2017 Fall David Solomon Korea Temple Exchange

What to Expect: Getting in Touch with my Roots

The weeks leading up to my departure to South Korea filled me with countless emotions. Excitement about living in an entirely different world, apprehension over navigating in a city with a drastically different native language, sadness about leaving the ones close to me, and gratefulness to be able to pursue such an amazing opportunity. Most of all though I felt shock, even though travelling to Seoul had been a long time dream of mine that was months in the making; it felt surreal to me that in a matter of hours I would be embarking on journey of over 6800 miles.

One of the main reasons why I wanted to partake on this journey was to get in touch with my heritage. My mother’s side of the family is originally from Seoul and I have been exposed to Korean culture ever since I was a child. I distinctly remember days spent at my grandparents house eating homemade dumplings, noodles and stews. I always loved spending time with my Korean side of the family, which was fundamentally different from my German/Syrian roots on my dad’s side of the equation. Yet another motivator for my trip was the fact that I never learned how to speak Korean while I was young and as such, could never fully communicate with my grandparents. Starting sophomore year at Temple I began to take the language courses with the hopes of one day being able to have full conversations with my grandparents. To further this goal I decided that fully immersing myself in Seoul would improve my speaking skills considerably.

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Checking in my Luggage at Newark Airport!

I thought that I would seize the opportunity to live abroad while I could and although I felt ill-prepared, before I knew it the planning process of my trip was over with and I was about to depart on the experience of a lifetime! I had only left the United States a few times in my life, once on a brief trip to Canada and once on an extended vacation with my family to the Philippines. Not only did I have limited exposure to foreign countries as a whole but I had also never taken an airplane by myself! I had a long journey ahead of me with two flights resulting in a cumulative 21 hours of flying time. My friends and family gave me the support and courage I needed to make the trip and my course schedule was finalized for my semester at Yonsei University. Suddenly I was at Newark airport with my two bags and checking into my connecting flight to San Francisco. Luckily for me, (and unluckily for my high school teachers) I have always been able to fall asleep quickly so the first six hours of my journey flew by in no time. After a short layover, I was on a significantly longer flight to Incheon National Airport. Even sitting on the plane it felt half like a dream that I was going to be living in an entirely different continent for four months. After watching a few movies and listening to a few albums the plane touched ground and I had made it to my mother’s homeland!

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Immigration at the Incheon International Airport!

Customs and immigration were the first challenges I faced in Korea and luckily for me they went swimmingly. Next, I had to navigate the bus system in order to get to my dorm at Yonsei University. After a long line and awe-inspiring ride to the university I was dropped off at the station next to the university. However, I still managed to get lost and wandered around the foreign environment for the better part of an hour until I found someone who directed me to my residence at SK Global House. Finally, after all the confusion and excitement from my travel I checked into my room. The jet-lag quickly caught up to me and I fell asleep before even meeting my roommate!

Thanks for reading my very first blog! In my next post I will address my first two weeks in Seoul, the friends I made, and the little things that make Korea so distinctly different from the US.

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First sight I saw after getting off the airport bus

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