New Beginnings: The Final Post on my South Korea Trip (Written in San Diego, California)

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!

Lessons Learned:

Always be on time.

  • Aside from being important in the workforce and for my Korean class, I relearned this lesson after missing my flight back to the US. Needless to say, I will be improving on my timeliness both in and outside of the airport.

It’s okay to take your time.

  • I learned this lesson when learning Korean. I became frustrated and discouraged at numerous points along my language journey because I wasn’t able to express myself adequately to native Korean speakers. It is very frustrating not being understood when you want to be and your are giving a hard effort to get your point across. However, when learning language, going back to the drawing board-your study desk in this case- and patiently reviewing the foundations of the language does more good than pouting with self-doubt.

Have fun while you can, after your work is finished.

  • For 4 months I had 3 jobs, one intensive class, and a steep learning curve for the culture/ins and outs of a new country. Needless to say, it was stressful effectively balancing these three components of my life and I stumbled at several points. However, when I had free time I made sure to have fun by making time for myself and friends. This served as an indispensable source of stress relief amidst the business and unfamiliarity of my life as a student in Seoul.

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!

Reflection:

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.!

Future Plans/Aspirations:

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.

 

 

Seoul to San Diego: Coming back to the USA

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

 

 

My last (Full) Week In Korea: Ends and New Beginnings

Hello everyone!

As you may be able to ascertain from the title, I will soon be leaving South Korea and departing for another journey. I will be leaving this coming Monday to be exact and I am frequently exchanging goodbye hugs and letters with friends of mine. Though this journey is not over yet, I will certainly miss spending time frequently with the friends that I have made while I was here. Nonetheless, I believe that I will return to Korea as a better breakdancer and a better speaker of the Korean language in the foreseeable future. Until that time comes, I will be studying, practicing, taking photos, making friends, and living my life wherever my path takes me. (This includes graduating from KSU of course^^)

Travel with Kangsoo:

Anyway, let’s talk about last week and my recent travels with my mentor, Kangsoo (He can be found in several of the photos above). Together we traveled to two cities, Daegu(대구) and Daejeon(대전), and met with a few other friends along the way.During our time in both cities we ate a lot of free meals through a combination of family love, friendly kindness, and gifting for each other. Family love came from Kangsoo’s mom and Inhyuck’s mother when they graciously opened their homes and shared their food. (We stayed with Inhyuck while we were in 대전). Also, Kangsoo has an aunt who lives in 대전 who invited and treated us to a delicious dinner. Friendly kindness came from Inhyuck when he decided to practically purchase all of our food for our first day in 대전 and from my English student, Gloria(viewable in the above photos), who graciously purchased dinner and smoothies for Kangsoo and I .Lastly, Kangsoo and I were constantly gifting food and other things to each other just because we are cool like that^^ (And we may have run out of physical bills at scattered points throughout our travels and needed a friend to hold us down before we reached the next ATM).

Anyway, throughout our trip the lodging was also free and the moments we shared were priceless. By the end of our adventures I left Kangsoo a thank you note and also told him that when he gets married he should invite me. He replied that I should do the same, and so I will, when that day comes.

Side-note: We originally planned to also visit Busan, but we had a time conflict. This just means that I will have to come back to knock it off my list, alongside Jeju!

 

More photos!? More photos indeed.

Last night I had a farewell get together with two of my friends, Aerin and Bomin, who I both met during my last/first stay in Seoul(During a KSU study abroad). Anyway, we ate together, talked about our past and futures, and then they gave me a going away gift with two persona letters. Hehe, I like the way they say goodbye because it is heartfelt and filled with positive energy. Though I wish I would have thought ahead to give each of them gifts, theirs were well recieved. Anyway, we finished the night by meeting up with Jessica and that was an additional friend to share goodbyes with.
In the short remaining time that I have, I plan to continue saying goodbyes, to dance, to giveaway some gifts, to enjoy myself, and to make a final Korea post to tie it all together.
Thank you again for reading and staying tuned.

The End of Last Week and What’s Going on Next Week.

 

So, as some of you may be able to ascertain from the title, I’m going to be traveling around Korea during this upcoming week. Starting later this morning I will embark on a tour of three cities: Daegu(대구), Busan (부산),  and Daejeon (대전). I will be traveling to and from these cities with my good friend and mentor, Kangsoo. Luckily I’ll be able to crash with him and my friend Inhyuck throughout the duration of this mini-vacation. Actually, this whole trip was Kangaroo’s idea, so I’m going to be along for the ride as he shows me around. Of course, I will be tugging my trustee Canon camera around to snap pretty photos for the blog ad later memories^^

That’s what’s going to be happening last week. Above are some photos from last week that may need some explaining.

