Despite living in a new country and being a foreigner with limited Korean speaking abilities, I found so many individuals willing to help me who extended their kindness. I became friends with a middle-aged woman who I met at a café. She extended her kindness with cake and tea for my friends and me, along with a delicious dinner. We learned about each other and our interests and hobbies. I walked into stores with attentive employees helping me choose out different outfits. I had a sales associate take an hour to help me find the best lipstick shade for my sister and my cousin. And the best part was always turning on my camera in Korean class with my professor smiling and greeting us in Korean or when I walked into the CIEE classroom greeting my friends before class began. And there stood Teddy, my teacher, who always made the classroom feel like a welcoming environment, where we all shared our thoughts and opinions without fear of being judged.
As I come to a close during my time abroad, I reflect on my many wonderful moments. It was not always this way as homesickness crept up on occasion. Though, creating a list of goals and places I wanted to visit were just a few actions that helped me while living in a new country. Along with letting life take its course day by day, having planned and impromptu nights – singing at a karaoke bar (노래방) until 2am or hanging out with friends until 4am – really made my time abroad memorable. I also continued to self-reflect on my experiences from time to time, month to month, to adjust anything I wanted to change, or I felt I have not done much. For example, in October, I felt I had not explored much of the Korean cultural activities I have been wanting to do, so I made November about cultural exploration from booking a temple stay to visiting Gyeongju to simply visiting museums. My expectations of myself were ever changing, but I found it necessary to continue to reflect. And I come back home to the US, here are the few lessons I learned and things I am thankful for:
• Before coming abroad, I created a list of goals I wanted to accomplish or do while abroad, so I never lost sight of my WHY as in “Why did I choose Korea? What did I want to do here?”
• Journaling helped me throughout my time here to keep a written record of how each week went.
• Taking pictures helped me savor the memories along with keeping souvenirs like a ticket from my first opera show. I wished I took a picture of my special souvenirs every week to see the many memories captured each week.
• Playing some moments abroad by ear lead to many cool adventures I did not expect – new memories and memorable moments.
As this is my last written journal entry, I thank you for reading my time and experiences abroad. For now, I will see you soon my friend.