Graduation Goodbyes

Darden Graduation

Now that my husband and I have re-entered “the real world,” B-school seems like a lifetime ago. We celebrated many milestones over the past few months: Michal’s graduation, moving to a new country and me turning 30. As we are finally getting settled into our new home, I thought I’d revisit and reflect on my 30 before 30 blog post.

Before leaving Cville:

  1. Visit all the breweries on Cville’s Brew Ridge Trail.
  2. Check out the hot springs in Bath County.
  3. Use my education benefit from U.Va. to take a class. -> Signed up for PR classes this semester
  4. Go cross-country skiing or snow tubing.
  5. Visit a cidery and meadery and do tastings.
  6. Go to a First Friday.
  7. Try out the remainder of restaurants I’ve bookmarked on Yelp for Charlottesville.

I was pretty busy in the last semester of living in Charlottesville!

Work – The online PR classes I took at U.Va. were not only helpful but also extremely fascinating. I most benefited from the online discussion forums that allowed me to interact with PR professionals all over the country and internationally. As the Communications Assistant at the Women’s Center, the coursework on crisis management was most helpful during the media blitz surrounding sexual assault on the Grounds of University of Virginia spurred by a controversial (now retracted) Rolling Stone article.

Tourist in Our Own Town – Based on another blog post I wrote on the hot springs, as well as Yelp brewery and restaurant reviews I wrote, along with the occasional Instagram and Tweet, you may have already seen highlights of what I was able to try out in Cville before we left. We especially miss the breweries (and wineries), as we don’t have the opportunity to drink quality, local microbrews in Korea nowadays. In fact, we celebrated Michal’s birthday/graduation at the scenic Devil’s Backbone Brewery. (See pic below.)

Just looking back at this moment makes my heart ache a little. I never expected to get so close to our friends at Darden and within the Darden Partners Association, but it was inevitable with how much time we all spent together (especially with the partners over the summer while the business students were away on internships). I can be candid now and admit that I remember crying off and on for a few days after graduation, unwilling to believe that the B-school experience was really over.

Devil's Backbone Brewery birthday

 Before leaving U.S.:

  1. Do a cross-country road trip.
  2. Hike national parks that Michal visited as a child.
  3. Go back-country camping. (close to it in Colorado but not totally roughing it)
  4. Go rock-climbing outdoors. (didn’t quite do this but did do crazy hikes)
  5. Finish our wedding scrapbook. -> We’ll be celebrating our fourth wedding anniversary this year! So it’s about time I complete it!
  6. Finish my Chicago scrapbook. -> After two years of moving away from the area, I at least have all the photos printed.
  7. Finish the Cville photo book. -> My close friends through the DPA and I have started to pool all our photos together from the past two years into a Shutterfly account. This one is actually the closest to being done!
  8. Cook a meal for my mother-in-law.
  9. Update my resume and LinkedIn profile -> Apply for jobs!
  10. Sew a T-shirt quilt. -> I have a box of shirts I’ve been collecting to make one – probably more – of these.
  11. Go to one last Yelp Elite event.
  12. Try workouts I normally would never do because of their intensity, such as CrossFit or a BootCamp.
  13. Try a mashup workout like Piloxing or Aqua Spinning.
  14. Grow my hair out really long, then cut it all off and donate it to Locks of Love.
  15. Find another TV series that Michal and I can enjoy together, and marathon-watch it from beginning to end. (The Wire is really the only show that we’ve ever both enjoyed watching together on a regular basis.)
  16. Sell/donate/throw out all of our belongings.

As you can tell, this part of the list didn’t get as much love. After living out of a car for a couple months and then spending time with family and friends back in our hometowns in Michigan, there just wasn’t much downtime to work on scrapbooks and crafts.

Farewell America Tour – Starting from Virginia and ending in Vegas, we took almost two months to travel on our cross country road trip to say goodbye to friends and family as well as check out sites of the U.S. we didn’t want to forget or had yet to explore.

States we visited: North Carolina (during Beach Week, the time between end of final exams and graduation), West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado (spending the most time here, as we camped/hiked all over the state for a solid week), Utah, Arizona, Nevada and eventually (on a pit stop before Asia) California.

