Learning Individuality Through a Collective Society

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Throughout my time in Seoul, there is only one negative thing that I have found myself facing: being alone. I have briefly covered this topic in a previous post of mine that I wrote around the middle of the semester. In that post I talked about if it was odd to travel alone in Seoul, or if it was easy. To be frank, as the semester drew along, I found myself at odds with the collective culture that South Korea thrives on. When I first wrote about the subject, I was rather positive about the struggles that solo travelers face in South Korea and I have since found it harder and harder to face. While I find that restaurants that only serve parties of two can be avoided or worked around, when it comes to activities or attractions it is quite a lot harder to reserve tickets for only one person. As my time here continued, and my scheduled simultaneously continued to not coincide with my friends, I not only felt helpless not being able to go do things by myself, but also jealous of the social media posts I would see of my classmates going in large groups to different places. While I know that parts of my frustration could be blamed on my own introversion and others on simple circumstances, I can’t help but feel for anyone who lives here who might not have an immediate group to go out with either. I can imagine how easily someone could feel isolated in a society that lives and breathes as a group.

Despite my frustrations surrounding being alone, it has also been one of my favorite parts about studying abroad! I have not only grown as an independent person but grown comfortable within my own skin. I have some friends who left South Korea with image issues due to all of the targeted ads and beauty standards here in South Korea, but I feel like being so far from the expected standards has allowed me to grow confident in what makes me different and come to terms with focusing on being happy with myself. Additionally, I was struggling with so many other aspects of existing here at the beginning, that I simply refused to allow myself to throw my appearance into the mix, because that wasn’t going to change. Anyways, back to enjoying my independence! I have grown to appreciate the work it takes to budget, pay rent, meal plan, and clean everything in one’s space. Not that I didn’t understand these things before, but there is definitely a difference when you only have yourself as the motivator.

All in all, however, I really think this semester and experience has allowed me to grow as a person, and, regardless of any of the struggles I faced, I wouldn’t have ever changed coming here!