “you might have to settle for entry-level”.  I was no longer just insulted, I was hurt.  Is this what my friends think of me?  Have I become the stereotype of an LBH (Loser-Back-Home) in the precisely 7 days I’ve been back in Canada?

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Support After Living Abroad

As a teacher, it was my job to pump up self-sabotaging students with self-esteem issues.  The kid who cried  every day for the first two weeks because his reading, writing, and speaking abilities were limited won a speech contest he wrote by himself and delivered in a huge hall at the end of the year.  Another who refused to pick up a pencil out of sheer laziness brought home a thick, colourful field guide full of research and writing on dinosaurs by Christmas.  My entire class of 6 year olds was writing informational and argumentative essays by the end of last year.

Why is it that I can motivate and engage little ones to see their skills and value, but can’t seem to jump up and down enough to get anyone else’s attention?  I’m used to pointing out the path to kids who have lost their way.  Now, I can’t seem to see the trees for the forest.

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Have you returned home “funemployed” and without your own place to live after living abroad?  How did you adjust to your lack of schedule (and lack of importance)?  How did you find your first job and did you need to take a big step back professionally?  

Leave me a note in the comments!

The post Living Abroad & Coming Home: Coy Canada, Please Take Me Seriously appeared first on The Toronto Seoulcialite.


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