Starting Over in Seoul: Plans vs. Steps

Cheonggyecheon Stream
While walking along the Cheonggyecheon Stream in the center of Seoul,  we stumbled upon a Thai festival at the end of August.

Proverbs 16:9 – The human heart plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps.

Home is where the heart is.

These two idioms about the heart illustrate the tug-of-war between what I thought would happen after the B-school experience and what actually ended up happening.

MSU vs UofM
Celebrating a win for our Spartans at a bar in Chicago (2010)

My husband Michal and I are proud Midwesterners: We point to our hand to describe where we’re from, we follow Big 10 college sports religiously, we play cornhole at tailgates (not bags), and we drink pop (not soda). After meeting and graduating from MSU (Go Green!) in 2008, we moved to work in the nearest big city – Chicago – and lived there for five years. After getting married in 2011, we started to seriously contemplate next steps in our relationship and in our lives in general: Career change? Buy a house? Have a child?

In 2013, we eventually opted for career change, which meant I left the world of teaching high school English and journalism – burnt out and not sure what to do next – while Michal knew he wanted to do his MBA. Darden at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville (about three hours south of Washington D.C.) became our home for two years. I loved blogging and working with students at the Women’s Center at U.Va., while Michal gained valuable experiences with Darden ranging from studying abroad to consulting for local start-ups.

All decked out for the legendary Foxfield horse race in Charlottesville (2015)

Living in Cville was a bit of a culture shock in a way. We weren’t used to dressing up for football games (“girls in pearls and guys in ties”), nor were we used to spending our leisure time at wineries, polo games and horse races. We enjoyed our time creating a new community of friends, but looked forward to returning to our families and long-time friends in metro Detroit. For years, we defended our hometown area vehemently to all the haters (it’s more than just 8 Mile and a declining car industry). Both of our families urged us to consider moving back. And after four years of marriage, everyone essentially asked, “Wasn’t it about time for us to have the stereotypical American dream of a white picket fenced house in the suburbs with children?” Home is where the heart is, as they say. And our hearts were in the Mitten State.

However, Proverbs 16:9 held true as the plans in our hearts did not quite turn out the way we intended because the Lord knew better: We’ve now started to make a home in Seoul – farther than we had ever originally imagined living post-MBA.

After years of visiting the Korean spa in Chicago, I finally learned how to properly wear a towel in Seoul at the Yongsan Dragonhill Spa/Sauna (aka jjimjilbang) in Seoul.

As we surveyed our options during second year of B-school, Seoul looked better and better. Truthfully, there weren’t very many career opportunities for either of us back in Metro Detroit. And we’ve always enjoyed traveling – before we met, as individuals with friends and family (because of our international backgrounds) and after we met, as a couple (having visited 12 countries together in our marriage alone). So the chance to live abroad for a few years and take advantage of the ease of visiting nearby countries in Asia seemed too good to pass up.

We’ve been in Seoul for about two months now. We started to learn Korean, we moved into a new apartment, we’ve started our jobs. But we’ve still got a ways to go before we can officially call Seoul our home.

Join me in my journey with this blog as I figure out my next steps in Seoul…


12 thoughts on “Starting Over in Seoul: Plans vs. Steps

  1. haha I love the towel thing. I’ve never heard of that before! As for Seoul being home I’m sure it will take time but hopefully it gets a little better every day. If anyone can do it it’s you and Michal!


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