This past week, I met my new colleagues for the first time.
Korean culture is community-oriented, which is one of the things I love about it. What I forgot about was how community-oriented the expat community can be, too.
I’ve taught at George Mason University for five years now, and in that time, I’ve gotten to know very few faculty outside my own department. Sadly, this is the norm, not just in higher education but also business settings and government. We tend to keep ourselves “siloed” away from people in other departments or business units.
In the past week, I’ve spent time with faculty from five different departments and from four different countries – people whose paths I might never have crossed in Fairfax, VA – on the main campus where we all teach! We are shopping together, getting lunch and coffee together, and taking walks together.
These are interesting people who I really like, with whom I have a number of things in common. Why couldn’t we meet in Virginia? Why did we have to come all the way to the other side of the world to get to know each other?
I remember when I first moved to the Washington, DC, area, fresh from living in S. Korea for eight years. I was hungry to find this kind of community, but everyone I met had their own established networks, their own agenda of how they wanted to spend their time. I was fairly lonely those first two or three years until I got connected with a community that was open to me.
Now I’m thinking about how to bring this collegial “un-siloed” sense of community back with me when I return home. I don’t have the answer yet; I’m open to suggestions!