AFN
AFN, or A Friday Night, a free monthly breakdance jam that takes place in a community center every last Friday of the month. I actually competed in an earlier installment of this jam and posted about it 2 months ago. However, this time around, on account of being late, I just sat on the side lines with my camera. Though I didn’t compete, I still danced and made an effort to enjoy myself by making the most out the situation. The situation being me present at a jam that previously used to watch while sitting in my family’s kitchen on the other side of the world.

Random model:

This man is indeed not a professional model. He is actually my second interviewee for a study that I am conducting on breakdance. These photos were taken after our video interview which will be released after extensive editing and permissions.^^

Side note, as compensation for the interview I introduced him to the delicious beverage that is the sweet potato latte (고구마=sweet potato)

Who’s the last man with the red shirt?

I have since forgotten his name, but this is a man who was dancing with a group of two other performers in a park close to Lima’s apartment. Upon returning to Lima’s apartment we stumbled upon him and his friends giving a street performance, and we actually joined in.^&^ Sadly enough, I am not in possession of any video capturing me and Lima dancing, however the memory will stay with me for a long time.

Lastly, since I will be traveling this upcoming week, this means an end to my temporary stay with Lima. This saddens me a little as I have enjoyed staying with him. I tell him jokes and puns often and we have similar views, passions, and interests. I’d like to give a special thanks to him for housing me this week. I wish him success in all his future endeavors and will tell him these very words tomorrow morning because he his sleeping at the moment.

 Though, again, I am parting ways with a good friend, I find it best to look onward to the future while keeping the past experiences close at heart. They keep me warm during the colder times of misunderstanding in a country where I am a foreigner, this feeling of being foreign is at times amplified by being visibly different than the native population.

Anyway, this is all for tonight.

Stay tuned this upcoming week for updates on my travels to other cities within Korea.

 

PS. Due to one of the beauties and conveniences of the internet, that is long-distance communication, I actually petitioned to graduate, registered for Fall courses and put in a reservation request for the breakdance club(Which I am the president of) all from the comforts my dormitory/Lima’s apartment. Sometimes technology is beautiful. Potential surveillance from third party or government entities notwithstanding.

 

Peace!

 

Life at Lima’s Place: June 24th, 2016 (Hyewha)

Hello everyone!

Today is going to be a double-post because to much has happened. With that being said, I’m going to jump straight into it and another post will follow this one.

Lima’s place.

As previously promised, here is the update on my new digs!(Living arrangement) I’m currentlt staying with my breakdancing/Rapping friend Lima in Hyewha. Apart from the awesomeness of being able to have a roof to rest my head free-of-charge, staying at Lima’s place has had plenty of other benefits/ adventures built-in. First is the location, Hyewha, which is surrounded by dance studios, food stores, public art spaces, public parks, and other convenient/beautiful amenities. In addition to the plentiful supply of attractions and food stuffs, Lima’s home is also quite close to the Hyewha subway station. This means that when I have work, a meetup, or just want to access a different part of the city I can just walk 10 minutes and have affordable access to the extensive subway system here. All-in-all this is a pretty convenient place to live and I am very thankful to my friend for allowing me to stay with him for an entire week here.

Shout out to Jay Bowen for showing me proximity of Gwanghwamun, Hyewha, and Dongdaemun (East gate). FOr those who don’t know, there are four very large gates that are placed in the east, west, north and south portions of Seoul.
 

Takeaway from staying with Lima:

There is a real importance of making and keeping friends in Korea, or anywhere where people are descent really. Friends have helped me countless times while I have been here and I have also easily made new ones while out and about. Friends aren’t just people who smile with you and invite you to eat, but the ones that will help you get back home when the subway is shut down or the ones who give you a place to stay when your university dorm rejects your request for an extension.  Friendly people from the home country also help just the same.

 

PS.

The bottom photo is from a meetup of me, my classmates, and one of our two teachers last week. We had a sort of after-class reunion since our semester actually ended back in late May. (All of my classmates within this photo are currently enrolled in the new semester and taking the next level of Korean class)

 

A week that has been full of surprises- Beautiful and unsuspectingly troublesome.

Hello everyone!

It has been a while since my last blog post! Like, almost a full week. The release schedule for my travel blog is starting to become like the release schedule of weekly Shonen JUMP! in Japan.

Anyway, let me explain the circumstances of my hiatus.First, I caught a cold this past week and that had me under the weather for a few days. I was so under-the-weather in fact that I did not attend my weekly volunteer session with my students from Burma!(Next week will be the final week that I get to teach and see them so I will do my best then) Secondly, I have been apartment/hotel/하숙집/guest house hunting in Seoul during this past week. As I am leaving next month, July 4th, and need to leave my university housing by the 21st, I had to spend this week staying calm and finding an affordable place to live. The last reason for my hiatus is dance, but it is not what you think. I am actually completing a Senior Capstone- an undergraduate research project- while in Seoul and it involves interviewing breakdancers. One could even say that all of the events that I have been going were apart of research in the field.

