I have kept it no secret that my adjustment to life in Korea wasn’t the smoothest. From the moment I arrived, to a few weeks after school started, I was still struggling mentally. So, in this blog I wanted to talk about how I’ve adjusted and gotten through this important time in my life. I also thought I would discuss this with you all since just recently, I experienced a mental rough patch. For some, this may be a boring topic or over-hashed, and you don’t want to hear about it again. Feel free to sit this one out. I just feel this is important to discuss and show to those who are thinking about studying abroad, depicting how it is not always a field of daisies, but instead a field of roses; equally beautiful, yet painful to walk through (I also couldn’t think of anything else to write but that’s besides the point – it felt right). So strap in ’cause this might be a rough ride.
To start out with the most recent dip in mental health – or should I rather say stability – which occurred this past week. Recently, it was a big weekend back home in Oxford, Double Decker Weekend. This is an art festival held every year in the town square, or as everyone knows it, the Square. The event hasn’t been held the past few years because of Covid, but this year it came back in full swing with seemingly more people attending than ever – at least that’s how it seemed to me. Everyone I knew was going – even my friends who had never attended previous years. My parents and friends were there, people I had met in passing were there, the whole town… yet here I was thousands of miles away not attending. I will admit, I hadn’t felt that down in a while. I wouldn’t call it homesickness, but I yearned to be home. People were sending me pictures, videos were posted on social media, it was everywhere. I was missing everything. Though these feelings could have also been brought about by the fact I had been running myself ragged that whole week, going and doing so much my social battery had just disappeared by Friday afternoon- which if you know me, you know this isn’t hard, but it was lower than I can ever recall – and I had engagements for the rest of the weekend. I missed the solitude of my own house. On top of this, all of my friends are about to start finals, finishing school for the semester, while I still have another two-ish months. Overall, it was a new type of low, but I once again adjusted, while also making a discovery.
I have found that I am in a constant state of loving being here and the life and friends I am forming here, but I am also constantly ready to return home. This state is hard to explain, and it feels wrong. I recently talked with my roommate and some friends about our arrivals/first impressions and so on. We all know I was struggling upon arrival and during move-in, and Hayley pointed out to me and the others her slight concern for me when we met, saying “If you had given Jacqueline the chance, she would have gone home.” I found this surprising, because though I know I was honest with her about how I had been feeling, I still felt as if I had been hiding it well. She went as far to say she believed this for two to three weeks. I have always been a person to hide my emotions, appearing more robot like – cold. So, hearing that I was displaying these emotions – especially to someone I didn’t know well at the time – was rather shocking to me. This feeling of being ready to go home but not being ready to leave is strange even for me. I don’t understand it fully, but it seems to have been present since my arrival. I feel this should be talked about, explained to others studying abroad or planning to, so they know that they aren’t the only ones.
I have also been struggling with the fact that I am supposed to “have the time of [my] life” here in Korea. This is something everyone says to you when you leave, they expect so much, and it feels like I can’t and won’t live up to this. And honestly, that’s okay. It took me a long time to accept this. But I do not have to live up to other people’s expectations, as long as I enjoy my time and do what I want, that is okay.
This semester is officially moving too fast but too slow. I want my week days to be over, and want to weekends to last forever. It always seems to occur in the opposite way. I just want the semester to be over, though I’m not exactly ready to leave. Yesterday feels like it was February, but also like it was two years ago(time perception isn’t my strong-suit). I want more time to do my work, but also don’t want to do the work; rather wanting to experience life. See a pattern? (proof-reader Jaxs: This is rough… just consider it a stream of consciousness, I have no other way to put any of this into words 🙃)
How I Cope
These may not be the best ways but these are some things I have found that help me.
- Little Tasks – I try to focus on one thing at a time, otherwise I become overwhelmed. Keeping myself busy with little tasks when there is nothing else to do helps. I would otherwise be able to think about things for too long. Most of the time it is menial or useless but better than spiraling. I have also started drawing some, mostly doodles. I bought a sketch book, though most of it still just goes on my hands or school work.
