My STEP signature project was a 6-week study abroad trip over the summer in Seoul, South Korea. During my time abroad, I took 2 classes at Korea University that would transfer over to Ohio State to satisfy a General Education class and my minor in Political Science. Besides taking classes, I also participated in excursions planned by ISA (my third-party study abroad program) and Korea University to places such as the KBS Music bank, Lotte World Amusement Park, and Busan. The objective to these excursions was to understand and interact with modern Korean culture and then compare and contrast with ancient Korean beliefs and practices.
During my trip abroad, I found that I have grown up a lot and my view of the world has definitely matured. Before, I would see going out to eat a meal as a waste of money because I was raised on the concept of saving every penny I earned. So, it could be said that I saw material goods as more important than quality time prior to my trip. As a result, I would often reject offers from friends to do anything that require spending money. Because of this misguided belief, I failed to see the beauty of creating wonderful memories that sometimes can be created by spending money. This study abroad also cleared up past misconceptions I had about Korea and its history in relation to the US and the rest of the world. I now have a better understanding of North Korea and South Korea.
The dorm that I stayed in didn’t have a kitchen so I was forced to eat out for every meal. I was annoyed that I couldn’t cook my own meal because I had only budgeted my food based on food that I would cook. However, I quickly find that eating out every time has its perks because I was able to try different food with friends. It hit me then that what was the point of studying abroad if I only eat food that I can cook. So, through eating Korean BBQ and picking through street food vendors, I was able to savor different types of Korean food while making lasting memories with my newly-made friends. Even more shockingly, I went along with a plan to rent an enormous duck floaty during atrip with my friends to Jeju Island, which cost $20.00 just to rent it for about 1 hour. The fact that I agreed to go on the trip for only a day for $250 would have been a shock to my old self. But, I would definitely agree to go on the trip if I was given the choice again because I truly appreciated the fun I had with my friends. Moreover, I was glad to see the other side of South Korea that I would have never seen if I had only stayed in Seoul. In Jeju, I saw farmlands and wonderful scenic spots such as the Hyeopjae beach and Cheonjiyeon waterfall that contrasted greatly to the glitzy urban scene of Seoul.
My trip to Seoul also tested my independence. I have never travelled so far on my own without anyone I know. I can proudly say that I am a very independent person compared to someone my age in terms of making sure my school account is right or securing the necessary documentations for an application. But, I am someone who needs supportive people and affirmations for me to power ahead. I was really nervous on the day when I flew from China to Korea for my study abroad as I say good-bye to my grandparents. Although I put on brave face on, I was really worried about getting lost because of the language barrier or if I can’t make any friends. The language barrier was an issue in Korea but I was glad that menus and signs are often translated into English. I was also glad that I was able to make wonderful friends because I was really worried about being lonely during my trip since I didn’t know anyone.
Besides my personal development, I also truly learned a lot about Korea itself. I took two classes in Korea with one being History of Korean American Relations and the other being Introduction of Korean Modern Art. In my history class, I was able to learn the blessings and sufferings America had on Korea. America’s interference with other country’s politics has always irked me but I learned that positive results can come out of it. In my art class, I learned the struggle Korean artists have in order to create their work with modernity and holding true to their Korean identity from western artists. Also, I was able to understand North Korea more with a propaganda video that I watched about this small North Korean girl who was very excited about her dance performance for Kim Il Sung. Overall, I was able to appreciate art more after this class since I have always failed to understand art when I approached art prior to this class
During my trip, I have truly transformed astonishingly to become a stronger and more confident person. To me now, I am more willing to spend money on a good experience than shopping. This transformation will personally make me a happier person and a better friend for my friends. In fact, I am already planning a family winter trip because I realized the short amount of time I will have with my family as my sister graduates and we all move to different areas. In terms of career, my confidence is making me think outside the box and challenge me to really consider medical school. Prior to my trip, I was hesitant because of the time commitment and uncertainty, but I am now willing to give it a try.