This is reblogged from the AngloInfo site, http://blogs.angloinfo.com/expat-of-the-week/2014/06/13/meet-the-expat-66-shauna-browne-from-south-korea/. All credit goes to them.
You can find out everything you need to know about Seoul on the Seoul AngloInfo site, http://seoul.angloinfo.com/( where I happen to blog from time to time)
1. Where do you live now, and where did you move from?
I live in Paju, South Korea and I moved from Tipperary, Ireland.
2. How long ago did you move? What made you decide to make the move?
I moved to Korea in 2009 so I could travel more, have an adventure and get outside my comfort zone a little.
3. What do you miss most from home?
Family. We’re a really big musical family and there are days when all I want to do is go home, sit down with my family and play a few tunes. My older sister moved here in January but she never wants to play music with me!
4. What do you appreciate the most in your adopted country?
The convenience and the people. Everything is so easy compared to back home. There is a service for everything and it usually only costs you half what it would in Ireland.
I’ve been lucky enough to meet some great people here in Korea. I have lots of Korean friends who always go that extra mile to help me out and that makes the difference.
5. How did you make new friends in your new home?
The Irish community here is great. There is a sports club which I’m part of, I play a lot of music and I’m the chair of the Irish Association here so I get to meet a lot of new people.
At the very beginning though, I made friends by going out with my co workers and talking to their friends and then gradually I got involved in the other organisations.
6. How often do you go back to your hometown?
Not that often. Any chance I get, I usually like to head off and explore a new country or city. In the five years, I’ve only been home twice.
7. What were the biggest challenges you faced when you moved?
Language. I live in a city outside Seoul so not many people are willing to speak English to you, even if they can. At first, I was lost, I couldn’t pay my bills or understand what anyone said but after I got the basics under control, it became easier.
Getting involved- I like to be involved with lots of different things and when I moved here first, I didn’t really do anything except go to school and come home. The first few weeks were definitely the hardest in terms of beating the loneliness and finding out where I could go to do the things I wanted to do. I was really lucky to meet great friends from day 1 so I had it easier than a lot of people.
8. And the nicest surprises?
There have been loads of great moments. Being able to do things alone and in Korean was a huge thing. Being able to buy a car, having my sister come to live here, passing my Korean exam, meeting some amazing people, being able to help out in the Irish community and seeing that community grow has been a great thing.
9. Any tips for beating home sickness?
Everyone has days where they miss home, it happens. For me, it’s all about attitude. Going in to a new adventure knowing that every day won’t be a great day, being able to laugh at yourself when something random happens and just appreciating the good days is what works for me.
Also, if I was to do it again, I would research things better. I wish I had known about AngloINFO and all the great blogs and sites on Korea before I came. I would have researched more and been a little more proactive in terms of finding things to do from the outset.
10. What do you do for a living?
I am a kindergarten teacher so I teach English to Korean age 4 to Korean age 7.
11. How do you spend your free time (in your adopted home)?
These days I am the Chair of the Irish Association of Korea so that keeps me busy organising events and responding to general inquiries. Busiest season for us though is December through March when we organise the St. Patrick’s festival.
In the rest of my free time, I play gaelic football with the Seoul Gaels which is a lot of fun. I also play Irish music with and thankfully the demand for sessions is high so we’re usually out and about playing every weekend.
12. Are you settled here now? Or do you plan to move on one day?
Right now, things are going really well so I have no plans to move on in the immediate future. However, things change so I guess the plan is fairly loose but I’m very happy where I am right now.
13. Would you share something embarrassing that happened to you as an expat (but that makes you smile when you look back)?
Oh gosh! Where to start with this! So many embarrassing things have happened. I have red hair and I remember a few months after I got here, sitting on the train and having a woman come over to me and just start stroking my hair and then my arm. Koreans just don’t have red heads!!!! These days, it’s not so bad but I still get the occasional toucher.
The very first week I came here, two friends and I decided to eat out. Armed with just a dictionary, we headed down town and chose a packed restaurant to eat in. We asked the lady for the menu and she pointed to the wall. We look over and the wall is covered in Korean, not one picture and you could hear a pin drop in the restaurant. The Koreans were in stitches but we persevered and ordered by pointing at someone else’s food. I can’t remember if it was delicious or not but every time I order these days, I think about how far I’ve come from that first night.
More than once, I’ve gotten the subway in the wrong direction, stayed on it for 30 minutes, clueless and then have to backtrack.
I also walked in to a DVD room once as a way to stay out of the rain only to discover it was a front for……..other activities. Lesson learned.
14. And finally, if you could give one piece of advice to someone considering moving to where you live, what would it be?
Have a good attitude, you won’t like every part of life in Korea. It’s a huge change from where you’re coming from and it’s a lot to take in. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Get out as much as you can and get involved, even if it’s in something you’ve never tried before. Friends make the life here a lot easier and opportunities open up when you know a lot of people.
Finally, do your research. These days there are a tonne of great websites, blogs, Tumblr accounts etc. out there so for the few months before you move check them out.
Most of all though, just have confidence in yourself and a little bit of imagination and you’ll have no problems!