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.
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!
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.