Life Update & Writing Careers Post-Fulbright

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Hello, I’m alive. And this blog is too.

I’ve actually thought a lot about this blog and what to do with it. I was planning on a nice, happy ending to wrap it up now that I’m not in Korea. Maybe something reflective about finally having adjusted and being happily employed.

But comments and follows kept trickling in, and it felt like a shame to let this blog just fade into oblivion.

So I thought about what else I could write, with the help of a quick Google search on what to do with travel blogs when you’re not traveling.

It turns out I still have lots of ideas and content that I’d like to write about. Some of these ideas are even partial drafts gathering dust in my word docs that I never finished and published. And brainstorming for this blog turned out to be a lot more fun than writing for my art blog.

So why let it go?

I’ve decided to continue posting content I never got around to doing while I was in Korea – that post on beauty standards that Brittany was expecting, for example – and keep this going until the next time I go to Korea. Because I’ll definitely be back for a visit someday.

 

Am I Still Unemployed?

I’m guessing that if you follow this blog, or know me, this is something you’re wondering. And all you prospective Fulbrighters out there want to know how my Fulbright helped me get a job.

I still feel unemployed, although I guess technically I’m not. I’m freelance blogging for a company, hence the deep thoughts about this blog.

I write for low rates on a strangely wide range of topics, which is sometimes enjoyable – like how I’m learning about digital marketing through this week’s batch of articles – and sometimes ridiculously dull – like when I wrote about golf, which is the most boring sport in existence.

I don’t look for my own clients; the work is sent directly to my inbox. That part is nice.

While I was in Korea, I discovered that I really like blogging. Although this blog is informal and reads more like a travel diary at times, blogging consistently for two years is no joke. You develop skills as you mess around with web design, curate content, and figure out a rhythm that works for you.

I could keep freelance blogging for a living. As in, it’s feasible. I don’t know that it’s really what I want to do. I’m not sure what I want to do, period. So if you know what field you want to work in or have concrete career goals going into a Fulbright grant, you won’t have this problem.

 

Writing/Editing Careers and Fulbright

Now that I’m focused on this little world of blogging, I wish I’d done more writing in Korea. So maybe my experience can serve as a tale of caution (or just advice) to those who want to go into a writing/editing career.

These are the main things I would have done differently, had I known I’d later be flirting with a writing-related career:

1.) I passed over some unpaid opportunities while in Korea, like writing for a local expat magazines and websites.

If I could go back in time, I’d definitely take those opportunities, but since I didn’t know I’d be here today, it made sense for me to ignore them before. There is something nice about focusing on the present instead of always trying to prepare for the future, and I don’t regret that.

However, it would’ve been much easier to get my name online through the expat and Fulbright communities in Korea than it is now.

2.) Working on Infusion, Fulbright Korea’s literary magazine, was a good choice.

I was a staff editor at Infusion for two years and also contributed my writing. My name is on the web more than I realized because of Infusion, and it looks good. One of the writing samples I used to get my current job was Infusion work.

3.) I should have submitted more web pieces and city guide reviews to Infusion.

Hear me out, this isn’t just a plug for Infusion, I promise.

It’s difficult to get your work in the magazine – there are a lot of amazing writers in Fulbright. But if it’s publication and getting writing samples online that you want, there’s nothing wrong with having your work published exclusively online.

Infusion also has a section on their website devoted to “city guide reviews,” or restaurant reviews. If you’re looking to advance or jump-start a career in writing, do some reviews.

Many of the pieces submitted to Infusion are creative. They’re polished, enjoyable stories about the writer’s experiences in Korea.

But they’re generally not what potential clients want when they ask for a writing sample.

City guide reviews, on the other hand, can fit the bill. Writing reviews is a real and valuable skill that people will pay you to do. So my advice would be to write reviews and make them detailed and professional.

Bonus: If you do all this, the Infusion editor-in-chief and staff will love you.

 

And that’s where I’m at, four months post-Fulbright grant.

Now that I’m back at this blog, if there are any topics you’re interested in hearing me cover, let me know in the comments, or shoot me a message.

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Weekends in October I: Jinju Lantern Festival

Almost without realizing it, I’ve let almost an entire month slip by without blogging. Between traveling every weekend and being preoccupied with challenges in my homestay, blogging – and writing in general – has fallen to the wayside. There’s also the small matter of the GRE, which I’ll take at the beginning of December in Seoul. Studying for the GRE is a depressing soul-sucking process, but I’m tenaciously memorizing esoteric vocabulary and weeping over all the forgotten math that I need to drudge up from the darkest recesses of my brain. But I’m still enjoying my time in Korea in spite of this. This was going to be one massive post about all my weekends in October, but I’ve decided to break them down into a mini series. The first of which features…

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October 3-4: Jinju Lantern Festival (진주남강유등축제)

The Jinju Lantern Festival is a pretty major festival in Korea. Which is saying a lot, since there seem to be festivals going on all the time.

I missed out on the lantern festival last year, so this year I was determined to go. Unfortunately, this was the first year they charged for admission, which everyone brought to my attention whenever I told them of my plans. My coteachers’ biggest complaints about the festival were 1.) the new admission fee and 2.) the crowds.

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So expecting crowds and heavy traffic, I set out Saturday morning for the Sasang bus terminal. and found that already, my coteachers had been right. The bus tickets to Jinju didn’t have any times listed. Instead, you bought a ticket, waited in line for the next bus to show up and hoped it had enough room for you. Luckily the buses came frequently, and I was early enough to get on the first bus that arrived.

I sat at a window seat and a friendly ahjumma (middle-aged woman) sat down beside me. We ended up chatting for the majority of the roughly 2-hour bus ride, during which she severely overestimated my Korean ability. But somehow we continued to converse, although there were large stretches of speech that went completely over my head. We talked about her daughter and family living in California, and the times she’d visited America to see them. On this particular day, she was going to Jinju to attend a wedding, but it was unfortunate that the date coincided with the lantern festival. When we arrived in Jinju, she thanked me for chatting with her, making the time go by faster and overall a more pleasant bus ride. With much less eloquent language, I tried to repeat this sentiment and convey my sincerity. Perhaps since I’ve had a difficult time connecting with my homestay family this year, I’m especially appreciative of these small moments when I’ve been able to have warm human interactions with people in Korea.

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After parting ways with my bus buddy, I went on the hunt for a coffee shop where I could wait for my friends to arrive. I stopped at a Paris Baguette only to find other ETAs having breakfast inside. It seems that no matter where I go, there’s always a good chance of running into another ETA. The (ETA) friends I was meeting arrived and then we met up with yet another group of ETAs to have lunch. We’re only reinforcing the stereotype that all foreigners know each other.

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Later, after almost dozing off in a cafe, we headed over to the festival. It was a wise decision to go before it got completely dark. The festival wasn’t too crowded yet, and we walked around, enjoyed some street food, and took pictures. As the night went on, the festival did indeed become ridiculously crowded. We still managed to enjoy the fireworks before shuffling out of the festival one half step at a time.

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That night we headed over to my friend Hillary’s house in Gwangyang (40 minutes away) to stay the night. It’s a lot of fun having friends all over Korea! Although we couldn’t stay long in Gwangyang, Hannah, Hillary and I took a nice walk by the river and huge field of cosmoses (and hilarious scarecrows).

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