Out of the Frying Pan

Leading up to my departure from the humble streets of London for the great unknown that was (and is) Seoul, the one word I noticed bouncing around in relation to me and my travels was the word “fearless”. Family friends more than twice my age confessed they wouldn’t have the gusto to do what I was, and move across the world for an entire year. Especially without a local familial support system, let alone to a country where the language was so different to our own. I couldn’t tell you the number of times I smiled and nodded when my loved ones told me just how brave I was, just how excited for me they were and all the wonderful things I was sure to see and do, all the while silently squirming and feeling like that couldn’t possibly be farther from the truth. In all honesty, I had never been so scared in all my life.

What was I nervous about exactly? In short: everything. Between balancing rapidly depleting financial reserves, luggage allowances that considered both my selected airlines restrictions, what I could carry, and what I needed, from the inevitable culture shock of suddenly finding myself in a society completely unfamiliar to me to the cold terror of leaving my family and all I had ever known behind, it’s fair to say I had a fair deal of worries on my mind.

The state of my packing approximately 24 hours before my departure.
The state of my packing approximately 24 hours before my departure.

No amount of googling, no matter how succinct and credible the websites you visit, can ever really prepare you for the strain you feel when you’re staring at the mountain of belongings atop your suitcase, preparing to leave for your year abroad. I should know, I visited just about all of them and I was still flummoxed most of the time. If I hadn’t had help from my awesome family who supported me every step of the way, I most definitely would have been the wrong amount of preparedness from excess packing in irrelevant areas, and under packing where I needed it.

Into the Fire

Arriving at the airport is an event I recall as a confusing blur of nerves. Even though I had been psyching myself up for my impending departure, sitting in Heathrow airport surrounded by the conflicted faces of family members felt distinctly unreal: as if it couldn’t possibly be me about to step through the terminal and away from my sense of security. But of course, it was, and I made my way through the security gates and the floodgates with equal amounts of difficulty.

All too soon (despite the hours of delays) I found myself cruising at a turbulent altitude of around 41000 feet. Even sooner than it seemed possible: we had landed, and my first solo long haul flight was mercifully behind me. I gathered my things in a frenzy and met up with friends who had landed in the past few hours (most on my own flight!) and we stepped out in to the impossibly warm humidity of Incheon to hail a cab.

The drive to our accommodation was a long one, marked by a strange combination of jet lag and impatience, and

Our host was horrifies at our 'overcooked' meat and showed us how it's done.
Our host was horrified at our ‘overcooked’ meat and showed us how it’s done.

were shown to our rooms at the tower building after the exhausted signing of paperwork. But me day was still far from done: having dumped a suitcase on the remaining bed in my room, it was time to meet for dinner, hardly something I’ll hurry to complain about.

Korean barbecue is an experience, one that I would advise you all not to pass up on should the opportunity arise. Once you get into the groove of things, there really is no going back! Let’s hope that’s a metaphor for how the rest of the year is going to go.

Until next time,


Pre-Departure Fears and The First Few Hours.


Serena is studying BA Film and English at the university, and spent her third year abroad in Seoul, South Korea. When she isn't hard at work, she enjoys reading, writing, filmmaking, and photography.

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