It was incredible, as we often found gems in the rough. (Who knew there was an artsy and hipster scene in Des Moines?) And we truly discovered how much America has to offer. We even felt that we didn’t have enough time to explore everything we had on our original itinerary (e.g. more national parks). There are too many photos from this trip, but everything is documented on my Instagram. One of my favorite times was when we did our Pacific Coast Highway road trip through California – On our four-year wedding anniversary, we stopped in scenic, romantic Morro Bay.

Morro Bay anniversary dinner

No place like home – While we were back in our hometowns in Michigan, we had major events every week like immediate family birthdays, a friend’s wedding, a Yelp Elite event in Detroit, a going away party for us, and even a surprise 30th birthday party for me! Almost everyday was also a special dinner dedicated to saying goodbye to someone near and dear to our hearts. The month we spent in the Mitten State went by in such a flash that I didn’t adequately have time to process these goodbyes. But I do look back at that time fondly and I am so grateful we had quality time with each of them. Below is a pic that my photographer cousin took for us at the Detroit Riverfront as a parting memento. Find out more about her work on her website: April Mae June Photography.

Detroit RiverWalk

Before turning 30:

  1. Learn a new language. -> It’s going to be Korean.
  2. Complete this Book Bingo. (Thanks for the inspiration, Esther and Maddie!)
  3. Go scuba-diving or snorkeling.
  4. Keep up with daily devotional reading.
  5. Research a charity whose cause Michal and I are both passionate about and make a pledge.
  6. Try cooking one new recipe a week.
  7. Visit the Philippines with my parents, brother and Michal.

En route to Seoul, Michal and I made the aforementioned pit stop through California so we could do a short road trip from San Diego up to San Fran (lasting one week). We then flew to the Philippines and spent two weeks in a tropical paradise, as well as visited the rural countryside of my parents’ upbringing, before eventually landing in Seoul in mid-August.

Asian Adventures – We spent a few days in beautiful Palawan island on a beach resort near the mountains. I absolutely loved bathing in warm water, catching the waves and basking in the sun. Even though it was the rainy season, we still caught pockets of sunshine throughout the day. There were few people due to the low season, which we relished because of the extra attention and space.

We then joined my parents and brother, who were already visiting in the Philippines. I am quite Americanized, as my parents never taught me Tagalog growing up in the U.S. and it had been about 15 years since I last visited their native country, so everything seemed new and exotic. We visited my dad’s relatives in hotter back-country of Pangasinan: We explored my grandfather’s coconut and mango plantations; ate traditional feasts comprised of the animals raised on the farm like chicken, goat and duck; and rode around town on the infamous tricycles. We also visited my mom’s relatives in the more urban Baguio City: We went dancing with my cousins at a new club, toured the Philippine Military Academy, and enjoyed the cooler weather in the mountains.

Through this experience and the rest of the time I spent with them this summer, I felt much more close to my parents than I felt in a long time. And in the four years of marriage (plus five years of dating/engagement beforehand) that Michal knew them, he finally got to truly know my parents. Below is a pic from my favorite time with my family in the Philippines. We are on Governor’s Island within 100 Islands National Park in my dad’s province, Pangasinan.

100 Islands National Park

Starting over in Seoul – I’m quite a worry wart.

When moving, I experienced the same anxiety I had when going to Charlottesville for B-school: Will I make friends? What will I do for work? How much will I actually see my husband with his new schedule?

Add a whole separate layer of worry in a new country: How will I learn the language? How do I get a new cell phone/bank account/credit card/etc.? What number do I dial in case of an emergency? (It’s 119, not 911 by the way.)

Thankfully, the expat community is quite large in Seoul. As soon as I got here, I signed up for MeetUp group outings, as well as joined a Korean language class with the spouses of my husband’s co-workers. The support system I’m building/finding here is reassuring. It’s really feeling like an extension of the B-school experience in a way because of the expat bubble.

However, “homesickness” is unavoidable for me. I put it in quotes because I’m not quite missing the place but the people. It is really hard to imagine that anything will come close to the time we had at Darden. Friends from the DPA created GroupMe conversation threads and we still text each other often.

Advice for prospective Darden students and new FYs, as well as SYs –

Take every opportunity to get involved and make connections. These could be life-long friendships you’re making, and the Darden community is strong and wide-reaching. There is even an alumni network here in Seoul!

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For further updates on my new life in Seoul, check out my new blog at stepsinseoul.com

(Please note this site is a work in progress.)

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