I spent two weekends in Seoul, and here are the photos. Will write back later when I have more time and less pressing obligations.^^
Phew. It has been awhile everyone. How have you all been? I hope you all have been well.^&^
I apologize for my hiatus, but A LOT has been going on and I am honestly still in the midst of a lot. So, really quick run down is coming up.
Death – I called my father this Monday and he hit me with the news that my grandmother had recently passed away… Her name was Josephine, and she was a pillar of our family. Always quick to help, share kind words, and just support anyone who needed it – especially her family members. I’m not going to get to into this, but she did have some last words for me: “Do good and try your best” – Josephine Brown. To honor her words, I am moving forward as best I can as smart and wholeheartedly as possible. I love my grandmother, so she will likely come up in future posts, as the grieving process will be long.
Love – No specifics, but I have a new LOVE interests within my present cohort. *Cue audience woo’s* More updates will come as this relationship develops, but it has not randomly formed out of left field. We have been in contact for some time before this program and have proceeded to “click” after meeting in-person.
FUN – Phew! I need more time for this FUN stuff. I honestly have programming for 8-11 hours a day, and this is not including the essential chores of house cleaning, laundry, and decompressing from the earlier week.
I have been breaking (breakdancing) in-between the breaks of my Korean class but I am CRAVING something more substantial as I re-adjust to living in S. Korea again.
Korea classes – EVERY WEEKDAY, except this upcoming Friday, for 5 – 7 hours depending on the day. Honestly, though this this is quite stressful and energy draining, I am quite thankful for the KAEC and the Fulbright commission’s commitment to ensuring that ETA’s have a fully-funded intensive Korean program before teaching for year. This program is very well put together in terms of behind-the-scenes funding and management. However, I just wish I had more free time worked into the running activity because I am itching to dance, and compete!
Workshops – Phew, the workshops. On top of our regular Korean classes, we have regularly scheduled teaching and cultural workshops that are meant to give us insight into aspects of the social structure, teaching cultures/philosophies, and classroom dynamics within South Korea. Though these workshops also leave me quite tired, they are very informative and ultimately helpful.
I have been eating free meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner since my entry to Korea – save for two excursions that included both sweet potato and blueberry/raspberry pizzas. Pictures will come…with time, opportunity, and the prospect of me not forgetting.^&^
That’s it for now everyone. I shall now be off to sleep and rest for the next day. Please wish me luck – especially my family and friends. And please also pray for my grandmother to rest in peace if you all have religion, time, and the energy.
From the land where “the dream of the 90’s is alive” to a few days in Seattle, this week has truly been interesting and educational.
Thanks for reading!
Please enjoy the photos below from Seattle and Portland!
For those of you who do not know, I have recieved the Fulbright ETA – English Teaching Assistantship, Scholarship and will be returning to South Korea for at-least one year. Though this blog is no longer commissioned by Kennesaw State University, I will be using it to document my travels as I embark on another journey abroad.
That being said, expect less of a filter – though future content and tone will remain reasonably respectful of all parties involved.
Anyway, I am excited and I hope some of you all will be happy to read along as once-again leave the United States to go teach abroad in South Korea! I promise that the trip will be filled with adventure, dance, food, friends and life -events, not to mention possible romance, teaching stories and outrageous situations / random acts of kindness.
This will truly be an adventure, and I am excited. Thank you to everyone who has followed thus far and welcome aboard to anyone who is just joining in. Departure date is T-minus 13 days in counting.
This will be the final post on my recent trip to South Korea. It is being written from across the Pacific ocean in San Diego city, California. In this post I will consolidate the lessons learned from Korea, reflect on some fond memories, and discuss my plans for the future/post graduation.
So let’s get started!
Always be on time.
It’s okay to take your time.
Have fun while you can, after your work is finished.
It’s okay to say no.
