This summer I have been in a strange state of limbo, waiting to embark on a new adventure, one that has been waiting years to finally come to fruition. It’s been a strange experience realizing that I’ll actually be spending a semester at Ewha Women’s University in Seoul, South Korea. Amidst all the worrying over details and logistics, I have had the time to begin considering how this semester will challenge and change me. My heart is a mixed bag of excitement and anxiety. Excited to explore and experience a country that I have mostly admired from afar and also terrified about being thrown into a culture so different from my own, so far from home. My hope is to challenge myself to step outside my comfort zone in every way I can by engaging with people, places and experiences that are unfamiliar.
It has been on my heart to spend an extended amount of time in East Asia, specifically Korea, since I was 14 years old and suddenly very enthralled with Korean culture. I’ll admit my interest in Korea back then was pretty superficial as I was introduced to Korean culture through the Korean pop music scene (Kpop), which was just beginning to spread into western spheres. Over the years though, I began to really appreciate Korea more for its food, fashion, language, history and people. Last summer I finally got to visit South Korea for a short 10-day trip and I knew right away that I had to come back for a longer period of time. Over the last three years I’ve been able to meet and befriend Koreans who happily welcomed me into their culture. I want to sincerely thank those precious friends of mine (if you’re reading this you know who you are) for teaching me more about your culture, welcoming me into your country, and encouraging me to embark on this journey. Without your support and friendship I truly believe I wouldn’t have mustered up the courage to do this. I also want to thank all the people connected to me and my family, who have helped make this trip possible for me, whether it has been financial and/or by encouraging and expressing your excitement for me.
I have nothing but gratitude for being given this chance, though it’s only four months, to grow and challenge myself in a completely new environment. This is not the first opportunity I’ve had to spend abroad. In 2015 I spent two and half months in the small central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan, doing volunteer work. To this day that has been of the most valuable experiences I’ve had in my life. What I love about traveling is how it can really humble you into a place of listening and non-judgmental observation, given that you go in with the right attitude. What I loved about that experience was the chance to see the world from a completely different lens, immersing myself for all that it was both “good” and “bad”. I had to recognize all my preconceived notions of how I thought life should be lived and let them go. I allowed myself to step into the shoes of the people living there, while understanding that I was still an outsider with my own culture. I found that experience to be very freeing, because I got to try on a new way of being in the world without losing my sense of self. I hope to bring that experiential knowledge with me to Korea this fall.
And so despite the butterflies in my stomach, I am stepping into this semester with few expectations except that it will not be easy, but I know that I will learn and grow so much. Thank you for coming along side me in this journey, I can’t wait to share this experience with you all.
Lets go! 화이팅!!