Study Abroad Blog: Saying As Much As I Can

May 1, 2011 at 9:22 AM | Posted in (All Posts) | Leave a comment

I wake up on a Wednesday morning just minutes before my alarm is set, hearing the chatter of Koreans out in the hallway. As they walk past my door, I catch the word “sun-sang-neem,” which means teacher, and then a brief moment of pride comes over me for understanding some of what they were saying. I get out of bed and check my email on my laptop. Knowing that my “home” is 14 hours behind my current time, it feels odd getting Facebook updates from friends who left them hours ago while I was sleeping. I take a quick shower, grab an apple, fill up my water bottle from a machine on the first floor of my dorm, and head out for my 10 minute walk to my Korean Language class at 9 a.m.

We go over our “sook-jay,” or homework, discuss some new vocabulary and verbs and any sort of grammar for over an hour, and the last 30 minutes of class involve making a tiny Korean paper craft. I walk with my friends to the International Lounge located in “Bauer Hall” and we grab a seat.

After my classes end for the day, I leave campus through the “Main Gate” and cross the road, down through an alley way and find myself in front of the Keimyung Sauna. I pay only 4,000 won (roughly $3.75 US dollars) and spend an hour or so relaxing inside. I leave just before 3 p.m. and head enter a “GS25” convenient store just across the street. I pick up a Coke Zero and a Korean-brand granola bar and head back to my dorm, only to stop and buy some apples from a seller near the subway station entrance.

As I look down at my iPod before crossing the road, I look at one of the songs and realize the title is written in “Hangul” – the Korean text. I sound out each letter and say the quietly say the word out loud. I begin to think how I downloaded this song over a year ago back in America, and at the time I couldn’t even understand one word in the song. All in this one moment, I realize how far I’ve come. I look back up and take everything in – the cell phone store with pictures of Korean Pop Idols plastered on the door, the deliverymen zipping through traffic on scooters, the three young Korean students in school uniforms as they laugh while tagging one another – I see all this and close my eyes briefly, thinking “Please don’t let me forget any of this.”

This is my Korean life as an exchange student, and for those of you who have been reading my entries from the start, please forgive me for sounding like such a broken record.

It feels very odd knowing that even though students at ETSU are nearing finals and finishing up their semester, I have just completed my midterms for my term. Such is the case one might run into when studying in a different country, but does knowing that my friends back in Johnson City will be enjoying the summer sooner than I will? Not in the least bit.

After my “descriptive” introduction, I want to make sure I mention a few things. Although I have my own blog, I imagine this might be my last entry for some readers, and I want to use the space I have to say the things I’d like to write more about, but simply don’t have the room.

*A special “thank you” to my Korean roommate and my Korean “buddy” for everything they’ve done for me. I am really fortunate to have such kind and considerate friends who have helped me so much.

*I love my new friends I’ve made here – each and every one of them. If any of you read this, you know who you are. Thanks for being so cool.

*It is my observation that the majority of Korean people do not seem to wear sunglasses.

*Soju has a very strong “medicine-ish” taste to it, but when combined with Korean BBQ– all is well.

*In my experience, “Kimchi” (spicy cabbage that is popular in Korea) just is not for me.

*It is not necessary to tip Korean servers or taxi drivers – and in general everything here is much cheaper when compared to the USA.

*If you order food in Korea and the delivery service calls you back about 15 minutes later speaking only Korean, just continue to say “Nay” (meaning “Yes”) over and over and rest assured the food will arrive shortly.

*Being around so many people from around the world has almost made me begin to think “football” really is soccer and not “American football.”

I realize one could call this a collection of random thoughts and I can agree it’s not the most well structured article, but I just want to stress one thing. I was the most unworthy, unwilling and unlikely person to get this opportunity. People tell me all the time how lucky I am to have this opportunity, but the thing is, luck had nothing to do with. While I got help from so many kind and helpful people (ETSU International Studies Department, for example), I had to make this decision on my own. There were sacrifices I had to make, but was it all worth it? Believe me when I say this was the best decision I ever made in my life.

If you are a student who feels like taking a risk and jumping into something new, this is so perfect for you. Don’t be frightened or worried about the outcome. Just look into it. I had to do a lot to get here, but there are so many helpful people who gave me a chance when they saw how much I wanted this and my gratitude to them is endless.

I sincerely wish that everyone, at least for a brief period of time, could experience what I’ve experienced and see the world as I see it now. I’ll see you in a few short months, ETSU, but for now, I’m going to make the most of the time I have left.

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