Due to the drinking culture in Korea, most of the social groups that I was a apart of held regular events with social drinking involved. Now these events almost always cost money, take place in the evening time and involve other people telling you how much to drink. I don’t drink, had homework, had 3 jobs, and wanted to make time for dance and personal growth amidst everything else. Where my aspirations and obligations ran contrary to my presence at social events, I said no. Sometimes it was easy, other times invitations were given in a more aggressive manner, however I remembered why I came and stayed focused. This isn’t to say that I never went out, I just made sure to have fun with the purpose of relieving stress but not relieving myself of the responsibility of keeping my own goals in mind. I think any student abroad will have many opportunities to experience new things, and this is great. However, it is when these new experiences begin to conflict with past commitments and resolutions that one needs to ask oneself “Why did I come here?”, “Can I complete this activity while being able to complete the goals I have already committed to?” and “Is this good for me?”
Keep on dreaming!/Keep your dreams alive!
While abroad, I was flooded with tons of new information, obligations, ideas, opportunities and stresses. So much so that it was quite easy to lose myself amidst the flood of possibilities. This is where dreams and a firm resolve to realize them become important. Whenever I had more free time than I knew what to do with or more stresses/obligations than I knew to handle, I made sure to calmly reflect on that which I wanted to do most and prioritized my efforts from there. Sometimes this meant that one homework assignment out of five was not completed, because it wasn’t graded- better believe everything else was finished- sometimes this meant that I was 5 minutes late for work BECAUSE I was finishing an important project- better believe prior notice was given to my employer- and many times this meant late nights so that I could fit my work, school work, and play all fit into one day. Needless to say, the prospect of accomplishing my own goals, set years before my arrival to Korea, fueled me throughout most of my trip(Just being in a foreign country can be VERY tiring, especially when coupled with your own aspirations and obligations)
This one seems to run contrary with the former, however the two are complimentary!
The Homework Never Ends. (And you’re not the only on who has to do it.)
I had a dream – go to Korea- and realized it. Now what? Learn Korean language? Apply for a job, scholarship, or fellowship in Korea? These are all options on my plate of opportunity, and I will probably make efforts toward each one. Regardless, these all require work, research, recommendation letters and, most important of all, effort. Before returning to Korea I resolved to not become lazy or complacent with mediocrity/conformity. This relates primarily toward my language learning and breakdancing. Though I am in the US, where there aren’t as many native speakers around to practice with, I still need to hold myself accountable for learning/practicing my Korean skills. Because WHEN I return, for whatever purpose, I will certainly benefit from knowing more through Korean than I do now.
Mentors, Friends and Family are indispensable when abroad.
At many points of my recent trip I was almost absolutely out of money, lost in an unfamiliar place(without wi-fi directly accessible), and just feeling overwhelmed by loneliness or stress. During these times, I reached out to friends, family and mentors for connection, relief, and guidance. These people helped me out when no one else could or would, and that’s what made them indispensable to me. I believe that any individual who goes to an unfamiliar place would benefit from a support network, especially if they can call on them at any time.
(Aspire to hold onto as many of these as you can because these people, if they are good, will help you when no else can or when no one else is willing)
Shoutout to Mom, Dad, 아야카, 민하, Jessica/재시카, 강수 에린, 보민, Gloria, Mate Institute, Nopi Study, KSU DVGA, Anna F., 예지, 유진, 지원, 지선, 지은, Martial, Meelis, 강 선생님, 배 선생님, Patrick, Nicole, Gil, Dr. Askildson, Michele Miller, Nadine, Sumi Moon, JoonSu, MyungJu, Sarome, KSU Korean class classmates, Kyungmee, BIP program 2013, Dr. Lee, KSU Asian Studies program, ASSO, KSU Korean Language Club, KSU breakdance Club, Hanyang University, Angela Kim, Rick Punt, KSU global learning Scholarship, HOPE scholarship, Hanyang Housing Scholarship, and everyone else who had a hand in keeping my dream of going to Korea alive.!
Here is a sneak-peek into my to-do list for the foreseeable future. Similar to my dream of going to Korea, conceived years ago, I fully intend on making each of these aspirations a reality.
Graduation from KSU
Complete applications for going abroad again to continue intensive study of the Korean language.
Pursue Master’s in Urban Planning – Specialization in Transportation or housing
Keep on dancing! (Learn airflare)
Help other people in a manner that is sustainable to my circumstances!
Maintain the important connections that I have made.
Maintain an open mind in that sense that I allow new ideas to be heard, allow for the acceptance/introduction of newer -sometimes better- concepts into my life.
