gra-dult-hood n.

1. A stage in life between graduation and adulthood.
2. Gradulthood often involves jobs that don't fulfil a graduate's expectations.
3. A term coined during the recession.

A Gradult in (South) Korea

In the first of our new series, ‘A Gradult in (South) Korea’ Christian Lapper writes about his decisions that led to his big move…

‘The problem

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. A heady cocktail that made your head spin. Drunken night out followed drunken night out, endless lie-ins, the delights of daytime television, fast food, it was all there. And it was all coated by the feeling that this was our time. The ephemeral nature of youth, capsulated in those few, short debauched years; a fleeting time that will be forever with us. Those were the best of times. But, alas, all good things come to an end. University slipped through my fingers and before I knew it I was stood there in a mortar-board and gown.

And then what? Sod’s law dictated that when I graduated, unlike thousands upon thousands of my predecessors, there would be no sunset on the horizon. Instead, I found Britain paralysed by panic, I had been wrenched from my comfortable life at university and thrown head first into a recession. Into someone else’s recession. I hadn’t messed up, so why was I being punished? I hadn’t even been given the chance to mess up! There was no city job there for me even if I wanted it. Instead, I cut a morose figure as I shuffled back to the provinces. Back to the disturbing comfort of my parent’s house, back to that same soul destroying retail job and back, it would seem, to 2005.

The job kept me comfortably numb. The steady stream of patrons was met with glassy eyes, etched on a longing, mournful expression which begged them to deliver me from that place. My friends kept me sane, but it was touch and go at best. As memories of university misted over evermore, I knew I had to plot my escape. There was more to life that this, no? I had a degree, sure. But more importantly, I had the desire to leave, to get out, to see more than I saw. Those were the worst of times.

The (temporary) solution

As it always does, the internet came to my rescue. I Googled ‘teaching English abroad’ and found a whole raft of tempting opportunities which promised me the earth. Perhaps there was something out there for me after all? I had never really thought about being a teacher. But I was fairly clued up with the English language, and surely I could impart some wisdom onto these kids, right? I started emailing the endless lists of companies I found online which pledged to find me the best school, complete with palatial accommodation, angelic kids and bonuses which would make those city bankers blush. I sent countless emails, received countless replies which mostly came to nothing. Occasionally I would strike up dialogue, but it was always short-lived. And with every breakdown of communications came another blow to my dreams of moving abroad and away from what I tentatively called ‘my life’. Finally, a call came through. I was asleep when my phone went. An unknown Asian voice on the other end told me of a job offer in Korea, information of which she was to send me currently and looked forward to hearing my response. I semi-consciously groaned in accord before ending the call. I accepted the job later that same day.

The deal

So, the wheels were well and truly in motion. There was no turning back for me after I sent that email confirming my interest. What was the other option? Work on my blossoming career in retail? Not likely. I was to move to South Korea, home of Park Ji-Sung and that guy that who plays for Bolton Wanderers and, erm, well, I was going commited to going anyway. All I had to do was get all the documents sorted so I could get my visa and then I had to book my flight and rock up in the Orient. Easy, right? The government would reimburse my flights, give me a fairly decent salary (certainly better than my wage at the clothes store), provide me with accommodation and support me throughout the year of my contract. And if I really hated it, I could leave after six months. Sounded simple enough. Besides, at the time anything which didn’t involve me folding t-shirts whilst listening to Heart FM would have been gratefully received.

The glitch

There’s always one of these isn’t there? Lost in the euphoria of actually finding a job which would not only remove me from my clothing hell but also take me away from England, I didn’t even stop to consider that I was going to up sticks and move halfway around the world. I had never even been to Asia, never mind lived there. I didn’t even know anything about Korea, apart from that they hated the North and were good at football. What do they eat? What do they do? How’s the weather over there? I had no idea. And yet I had agreed to go live there for a year?! And to top it all off, I was going to go and try to be a teacher. I didn’t know how to teach! I hated speaking in front of people, and yet I was going to start a job where that was all I did. Happily the excitement and relief of actually moving, coupled with the slight distress of saying goodbye to my friends and family for an unknown length of time masked nearly all of these pre-flight hopes and fears. It wasn’t until I was somewhere high above central Asia en route to somewhere called Incheon that these thoughts manifested themselves once again. But there was no turning back at this stage…’

More from Christian over the next few weeks.

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