- Friends (in Korea) – I am never alone. I often feel this is for the better. I am very introverted and don’t get out much. Without the people I have met here and Manny, of course, I know I would not have done or experienced as much as I have. They keep me busy that’s for sure, but I am thankful for it, even when I know it seems otherwise to them. I have also met a really great group of people who have been very understanding, and actually like me enough to see me everyday. Honestly, I am more thankful for Hayley than she will ever know because if I was in a situation in which I didn’t get along with my roommate in the way we do, I most definitely would not have made it.
- Friends (in the US) – I keep in close contact. VERY close contact. My friends here say they have never seen someone who responds to people in the way I do. I am constantly texting, snapchatting, calling, you name it. And I generally respond, even to the people here, immediately. I responded quickly back home too, but not like this. It’s a new level even for me. But I quite literally keep both phones glued to me at all times. I have only just started to feel comfortable leaving my iPhone, which I only use for Snapchat now, at home, as I know it will be useless most everywhere as I won’t have internet. But, I still don’t like not having it, and when I’m out for long periods of time I become bothered that I can’t check it. But by keeping in contact, staying up to date, reminding myself they are still there, I can stay grounded. They are my rock.
- This is another thing I’ve noticed. I know the hours in which the people back home are awake and when I can contact them. When I cannot do so I become very antsy and want to go home just so I can. When I sleep too late into the day I am upset with myself for wasting those hours of not being able to respond. I stay up late into the night to communicate, even though I know I have an 8am class. This is unreasonable as I am in one of the most opposite time zones possible, but very valid.
- Trying to keep life as similar to life in the US as much as possible – I have only just begun to be able to sit and watch shows or Youtube on my own like I used to, but I still try to keep up with Kpop as I did back home, and still use social media in the same way. These seem rather shallow or odd things to keep up with, but doing this seems the most normal and helps me more than other things. Finding things like this is very important, and one thing I recommend to anyone studying abroad.
I hope people studying abroad can take these things and use them themselves to help adjust or cope if having a hard time. So, if you know someone planning on studying abroad or who is studying abroad and struggling, feel free to send this to them. Talking about mental health is very important, and it is too often that you only hear amazing, perfect, glorified stories about studying abroad. Hopefully these blogs can help.
To conclude, it is the little things that keep me going. A good coffee, a story my friend told me, the stuffed animal I bought a few days ago, the bracelets my friends made, the latest LOONA performance… Find the little things.
Things that are currently keeping me going:
- This week we have a holiday, so I only have school through Wednesday. My friends and I are also traveling to Busan for the weekend.
- Once I get through this short week I only have to make it one more before Katie and Sarah arrive in Korea. They will be here for three weeks, and I have never been more excited in my life. It is all I talk about.
- My package from Paola and Binta came in a few days ago and they sent me enough Celcius packets and my favorite granola bars to last me the rest of the semester – literally one a day (I did the math… jumped for joy)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
- The idea of coming home to see my work friends, and trying to fix the mess they have been keeping me updated on. Maggie can’t live as a single mother for much longer, especially with the current ‘land owner’ causing problems. I’ll be home soon, don’t worry bestie no one messes with my family or my home.
That’s all for now guys! Next update will be much more fun, promise. This belief of study abroad being perfect for everyone has been on my mind recently. I wanted to talk about it a bit, and maybe give peace of mind to those who feel the same way.
*announcer voice* “Time for everyones favorite segment (?)*
Rates Things Suggests Songs:
With today’s topic I thought I would suggest a few songs that for some reason I connect to true happiness, and when they play I feel a strange form of serotonin and relief… yes, they are all Kpop… get over it
- First – Everglow : this song makes me feel the happiest out of all of these, I could not tell you why…
- Afterschool – Weeekly : literally everyone loves this song, if you don’t listen to any of the others, at least listen to this one
- (Mafia) In the Morning – Itzy : a banger
- 딩가딩가 (Dingga) – Mamamoo : super fun, summer-y, and absolutely perfect
- Piri – Dreamcatcher : this song actually got me through freshman year of college, so it is a different type of connection, to this day one of my favorite songs
- PTT (Paint the Town) – LOONA : this song has a power over me that is unexplainable
All links to music videos can be found here :))))
Peace out losers!!! (oh, and happy birthday Mom!!!) Good luck with exams besties!!!!