This summer, I chose to go on a study abroad trip to Seoul, South Korea as my STEP Signature Project. I was part of the Summer International Program that the Korea Aerospace University hosts every year. I studied alongside students from Korea, Australia, China, Romania, Iceland, Ukraine, and Singapore.
I learned quite a bit about myself on this trip. I learned that my limitations were a lot further than I believed them to be. I learned that the support system I had at home was greater than I even realized. I learned that stepping this far out of my comfort zone was terrifying but that fear comes and goes and the results after you face your fears are well worth it. I gained a great appreciation of Korean culture as well as an increased appreciation of the aviation industry.
I went on this trip with one other Ohio State student and an Ohio State Professor. I had never met the other student before and we didn’t fly out to South Korea together so I had to take the first step of this trip alone. It wasn’t until I started my 16 hour journey to Seoul that the realization of what I was doing hit me. I was traveling across the world, farther than I had ever dared to go before, I was alone, I didn’t know anyone there, I didn’t even remotely understand the language, and I would have to stay there for an entire month. I was shocked that no one in my family or any of my friends told me I was crazy to do this. I constantly surprised myself throughout the month long experience with what I was able to do. I made friends in Korea almost instantly. I was surrounded by students from all over the world but we still all shared the same love for aviation and immediately bonded. The culture was so different from what I was used to that I was scared I wouldn’t be able to handle it but instead I loved it more and more as the month went by.
In Seoul, I got to attend an international aviation conference held at one of the world’s highest rated airports, Incheon Airport. There I learned about the different factors that affect the growth of airports as well as the aviation industry as a whole. I took a weekend trip to Jeju, an island off the southern coast of South Korea. There I climbed one of Jeju’s famous mountain peaks, Seongsan Ilchulbong (or Sunrise Peak), I ventured down into a cave, and went on a tour of the Korean Air training facilities. The tour was one of my favorite parts because I got to spend a short time in their flight simulators. I got a glimpse at how the training for airline pilots differs in South Korea compared to here in the United States. Because I’m currently going through flight training at Ohio State is was very interesting to see how it translated to other countries.
One of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had, and one of the things that made this trip truly unique was when I got a tour of the North and South Korean border, the DMZ. As part of the tour, I learned about Korean history and why the border is so strictly monitored. I witnessed how strict security is over there, how the people who live near the area treat the threat that has been there for years, and I got to talk to one of the soldiers who was stationed there. It was an experience I never expected to have but one that opened my eyes to how a war I’ve only read about in textbooks has actually played out and affected lives.
All the things I learned during this trip have helped me grow as a person and I think they will always stay with me. I’m an aviation major here at The Ohio State University and I hope to use my degree to someday work for an airline. I have gotten many opportunities here to learn from people in the airline industry but this trip was my first experience with the international aviation industry, one that will hopefully soon be a part of my life. Getting to experience it as a student has strengthened my desire to work hard in my major and pursue my career.