Ciara Kenny

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

I’ve come back to Ireland to give things a shot

Paul Redmond found love on his travels, but after five happy years abroad he has decided to return with his wife to Ireland.

Sat, Apr 14, 2012, 14:45


Paul Redmond found love on his travels, but after five happy years abroad he has decided to return with his wife to Ireland.

Paul Redmond with his wife Jayeon

The year is 2007. The financial climate is beginning to change, but I had no idea about the doom and depravity that was to come. I had just finished a diploma in Multimedia Design in Ballyfermot college. I didn’t really know what kind of job I wanted, but I had a good time at Ballyfermot and working in design seemed to fit. There were a few options ahead of me, but one of the more appealing was to transfer to a university and study two more years and graduate with a bachelors degree. I applied to what was then Napier University and is now Edinburgh Napier University, and was accepted into an interactive media design course.

There was another opportunity, one my parents didn’t look too favourably on at the time, and that was to take a year out and travel. My best friend and I had been discussing the possibility of travelling for a while and it didn’t take much to convince each other. Our plan was to spend as much time travelling as we could on the money we had. With huge backpacks and wads of U.S. dollars stuffed into our money belts, we headed to India.

It was the shock of our lives, but also one of the most amazing experiences. I was only a week in India when, after having a small role in a Bollywood movie in Mumbai, we made our way to the lakeside city of Udaipur. Udaipur should be famous for a lot of things but the thing it’s known for is as a filming location for the 1983 Bond movie Octopussy. Most hotels have the film on repeat night after night, and one evening we joined the rest of the guests in the hotel bar to watch the movie I got chatting to one Asian girl, who when asked where I from, couldn’t really understand. “You’re from where, Island? Island? Iceland”… “No, no, IRELAND, it’s a country in Europe, you know, beside the U.K.”. “Ahh yes, now I know”. I was used to this reaction, so I didn’t bother me much. She was from Korea. My own naïvety may have exceeded hers as I asked the ridiculous question of, “Are you from North or South Korea?”.

Her name is Jayeon, which means nature in English. She joined us and we all travelled together, my best friend happy enough to have an extra person on board. Jayeon was travelling on her own and she’d been to India 6 times previously, and had even worked as a tour guide there. We travelled for 6 months through India, Nepal, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and China. It was the trip of a lifetime. Jayeon and I became close and by the end of our travels had become a couple. We moved to Edinburgh where I continued my degree course and she studied English.

At the time of my graduation in 2009, the financial climate in Ireland and the world had changed dramatically. I wasn’t sure what kind of career I could start at graduate level; with high unemployment rates and a negative atmosphere, we decided to move to Jayeon’s home in Korea (South Korea, that is!). For our first year, I moved into Jayeon’s family home and lived with three generations of her family. It was daunting, and exciting. I adapted to life in Korea, became customary with Korean food and culture and started to learn Korean language.


My job as an English teacher wasn’t the exciting career I had imagined as a fledging interaction designer, but life was fulfilling. Jayeon and I got married in Korea in 2010 after being together for three years.

It came to the point, in 2011, when we had to make some longer term choices for ourselves – whether to live permanently in Korea or move back to Ireland. In some ways I missed my hometown of Skerries – the beach, the local bars, the relaxed attitude to life. It certainly contrasts with the skyscrapers and packed, energetic streets of Seoul. I also weighed other options – is moving back to Ireland right for me? I graduated with a first class honours degree in interactive media design, yet I don’t have any experience in the relevant workplace and it’s been two years since I graduated. Can I even get a job now? Does my degree still hold value? I don’t know if there are any clear answers to these questions, but I know one thing for sure – I want more out of a career then to just work as an English teacher. I think most ESL teachers come to the same conclusion at some point and move back to their home countries.

There are a lot of things that I feel opposed to at home – our ingrained religious culture, our collective lack of self-esteem as a nation, seemingly backwards politics. When I sit in a 5 story Starbucks here in Seoul as i type this, and look at the unattended table next to me, where the person has left their laptop, iPhone and wallet sitting on the table without a thought in the world that it could be stolen, I wonder why I would ever go back to the intimidating streets of Dublin where people may snatch a mobile phone out of your hand.

But, we have decided to come to Ireland and give it a shot. I want to work in something I love, and through a bizarre and fortuitous meeting with a girl in India, who changed the course of my life, I can move there with the person I love. I want to go back to try and prove that even though I don’t have to have a wealth of experience, I can show my passion and skill for what I love – design – and that will get me a job I can keep. I want to help contribute to a positive atmosphere, I want Ireland to recover and move on and try and be part of a forward-thinking new generation who aids in that recovery.

Paul has a lovely collection of photographs from his travels on his website