Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Korea Bound!

It's hard to believe but the day has finally come. Tomorrow I board a flight in San Francisco, Singapore Air flight 15. Destination: Seoul, Korea.

My decision to go was sealed long ago, all the way back in December 2011, when I accepted a job offer to work at Samsung's Global Strategy Group after graduating with my MBA from the University of Virginia. The decision was not easy but I'm convinced now that it was the right one. I laid out the long thought process in my old MBA blog, and my reasons for going can be summarized as follows:
  • A desire to "globalize" myself as a business leader
  • The chance to work at a well-respected, rapidly growing technology company
  • An immense learning opportunity, both in business and culturally
  • Right time of life for me to go – I'm young and single
  • The potential regret factor: If I don't take this opportunity now, would I regret in 20 years?
The eight months since I made my decision have flown by, and I have felt the natural emotional highs and lows as the anticipation for leaving grew. Some days I felt like pinching myself as if I believed I was in a sleeping dream of good fortune. Other days I was wracked with separation anxiety as I considered all the close family and friends that I would be leaving behind. But pretty much every day of late I have felt resoundingly positive about my departure, and am now almost giddy with excitement!

Saying goodbye to good friends...
This summer has been a whirlwind for me. I've spent the three months since the end of business school classes on a rapid tour of the USA, visiting old friends in scattered places around the country (with a little party time in Scandanavia thrown in). I went to North Carolina, the Virgin Islands, Alabama, Atlanta, Houston, New Orleans, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Washington DC, and have spent the last week in California. In between I sold my car, packed most of my possessions onto a shipping container bound on a trans-Pacific voyage, and moved out of Virginia, my home state for the last eight years.

Everywhere I traveled I was asked the same question – Why are you doing this? – and after eight months of explaining my future life path to folks I, frankly, grew a little tired of repeating my story. I yearned for the day when I wouldn't be simply talking about leaving my home country, preparing to move abroad, reading about Korean customs, business etiquette, and cuisine. I wanted to start living it.

...and family
But all the patient waiting to the eventual departure day and the endless discussions I had with friends and colleagues have sharpened my resolve to go abroad. I am thoroughly convinced that this is the right decision for me, and that this is an incredible opportunity. I have been blessed that I have had the time before leaving to say "Goodbye for now" to so many wonderful people in my life.

As for what awaits me, here's what I know...I fly out at 2PM tomorrow from San Francisco and land 12.5 hours later in Seoul, 6:30PM Wednesday. I will spend the first month in a hotel as I look for a permanent place to call home in that capital city. My work at Samsung begins September 3rd, and I will be in daily Korean language classes soon after my arrival (though my group's language is English). I will be an internal consultant at Samsung for the next two years, working on solutions to high-level business issues across the company's many business units and geographies. Over 40 MBA graduates from top schools in the US and Europe will be starting with me.

Summer was a whirlwind tour of reconnecting with old friends and colleagues. Great to see everyone!

What don't I know? Almost everything else!! How will I acclimate in such a different culture? How will I get around in a country where I don't yet speak the language? What will I miss most about America? What will I be doing in two years?

For all this ambiguity, I'm surprisingly comfortable with not knowing the answers to these questions at this point. The next two years will be an exciting journey where I discover the Samsung company and the nation of South Korea. After two years of "trusting the process" during my Darden MBA experience, I'm confident that I will discover the answers to many of these unsolved questions and that my life will work itself out.

This blog will document my journey of self-discovery in a foreign land. I will try to bring to life the sights, sounds, and feelings from my everyday experiences. I want to introduce readers to South Korea, a rapidly developing country that most Americans know little about. And I hope to inspire others considering similar international adventures.


  1. Have a great time! Can't wait to read more!

  2. Slightly (very?) jealous and vicariously excited about the big move. Keep the adventures coming from Korea...

  3. living in the east is about to blow your mind. 祝你好运!
    i know that's chinese, but as you'll be learning korean, you'll need to start recognizing the chinese characters that korean has borrowed.

    considering we'll be in remotely similar timezones (or the same?), you should give me skype me or give me a call when you settle in!