Study abroad in South Korea

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.

My step project was a study abroad in Seoul, South Korea. I spent six weeks in Seoul, taking two classes for six credit hours. There were also weekly excursions included through Korea University and ISA. I spent time visiting different districts and temples.

  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?

One of the essential things I understood about myself is that I have a great ability to adapt. I also realized how scary it could be to be in a new country when you don’t understand the language. I also gained a greater appreciation for knowing English. Even though the primary language spoken in Seoul is Korean, there was still English around. From signs on the subways and coffee shop menus. Also, that South Koreans aren’t that worried about North Korea. Compared to the United States, who like to talk about their nuclear weapons or their dictator.

  1. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?

One of the reasons, I realized that I have a great ability to adapt is that my first day in Seoul, I took the subway by myself. I used my google maps, and that helped a lot. But I had to find this store, and I got a little lost. I stayed calm and looked around, and I eventually found the store. When I saw the item I was looking for, I had problems at the self-checkout. But the cashier was able to help me despite the language barrier.

Another reason is that I quickly learned the subway routes and how to get to different districts in Seoul. I also noticed the local customs. Such as allowing older people to take your seat on the train. I realized that eating on the train is not permitted after I ate on the train. I made that mistake once and never made that mistake again.

I went to a Korean BBQ restaurant with friends. The waitress insisted on helping us with everything. She helped us cook the food. She even scolded me for slightly burning the meat. She was very nice and welcoming. A couple of office workers showed us how they drink in Korea. You pour your friend a drink and then pour yourself one. Or your friend will pour you a glass. In a lot of restaurants and stores, I visited the workers were all very helpful despite there being a language barrier between us.

My experience with this language barrier made me think of my university and my country. I know that at OSU, we get a lot of international students. I feel that I can understand them a little better. The confusion they have about where to go and how to get around. I understand now — the feeling of fear of being made fun of for not pronouncing words right.

There is a massive assumption that in the United States about North Korea. We call Kim Jong Un crazy and worry about their nuclear power threat. Yet I learned that most South Koreans don’t pay attention to the missile launches. They don’t go crazy over what North Korea is doing.

  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.

The experience of living in another culture was significant. It helped me to notice the cultural differences better. Such as how the Korean people dress, eat, and interact with each other in public. To work for the peace corps, it is essential to understand and know their customs. While I may not agree with some of the traditions in South Korea, it is crucial for me to not to judge from my American point of view. For example, they emphasize caring for the elderly, pregnant, or young. If the subway is packed, then a younger person would give up their seat for an older adult. They even have designated seating for pregnant women, elderly and injured people on the subway. It is also custom to show all elders respect even if they are disrespectful to you, which goes against what I learn as a child that you give respect to those who give it back. Yet this is helpful to remember that the American way is not the right way.

I would say that this trip has motivated me to travel more and see more of the world. I was only in Seoul for six weeks, and I don’t think that was enough time to understand the culture truly. You can read about other countries all you want, but you don’t learn anything until you go there for yourself.

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