Do my best, always. (Rest well, Work well, Play well, Communicate well, Live well)
Stay true to my word by making good on as many promises as I am able!
And now to end this post, here are some photos from my time in San Diego, California.
Today, rather the continuation of yesterday without sleep, I missed my original flight back to the USA from South Korea. Luckily, with help from my family, I was able to rearrange a flight back to the USA. This led to an extra night in Seoul, spent cozily in the airport lobby. Honestly, it was not that bad of an experience – staying in an international airport overnight. At first it felt like a visit to a very busy doctor’s office…. An office that tries to save energy by cutting off several lights after 1 am…. and during this energy saving period most of the other patients steadily depopulate, leaving the waiting room eerily-yet-peacefully quiet as you await the return of both daylight through the windows and the doctor & staff.
Anyway, along my new route to the USA, all while still in the Seoul-Incheon airport, I was selected for an additional security screening, twice. Once when checking my bags and once more when getting on the plane. Actually, when I was leaving Korea 3 years ago I was also chosen for a security screening before getting onto the plane. In my four trips to the Incheon airport I have been selected for a “random” security screening three times. In my experience and opinion, Brown/Darker/Central Asian/Middle Eastern foreigners, particularly those with beards, are easy targets for suspicion from the airport security, particularly on international flights from a homogeneous society where you are visibly different from your peers.
This is not to say that I believe, or that Korea is, racist or even xenophobic. However, there have been various expectations built around outward appearances that one should keep an eye and ear open While feelings for foreigners in general are typically warm to neutral- in terms of basic interactions- generalities begin to form around foreigners that are based on present or past experience with foreigners. These perspectives are then often thrusted upon incoming foreigners, or used a regular frame of reference when interacting with them. Now this doesn’t only happen inside of Korea, and I think most students understand this concept. It is just, once we are abroad we become the foreigners and thus are interactions with others are many times directly related to their prior experience with other foreigners. For instance, if you are near the foreigner center of Seoul -Itaewon- and you look foreign, then many Korean people will, or at least attempt to, speak English in order to communicate with you. In my experience and opinion, it is because many foreigners who don’t speak Korean frequent these places, and thus having English as a default has become a method simplifying communication with foreigners.
On the reverse, if you are foreign and find yourself outside of Seoul-and not near an army base- then Korean people will probably just speak in Korean to you and if you have a Korean friend with you, , or someone who ‘looks’ Korean, then they will speak directly in Korean to them almost with the expectation that you can’t or won’t understand. This can be frustrating, but especially so when one doesn’t take the time to truly consider ‘why’. Asking ‘why’ can help us develop a ‘how’ for becoming included in the conversation and hopefully even an impetus for an alleviation of negative stereotypes of ineptitude, maliciousness, and the like.
I initially spoke Korean while I was out and about in Seoul for the effect of improving my Korean and to effectively communicate with others. Gradually, my use of Korean has grown to include the intentions of becoming an example foreigner who cares about Korean culture and language exist and to do my best to understand my friends in their own words (As speaking in ONLY English creates stress and strains communication on account of a limited shared vocabulary)
Today’s picture-less post was based on personal experiences that I hope can helpfully serve other students abroad in the future, or simply people trying to connect with one another.
With that, I will end with sharing some personal advice and then heartfelt advice from my parents after the fiasco of missing my flight
Make sure not to make the same mistake I did – being overly optimistic with the speed of public transportation in a foreign country when meeting my deadline was crucial. I missed my original flight back to the United States because I miscalculated how fast the “Express airport bus” would get me to the airport. I frankly didn’t know, and didn’t check up on, the other numerous stops before the airport or the traffic pattern-Both affected my arrival time to the airport. My family was able to help bail me out, and I will pay them back in full, but not every student traveling abroad will have this safety net, so just be on your P’s and Q’s with your flights. In fact, ESPECIALLY with your flights because they place you in and out of the country. – Vincent Brown
“ALWAYS ARRIVE TO THE AIRPORT AT LEAST 3 HOURS EARLY BEFORE INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS, BECAUSE YOU NEVER KNOW.” -Vincent’s Mom and Dad