02 July 2015

What happens on the plane back home

This was a word-documented diary entry I did on the plane back while I was trying to cope with the reality of going home. Whether it actually makes sense to anyone or that I was just emotionally spewing out words, this is kind of a word recap of my time away from home. Of course this is something that I'll never be able to fully express how I'm feeling, only bits and pieces.

Seoul at night from the mountain/hill view.

(30th June 2015) It’s about 3am local time on the plane and I’m typing this as I sit unable to sleep, overwhelmed with sadness, happiness, memories and an immerse heartbreak with never ending tears. 

The very idea of studying abroad was so exciting to me, and yet it still seems like such a dream for me. It’s like a weird lucid dream where I’m still trying to figure out what was real and when I’ll actually wake up.

I remember back in November 2014, it was a last minute decision when I was offered the chance to study abroad, to live half a year away from what I knew in a different country. From the day I left my home, my family, my friends and my life, I was alone. I had no one to fly with, I had no one to talk too, no one to greet me at the airport, no one to help me carry my bags or direct me where I was to go. Everything I did alone from the moment I decided to study in Korea for a semester.

When I first arrived at Incheon back in February, it was still freezing and it was 7am – I was tired, scared, lost and unable to grasp the reality of actually being away from family. I had gone from the airport to my new place – my new home for a few months. I had unpacked, and I figured I would use my first day to explore the area and my campus. It was big, I was lost, I had no one to help me and using the extremely limited knowledge of Korean, I had to ask around for directions. I still truly remember the feeling in my heart – from the moment I had landed, I had gone from feeling excited to being scared to exhausted – my first night alone, I had cried myself to sleep, wanting family, wanting the familiar. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to recreate the comfort of having a family back at home and I, as a shy girl struggled to grasp the idea of making friends and being able to socially adapt to a new culture with a language barrier.

But, fast-forward from February to June and I’ve found my home away from home and emotionally grown as a person. I was able to have explored so many beautiful places in Seoul – (beyond the tourist destinations too!) I’ve met amazing people, immersed myself in a culture and really just fallen in love. Yes, of course I did my fair share of touristy things like going to cultural parks or museums, and I enjoyed it, but I feel like it was the idea of being alone in another country while studying, or doing it with other people and doing it alone has made me crave and love the idea of travel so much more – I feel as if I need to learn more about Korea, the culture, the people, the language, the experience, even though I spent so much time there.

It’s crazy to think that I had relied on strangers from around the world who have now become my friends and people that I value so closely to my heart. Strangers who were one just people from scattered places across the globe, now sitting in a tight knitted spot in my heart – almost my soul mates. The incredible thing now that I think about is that I have a network of friends – no, family from all around the world. America, Germany, you name it and I could probably tell you someone that I spent time with for a few months.
Of course there’s that expectation or experience where you might find someone you like while overseas, a little bit of infatuation and heartbreak never hurt anyone – all about experience right? Things of course didn’t and couldn’t work out long-term in the way I would have wanted it due to the situation, but regrets? Hardly. (We've decided to keep in touch.)

Of course as I try to keep myself together and try to figure out how to piece this together, my body is physically on it’s way home, but, I know for sure it’ll probably take a while for my whole mind, soul and heart to leave Korea and return home to join the rest of me. I remember as I began to say good bye to all my beloved friends as my last week progressed, I knew that it was forever, but I was just so overwhelmed with sadness that people would have to pull me in for a hug and say ‘Don’t say that! We’ll meet again!’ As a sensitive person, I would start tearing up as soon as I saw said person – I won’t even forget one of my closest friend who came out to say bye to me even though he was impartially drunk. Quoted from his messages, he had run home to the campus dorms to charge his phone, thinking I had left. I was so overwhelmed with sadness and gratitude that as soon as I saw him about 200 metres away I was sobbing already.

Thank god for the thing called the Internet, it’ll help the heartbreak heal a bit better. It’s a blessing to be able to keep in contact with people who will be thousands of miles away – only physically, in mind, they’re always with me. Thank goodness for the social media and digital age too, the possibility to take pictures that instantly become memories to share around easily. It’s true that a picture is worth a thousand words – I’ve taken over thousands of blurry and sometimes great quality iphone pictures of every waking moment, but ask me about any of them and I’ll be able to tell you a story leading up to that picture.

I think it’ll just be so hard for me to message someone that I've made friends with and not so casually ask ‘Hey, you up for dinner? Let’s meet in ten!” Sadly, it doesn’t take ten minutes to walk from Australia to America for late night fried chicken.

There’s a saying that home is where the heart is. I used to think it was a place, my home, and my comfort zone. I’ve come to realise that it’s not a place at all; it’s in the heart of people. From everyone I’ve become so close too, it’s the people who were able to open up my heart and make me laugh, who were able to withstand my crazy personality, hold my hand when I was scared, or make sure I was alright when I was drunk. It’s getting a text during the day being asked if you’re free for a quick meal, or meeting up to hang out as a jazz club on the last day. It’s being able to shop together, spend time together, being able to see the faces of those you’ve grown to love so dearly.

I’ve grown as a person too, I’m now loudly spoken and more confident, always smiling and laughing. When you’re in a country by yourself without knowing the language, it puts you in situations where you have to work out how to resolve it – I did that for a while and realised that I was capable of being independent without relying on family all the time (but thanks to my parent who were always a text message away.) Mentally, the ability to pick up a new language was something I never expected to do; I went from barely being able to speak Korean to now being able to get away with a few phrases. It’ll be a while before I can say ‘ 안녕 ~’ without wanting to burst into tears.
I knew I would be sad when my exchange was over, but I didn’t realise the impact that it would put on me.  I never expected to be so irreparably shattered upon leaving- up to the last moment when one of my best friends I made from my exchange said bye to me, I was a crying mess. Mostly, I never expected to learn such a huge lesson about life, about love, about home, about me.

To family I've made while I've been overseas, 마음이 아파. 사랑해 얘들아/
우리 꼭 다시 만나 ♡

I wanted to make a case to point out that Korea gave me the chance to really expand on my interest in the fashion industry, from being able to be invited to meet designers and such at fashion week, to working with several photographers, editors, helping out with magazine issues and even modelling -  the country, lifestyle, people and culture has given me more advantages and chances that I ever expected, and it's truly opened up my eyes to wanting to pursue something even more and better. I'll try my best to slowly get back to regular routine posting, sharing memories as well as seeing how I can ease myself back into posts about the industry and relating to work.