Throughout my time abroad, I changed my main goal. I initially wanted to understand how Korea’s rich history and values make up the Korean culture today, but my main goal has become a self-development journey. Miles away and a different time zone from my loved ones back home, I find difficulty calling them to find solace in their voices or their virtual hugs. I initially found myself wanting to learn more about Korea, but I was surprised by how similar the US and Korea are with its convenient public transportation – though Korea’s transportation is much cleaner.
I was surprised to find myself being as homesick as I am. While I am here to embrace a new culture, I am torn between exploring the culture, understanding myself, and wanting to have a good time. I am not sure whether my time here has caused this, but I long to have a good hug from a comforting friend back home. I have never been away from my family or friends for too long in a new country. Abroad, I find myself needing to re-explain my life story, who I am, and what my preferences are. I want to be surrounded by people who know me, by a close community of people who know my strengths and weaknesses without needing to explain much of myself.
Though, I do not forget how fortunate I am to be in South Korea during a pandemic, getting to meet people from all over the world from European to African countries. I love seeing how South Korea operates compared to the US like many available convenience stores around the corner. There are many nice cafes which I cannot find in the US, multiple soju flavors that continue growing, and many ways to travel to a new part of the country. I love seeing aspects of myself improving like getting to improve my communication style or exploring my East Asian identity more. Some Koreans know me as Chinese or mistaken me for Korean. I am also labeled as just American which erases my Chinese identity, but I am learning to better share both of my identities. As time passes, I have found better ways to feel connected to myself and to my loved ones back home. I am excited to explore even more parts of myself to become more comfortable in my own skin!