On My Way to Korea: Anticipation Abounds

Baggage—check. Goodbyes—check. Paperwork and passport—check. I got my things in order and now I’m about ready to depart for my travels to Korea!

As I ready myself for this four month-long adventure, I wonder: what is this trip all about and what do I expect from it? I’ll do my best to answer that here in my first blog post.

Traveling abroad is something everyone looks forward to and should end up doing at some point in their lives. It gives the traveler the opportunity to go to a place completely foreign to them and see new things, fresh faces and experience something ‘out of the ordinary.’ It allows a person to gain a new perspective on life and exposes them to the global environment.

That’s such an important thing considering that we live in a world which is a lot smaller place than our parents knew. The global community is a lot better connected than any time before in history and therefore to see more is to know more. As we know, life is about learning. Travel abroad will bring great knowledge to an individual (as you learn how to adapt to unfamiliar situations) and will bring greater appreciation for the world in which we live.

As for me, this trip to Korea has a deep and personal meaning and I hope to come away from it with a greater understanding of who I am and what I’ve evolved into as I approach my middle age. As a Korean American, I have been reared to have a certain respect for my ‘motherland’ or country of birth. Korean Americans are extremely patriotic towards their country and their parents pay great attention to ‘all things Korean.’

I have developed a certain curiosity for this place and wonder ‘how Korean am I?’.

While studying at Yonsei’s Global Village in Wonju, I will pay particular attention to the everyday customs, belief systems and conventions of native Korean people. By doing so, I hope to develop a better understanding of who I am essentially, what I have represented to others all my life and see how those belief systems have integrated with the American in me.

How have I maintained my identity as a person of Korean descent while living in America? I want to explore what that fusion of cultures has become and what it is I amount to today. These are some of the topics and ideas I would like to cover in this blog.

But fear not, there will be plenty of coverage on my adventures and experiences of this land that has been dubbed ‘The Hermit Kingdom.’ I should mention that Korea has been considered also as ‘The Miracle on the Han’ as it developed into an economic powerhouse during a relatively short period of time in the 1970’s. Korea is also known as one of four ‘little tigers’ of East Asia, the others being Japan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

The country is globally known for (just to name a few) manufacturing of electronic goods, delectable food items (Korean BBQ, kimchi- a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage, soju-Korea’s version of vodka), pop music and movie scenes, martial arts, and the endearing hospitality of its people. I know a lot of my roots in terms of my identity begin here, but I yearn to learn more.

During my time at Yonsei’s Global Village, I have an academic requirement to take 12 units which I have already mapped out. The classes I will partake in will be a Korean culture and history course, a Korean conversation course, reading and writing, and an elective, Korean cultural philosophy. I am sure these will be great sources to write about, so stay tuned.

First and foremost, I travel to Korea as an Aztec, so I will make sure to represent SDSU in the best light possible and make sure that people know of all the good news that comes from our school. ‘Leadership starts here’ as they say in these parts. I am an ‘Aztec for life’. Be well all. Until next time! Yours truly, Doug.

Update: I realized that I’ve been trying to get into Yonsei University all my life, and now here is my chance. I am attending Yonsei’s Wonju campus which is a secondary campus of Yonsei University of Seoul, considered quite a prestigious university. Wonju campus houses many schools amongst them a Medical school and an ROTC branch.

Yonsei University was created by Horace Underwood, a protestant Christian from America who brought his message of light to Korea in the 1800s. Now with a secondary campus of Yonsei in Wonju, people can retreat 2 hours east of Seoul in the province of Gangwon-do, known for its mountainous terrain, to ponder the life of a university student.

Another attraction of Yonsei’s Wonju campus is that structured within its dormitory life, they have formed what is considered the Global Village where only English is to be spoken and used in all forms of communication. This is where I will stay, in the Global Village, mentoring native students of American customs and traditions. I suppose I am an ambassador of sorts. I will be my honor to represent the US and SDSU.

And yes, I do have a history with Yonsei as I have attended their Korean Language Institute (KLI) on their Seoul campus several times. I even contemplated graduate school at Yonsei, so here is my chance! To be a part of this community that Horace Underwood established for the betterment of US/Korea relations. Onward!

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