I’ve been back from South Korea now for a little over a week. For a majority of the week my jet-lag got the best of me and left me attached to my bed. I found it weird to eat with a fork, after eating everything with chopsticks for a month. Slowly I find myself adjusting back to the States, but there are still parts of South Korea that I’ll have forever with me.
This experience has been the most reassuring traveling experience that I have ever had with my dietary restrictions. This opportunity has made me more confident to explore other destinations in order to find different food and eating cultures that pertain to my diet.
Learning about eating culture was my favorite experience while studying abroad. The proper manners for chopsticks, how to call for a waiter, and learning the traditional way to eat varying Korean stews and soups, has greatly impacted my perspectives and the stories that I will take home from this country. Food is such a precious sentiment of sharing. From ordering big portions to share with your family or splitting a bowl of ramen with your significant other, Korean eating culture is about eating together and having a great time while doing it. This aspect for me was difficult at first, because I like to eat alone. However, I really enjoyed it as I started to become friends with more people from my class. I want to start implementing this into my eating style back home, in hopes of becoming closer with my friends and family.
Within this experience, my classmates and I became friends with an elderly couple that were food vendors at a place called Boxquare. Boxquare was full of different food vendors selling a variety of traditional and Korean street food dishes. Our new friends’ booth was special, though. They offered great traditional meals and street food, but the best part was that I could eat everything because it was coated in potato flour instead of regular wheat flour! My classmates and I would go to this booth everyday for some gimpbap or Korean fried chicken. I was able to experience hospitality and the passion that South Korea has surrounding their food.
Taking IH in Seoul, has allowed me to use soft skills and concepts that I have developed in the classroom and utilize them in the field–for example, reading about the influence of Confucianism on Korea and seeing that influence target the architecture to the people. This concept of filial piety, which is respecting your elders and the environment around you resonates throughout South Korea. From the Gyeongbokgung Palace to small family owned businesses in the streets of Sinchon. Korea was one of the last places in Eastern Asia that upheld a strict version of Confucianism, and the imprints of this movement can still be seen.
Overall, South Korea has given me the opportunity to connect and experience a new culture. Learning about the way that people function within a culture is something that I’ve always enjoyed. I was given the rare ability to learn about parts of a culture that were erased from history. Before I go, I would like to thank Temple for this opportunity as a student blogger. This has allowed me to notice details about South Korea that not everyone catches. This opportunity of studying abroad has given me a new sense of independence and confidence that I can take with me and utilize for the rest of my life.