Road to Korea: Kate Carter Hickey

At Hello Kitty Cafe in Seoul | Image courtesy of Torontoseoulcialite's Instagram
At Hello Kitty Cafe in Seoul | Image courtesy of Torontoseoulcialite’s Instagram

Canada may be a meaningful country to me. My sister has learned English there, one of my colleagues graduated from the University of Toronto, and one of my friends recently moved to Canada to work. Even though it looks like I have a bit of a connection to Canada, I realized I have only a few Canadian friends. In other words, I did not have much of a chance to listen to how Canadians see Korea. Of course, ATK Magazine is out of discussion. Anyway, an idea that I should interact with Canada more led me to find an interviewee from Canada. Luckily, I found a Korea-based, Canadian travel blogger, The Toronto Seoulcialite. As she covers a wide range of themes from food to fashion, I thought her story may trigger you. Hope this interview helps more people to get connected with each other.

Editor’s Note: The following is from Kate Carter Hickey in her own words.

Reason 

I had a career which looked impressive by social media standards and on a resume, but I wasn’t happy. My entire salary seemed to be going into surviving: my downtown loft, utilities, food, transportation, and student loans. I felt like I was paying hand over fist just to exist. I frequently worked 18 hour days for someone else who didn’t appreciate my work. I felt trapped! I had seen several friends move to Korea and really figure out what they wanted out of life rather than just a career. This teaching opportunity has given me time and flexibility.

I knew I wanted to write about my experiences traveling across the world at 27 years old (a few years beyond your average ESL teacher – or so I thought). I also wanted to have a Seoulcially-relevant, punny name for my blog. Seoulcialite.com was taken (thank you person who did nothing with that sweet domain… grrr…) so I popped in my hometown and voila! The Toronto Seoulcialite was born! I started on Blogspot, made the mistake of migrating to WordPress.com, and am now making the migration to a self-hosted site. If you’re thinking about starting a travel blog (or any other kind of website) and want to be responsible for any for of revenue I would seriously suggest going the self-hosted route from day one. Save yourself the hassle! Writing for The Toronto Seoulcialite has afforded me many opportunities even though I don’t currently have a revenue stream. I’ve had some wonderful sponsored stays (apparently my site is becoming a hub for boutique and luxury hotels around North America and Asia – who could have seen that coming?) and I have partnered with various Korean organizations to make their events and promotions successful.

One and only in Korea 

I guess as an expat living in Korea certain things seem very backwards. There’s even a foreigner-run group called “Only In Korea!” or “OinK” for short. Some of the things you’ll see and hear here seem ludicrous and illogical to our Western minds. I don’t think you can pinpoint one, single characteristic of any nationality, but if you could I suppose that’d be it! Betcha thought I’d say kimchi, eh?

At Olympic Park | Image courtesy of Torontoseoulcialite's Instagram
At Olympic Park | Image courtesy of Torontoseoulcialite’s Instagram

Activities 

As a foreigner in Korea I’ve experienced mild racism (I am acutely aware of my white privilege, but in Korea it can be a double-edged sword), but I’ve also been afforded a lot of opportunities, especially since a Korea hair salon asked if they could give me highlights, then made me mostly blonde (save for my dark roots which they ever so kindly left behind). I looked like a blue eyed skunk. Ever since correcting the mistake I’ve actually had people be friendlier. I’ve been able to take on several acting roles as an extra or a stunt person, and I’m certain that if my Hangeul were better I’d be able to have a fairly successful acting career here. The youth of Korea wants to see the world and experience new cultures. They’re happy to learn about our old lives in North America (in my case) and how our lives have changed in Korea. This extends to the entertainment industry. There are many foreigners who want to pursue careers in the entertainment industry, but make no effort to go out and make Korean friends or even network! That, to me, is so backwards.

In Busan I was able to take time in nature, hit the beach every weekend in the summer, and take time to figure out my goals. In Seoul, life is so incredibly busy I barely have time to breathe! There are always new opportunities for work (unpaid guys, I’m on an E2 visa!) or for play, and there is always something either brand new or extremely old to discover. The juxtaposition of modern and ancient is one of the things I value most about Korea.

Different 

As I mentioned, I’m always busy here in Seoul, but in Korea I have the time to get out and enjoy my life. I’m always busy with things which are exciting and educational in some regard. I’m no longer living to work, I’m working to live and explore. Whether I’m dining at a Korean restaurant or one of the many, many international restaurants in Seoul, there’s always a twist on each dish. I’m in a massive travel hub, and so I’ve been able to travel to Japan, China, and Thailand, and am returning to China and heading to Taiwan in just under 3 weeks. My dream destinations are quickly becoming realities!

To

I love to go to the area around City Hall. There are two palaces within walking distance of one another (Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung), and Cheonggyecheon (the stream which runs throughout the city), Insadong (the traditional part of Seoul were Jogyesa [temple] is located), Namdaemun, Dongdaemun, and Bukchon Hanok Village are all within walking distance of one another. Seoul within the old city walls still has its old world charm, but is still so modern! There is plenty to do in this area of Seoul!

At Itaewon | Image courtesy of Torontoseoulcialite's Instagram
At Itaewon | Image courtesy of Torontoseoulcialite’s Instagram

Others 

If you’re a prospective ESL Teacher I definitely advise against choosing the first puppy at the pound. There are two main streams in which to get teaching jobs (EPIK and Hagwons, or private academies), and both have their benefits and drawbacks. Don’t take the first job offered to you unless you’ve done a thorough background check and your intuition is screaming that this is a great opportunity.  There are plenty of jobs even in this saturated market. Choose the best for you and your desired lifestyle!

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