Study Abroad Tour: First Steps In Korea

March 3, 2011 at 4:35 AM | Posted in (All Posts) | Leave a comment

South Korea is the most amazing place I’ve ever been to. I can say that with certainty. Granted, I have not seen much of the world, but I can already tell this study abroad trip is exactly what I need.

My flight to Seoul was over 14 hours long, and I wouldn’t call it miserable, but it wasn’t very easy to relax. I seemed to have the one seat on the flight that wouldn’t recline very well. Thankfully, I had an aisle seat that was close to the “lavatory,” but sitting next to me was a Korean male who I’m guessing was around my age. Now I hate that “annoying talkative” guy just as much as the next person, but I figured if I was going to be sitting next to someone for more than half a day, I should at least speak a word to him. I asked him if he flew very often, and he said something about how he likes to sleep. He didn’t really pick up on the conversation at that point, so I left him alone. He did help me find the headphone jack on my armrest, but the only other attempt I made at speaking to him was when he pulled out his iPhone. Complimenting his impressive phone didn’t work either, so I finally just gave up.

I could not sleep at all on the flight. Sometimes I would doze off for a few minutes, but that was the best I could do. Every passenger had these cool little TV screens located on the back of the seat in front of them. You could scroll through menus via touch screen and watch hundreds of movies and TV shows. I think I watched the first Harry Potter, Toy Story 3, Ghostbusters, and a few episodes of The Big Bang Theory to pass the time.

Upon landing, I really began to get an uneasy feeling about what I was walking into. As I was waiting to leave the plane, I noticed a small group of people talking about their “classes starting” on Wednesday. It turns out they were Americans teaching English at different schools in Korea, and after telling them it was my first time being in another country, they took me under their wings and helped me through the airport. After I picked up my checked baggage, I walked out into the main entrance of the Incheon Airport (near Seoul) where a crowd of people were all onlooking, holding up signs for arriving passengers.

I was very fortunate to have a friend help me get my bus ticket and even introduce me to my first Korean meal. She was actually an exchange student at ETSU last semester from Ehwa Women’s University, and having her help was more than I could have ever asked for.

After successfully ordering a cup of coffee while speaking only Korean (I was quite proud of myself), I loaded up on the bus and it took off for the DonDaegu Bus Station. Strangely, I had a much easier time sleeping on that ride than I did the plane. When I arrived at DonDaegu, it was already after midnight and pouring down rain. My Korean “buddy,” which is basically an English-speaking assistant who is assigned to each exchange student to help them settle in, came just a few minutes after I arrived with a taxi. We loaded up my luggage and got the dormitory at Keimyung sometime closer to 1 a.m.

The room is extremely nice. On a side note – it’s worth noting is that you don’t wear shoes inside someone’s house or bedroom in Korea. This is the same situation for a dorm room, so it’s taken some getting used to, but the floors in some buildings are temperature controlled, so it’s actually nice to feel a warm floor in the morning on your feet.

Anyways, I slept like a baby that night because of how tired I was. The next day was quite an adventure with my “buddy,” who I now really consider a good friend. He has gone out of his way so much to help me, and it’s made my experience that much better. I went to E-Mart, which can be summed up for those who don’t know as a Korean version of Wal-Mart. I grabbed a few groceries and necessities for my dorm room, got my subway/bus card for the Daegu public transportation system, and headed back to my new home.

As I write this, I’ve been in Korea for over 48 hours, and it’s been full of ups and downs. There were some moments where I really thought, “This was a mistake.” More and more, however, I keep having moments that tell me, “This is the greatest thing I’ve ever done with my entire life.”

I think the best part for me has been seeing this other culture live in person. We as humans have so many ideas stapled into our heads as we grow up, but seeing a different part of the world really solidifies how we are all tied together. It’s so strange being the “foreigner” in a new country, but I really feel like this is what I need in my life, and I hope my journey can be of some benefit for the rest of the world.

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