Visa Progress and Reflections on Last Year

Today’s been a great day. Yesterday I woke up, kinda freaked out, after I realized I’d missed an early morning doctors appointment. The appointment was a follow up for my labs at the travel clinic. I was scheduled to get tested for HIV prior to going. I was also given a Hepatitus booster and syphillus immunization. Anyway, I needed a physician completed medical form as part of my document package for my visa application. I have until Friday to submit these documents, and after sleeping through my appointment, I spazzed a bit. Racing thoughts immediately after telling me “I’m going to lose my job”, “I won’t be able to go”. I’m a tad anxious prone, but was able to settle down and figure things out. I explained my situation to the hospital, made it up for labs quickly, and as of 3 PM today sent my completed document package off to my agency. From there it will be sent to the Korean embassy in Korea. So, I can just relax now and breathe. If my visa process goes smooth, as expected, I’ll have my E2 work visa for Korea within two-three weeks, allowing me to leave for Korea as soon as I want after. Oh, and I don’t have AIDS, which is awesome.

Anyone who knows me well understands this has been a long process. I’m thrilled to be in a place of excitement and satisfaction, awaiting my new life in Seoul. This time last year I was in Boston taking my month long course for my TEFL certificate. I was meeting new people from around the world, because I was staying at hostels, primarily Hostelling International in downtown, right around the corner from Chinatown. I was so busy that month that I really didn’t have a lot of available time to socialize. I was living in the hostel, getting to know most people over coffee in the kitchen/common lounge, with my laptop in front of me working through lesson plans. I chose a challenging course for my certificate intentionally, and I got what I asked for. I couldn’t speak more highly of my school, The Boston Language Institute, but the program’s no joke. I’ve never worked so hard in my life…Yet I still look back on that month as one of the best times in my life. It was my first time experiencing life alone in a large city. I was discovering I loved teaching, and that I had some skill in it, I was on a routine I was happy with, going to a school I loved and staying at hostels (another first). I also was feeling the vastness of the world I lived in for the first time. Vermont is far from diverse, so I enjoyed meeting people from France, Germany, Switzerland, Australia, Peru, Mexico, India, China, Japan and Korea, amongst other countries as well as teaching 50-90 year old students from Russia, France, China and Japan…and one man from somewhere in South America.

My mind was opening, and I was developing a stronger sense of identity and strength in myself. I met You Jeong, my girlfriend during this time, early on in my class. It was my second week of my TEFL course and I was preparing for my first class. The first class I’d teach was a co-taught class, so working with a partner, and splitting teaching 50-50 during the 45 minutes. My partner was Paul, a middle aged man from Boston – one of the most nervous, anxious people I’ve ever met, but also an incredibly good person with an amazing mind, just I’m not sure his path is in teaching. I’ll let him prove me wrong…Well, Paul and I were partners, and Paul was worried. He was worried we didn’t have enough time to prepare and put together the lesson, he was worried we weren’t following the right format, he was worried about how our peers and teachers would receive us..the list goes on. I’m absolutely an anxious person, but as time passes, I’m getting better at managing it. Working with Paul, I was able to see all my tendencies amplified to the extreme, and it actually made me feel more calm being around him….I felt like my role, as the less anxious person, was to be the pillar between us…to keep grounded, relaxed, and present to reduce the anxiety coming from Paul. In retrospect, he taught me a lot, and by the end of the course, we were buds.

Yet, I’m so glad I didn’t let Paul stop me from going on my date with You Jeong. I’d met You Jeong two days before my first presentation with Paul, and we’d agreed to see the Celtics play the Wizards the night prior to my class. I told Paul the next day about my plans with You Jeong and he said “Nope. You can’t do that. I’m sorry, you just can’t”. You Jeong was leaving after this night. I had to go, but again, Paul repeated “I’m sorry, we can’t afford this. There’s not enough time, you have to cancel plans” We argued, and he was trying his best to get me to cancel and spend the night working with him. Fortunately, I didn’t let his intensity and concern stop me, and we were finally able to reach an agreement that left him feeling relatively secure and confident about our lesson plan. I had no idea at the time that one date would play such a large role in my life. The game went into overtime, the celtics won by two points, everyone went nuts, and when we got outside it began to snow. You Jeong and I got off at the wrong station, alone, and kissed while it snowed. We ran home in the cold, said our goodbyes, and that was that…what we thought was a one time romance, changed when we began messaging each other the day after.

Prior to my month in Boston I couldn’t use chopsticks, I knew nothing about Korea, I wasn’t sure I would enjoy or be good at teaching, and I’d never spent much time with people who weren’t also native Vermonters. By the end of my month, I’d completed my goal of eating everyday with chopsticks in Chinatown (and had gotten good at using them). I’d also made connections with people around the world and met my girlfriend..The time there really set the tone for this past year.

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