“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” is an important line that we’ve all been taught by John Lennon. My recent blog posts were all about the more extraordinary events in my life here in Korea, but let’s not forget that in the end, our lives consist mostly of the small everyday things that we hardly pay attention to as they happen. So, in order to pay better attention to the small things, I thought I’d share with you how I spend a regular weekday here in Seoul.
I usually get up around 6:30 and head straight into the kitchen where I drink a huge glass of water before I head to the bathroom to get ready. After a quick shower I go back into the bedroom to get dressed and go through my morning skin care and makeup routine. Then it’s time for coffee and breakfast, which in my case is almost 100% fresh fruit such as apple slices, bananas, strawberries and maybe a handful of almonds or walnuts.
If I have time in the morning I like to spend some time reading a bit while I sip my coffee. After having made the bed and cleaned the bathroom, I then usually head out around 8:40. Every morning I’m greeted by two or three of the doormen that operate our building. Between 8:30 and 9:00 they always line up and bow while greeting everyone exiting the building with an “annyeonghaseyo“. I love this small gesture of kindness, and I find that they always seem to smile a bit wider every time I pass them. Such a great send-off every morning! It’s just impossible not to leave home in a good mood.
The building where I take Korean classes in the morning is on the opposite side of the campus, and walking there takes about 8 minutes. The campus radio is always playing in the morning, so while crossing the university area I always listen to the various announcements of the day together with the latest Korean pop songs. All around me are students rushing to class wearing their “Sogang” branded university jackets. I have a lighter Sogang jacket myself, and I can’t wait for the weather to warm up so I can start wearing it again.
I’m in Korean school from 9am until 1pm every day, and Monday is actually the only afternoon where I’m completely free after class. On Wednesdays and Fridays I lecture at Sogang department of economics from 1:30-4:30 and on Tuesdays and Thursdays I have office hours between 2 and 4. This means that I usually have to hurry through lunch to be ready to teach or counsel students in my office.
This semester I have more than 200 students, and I’ve never enjoyed teaching a group as much as this one. My students are so extremely sweet, polite, and hardworking that it’s impossible for my teacher’s heart not to melt completely everytime I stand on the teaching podium. (Fun fact #1: most Korean classrooms have an elevated podium beneath the blackboard. Yes, it feels like standing on a stage and I love it. Fun fact #2 this podium is called 강단 and the expression 강단에 서게 되다 (stepping onto the podium) means to become a teacher.) I simply adore when my students timidly approach me with a question: “Professor Sofie, can I please ask this question in Korean?” or “Professor Sofie, today’s my birthday, please have a piece of candy”. What’s not to love? At Sogang we also have a messenger app called Sogang Talk, where students can write questions to their teacher. I find that this is a very fast and effective way of communicating with my students individually, and they are also less shy about sending me a message than talking to me in person.
I’m so thankful every single day for being able to live this dream of working and studying in Korea. I’m gaining so many valuable insights, I’m constantly improving myself and widening my horizon, and I know I’ll end up being a better person for it. On days where I find it hard to start my morning, or when I just feel blue for no apparent reason, I try to remind myself of all the things I have to be thankful for. I am indeed living my dream, and far too many people go through life without exploring their own true potential and thereby realizing their dreams. I know I’m among the lucky ones, and this thought makes me both happy and humble at the same time. Let’s all strive to become a better person every day, and never forget to appreciate what we have!