Starting in August 2014, I will be venturing off to the other side of the world to teach English as a second language in Ulsan, South Korea. Soon I’ll be trading in my small midwestern hometown of 4,000 for a pulsating metropolis of over 1 million. My evenings of eating Dairy Queen on the steps of the gazebo will become bustling nights out singing norebang (karaoke) and hopping from one bar to the next.
It’s “So long!” to the nighttime sounds of crickets and the smell of damp, fresh cut grass; and “Hello!” to car horns and salty sea air (Ulsan is the industrial heartbeat of the country, boasting the world’s largest automobile plant and the world’s largest ship building yard). And instead of passing flat, open fields of corn on my way to work, I’ll be flanked by the ocean on one side and mountains on the other.
As far as weather is concerned, my lifetime in the Mitten has prepared me in some ways, but not so much in others. Fall in Korea is similar to here. Winters there are considerably more mild, with less snow and average temperatures hovering in the 30s F. While spring in Michigan is like the worst of Mother Nature’s bipolar disorder (it can be 60 one day and heavily snowing the next), in Korea these months are some of the most enjoyable out of the year.
Then, from June through August come the typhoooooons of doooooom. Rain. By the truck full. Like one of those fuel tanker trucks you see on the highway…and you always wonder how much gasoline they actually have in there…and then you decide, ‘An infinite amount.’ And then when it’s not raining, the humidity is so high that it might as well be.
While perhaps not as gigantic or glamorous as Seoul or Busan (Korea’s capital and 2nd largest city, respectively), Ulsan still has a lot for residents to OOH and AAH about, and I’m very excited about living there. In the last decade, the local government has made significant efforts to beautify the city, constructing several new parks and bringing about The Ulsan 12 (12 must-see sights in the area). A handful of universities and professional sports venues, a reliable public bus transit system, and a bumpin’ night life scene also put it on par with all other major Korean cities. And perhaps most uniquely, every year Ulsan hosts a Whale Festival, dedicated to remembering Korea whale culture and celebrating the city’s history of whale fishing.
The traveler in me is also quite content to be calling Ulsan my future home because it has a stop reserved along the KTX (Korea’s bullet rain system) as well as the regular national train network, so it will be very easy to gallivant about the country!
The countdown is on: T-minus 5 weeks!