So that’s why you have heard so little from me during the past week. Anyway, let’s move onto our typical wrap-up of the week’s events!

So what significant happenings of the week weren’t in the synopsis of why this post was late-you might ask? Well, a lot.

With me leaving the shared dormitory soon, my roommates and I have been talking together and preparing our goodbyes for parting ways. For those who haven’t seen my earlier posts, I have two roommates. One is names Mallis, he comes from Krygstan in Central Asia, speaks Korean, Russian, and Krygish fluently (speaks English at the high-intermediate level) and is also a breakdancer who happened to open his own studio in his home country before coming to study in Korea (His school closed prior to his arrival to Korea). My second roommate is named Matial and he comes from the Ivory coast, or the Côte D’Ivoire in French. Anyway he is a previous Taekwando champion in his country (I am a second degree black belt in TaeKwanDo), many of the current champions of his country look up to him, he has a daughter and wife whom he is trying to build a better future and life for, and he is kind of like the big brother of our little dorm room. When I say big brother it isn’t in the Orwellian since, but rather, he buys toilet paper for us all to use and gives me and my other roommate advice when we need it/ask for it.

I’ll be leaving my room on Tuesday morning, the day when they take their final exams of the semester, so we have been relishing our time together through conversation and discourse on problems and situations around the world^^

In addition to bidding farewell to my roommates, I also attended yet another breakdance jam, as aforementioned before. But this is one where I actually entered, whereas I simply spectated at the most previous one I attended.Here’s video from the event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhzJXJ1YVBc

 

That’s about it for the events from the week and here is some of what I accomplished from this week. Please check back soon for an update from my new living quarters!

 

Wall art, Food, Dance, and a Latin Festival in the middle of Seoul

Hello everyone! Long time no see, eh?

Since the last chapter of my adventures across Seoul I have since re-explored the alleyways of the 홍대(Hongdae) district of Seoul, practiced breakdance at the TIP studio (again^^), found a couple delicious food stops near my lodging at the dorms, witnessed some additional street performers, and visited a Latin American festival!

Latin Festival

Okay so this Latin festival is apparently a yearly festival inside of Seoul. It took place in front of the Seongbuk district of Seoul. If featured  Latin American states like Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Mexico with the addition of Spain and Angola as parts of the Portuguese and Spanish speaking world. Needless to say, the festival was colorful, full of culture and delicious food-like empanadas- from all across Latin America

Surprises during the festival:

  1. The first surprise of the festival was rain. The festival didn’t take place underneath a large tent, rather a collection of small tents around the vendors and culture areas, so many spectators were moistened by the falling rain while watching acts on the stage.
  2. Spanish/Portuguese speaking Korean and African people. There were many Korean-born people who spoke either Portuguese or Spanish-with an almost natural command of either language-at this festival. There was also a man who looked to be ethnically Korean but spoke neither Korean or English, only Spanish. He was born in Mexico city, Mexico. Lastly, I learned today that there are 4 African nations with prevalent Portuguese speaking populations. Angola is one of these countries and the ambassador to Seoul was in attendance of this festival.
  3. How interconnected we all are. From the Spanish speaking yet Korean born singers of salsa to the North American Zumba dancer and further to the Peruvian girl who knew of my state in the US, we were all connected by multiple shared interests and experiences. This phenomenon of us being interconnected became most apparent through dancing together, either when many people joined in the dance of Zumba or when I danced Bachata with an unknown attractive Korean women. (She asked me to dance)

Concerning the other pictures in this post, they are more or less traveling as usual. When I see visually striking street art, I will do my best to capture a complimenting photo and share it on this blog. Also, when I go to dancing events, I will do my best to post the photos and video for your viewing pleasure.

 

I will include two more bits of information in this post before I sleep for the evening/early morning.

  1. I am constantly practicing my Korean skills when I can so that I don’t regress and rather prepare for future progress with the language. “Regular study or at least refreshment of language will help the blossoming flower of language remain un-wilted by the passage of time.” – Just wrote that down.
  2. I just watched the movie X-Men: Rise of Apocalypse, and geeked out at various points throughout the film. Watching movies like these in a foreign land, like Korea, give me an appreciation of the ubiquity of American pop culture. Whereas this ubiquity has its pros and cons, watching this movie gave me a sense of comfort and familiarity that I haven’t really felt awhile since coming here. (I felt like a kid watching the X-men cartoon show again)

That’s all for today.

Thank you for reading everyone! Please look forward to the next post!

 

(I am going to update the blank spaces tomorrow)