In the Korean language there exists a saying, “김치국부터 마시지 말라.” ‘Don’t drink the kimchi soup first.’ In Korean culture, kimchi soup is usually eaten after the main course of a meal, so usually one should wait to eat this until the end of a meal. In other words, this saying means that one should wait for something they are anticipating to happen until it really happens. I think that this saying truly embodies my plans and expectations about studying abroad in South Korea and having to wait for it to actually happen. After the 15 hour plane ride from Salt Lake City, Utah, USA to Incheon, South Korea, I had finally arrived in the familiar place I had only seen, experienced, and fell in love with through the 4 inch screen of my phone for the past 4 years. My expectations of South Korea were surpassed as it was as I had imagined it to be and more. I did not experience the so-called “cultural shock”, on the contrary, I felt at home in an environment with a language I understood, and with familiar customs and foods.
Everyday when I wake up and walk onto the streets of Seoul, it is the most amazing feeling in the world because I am able to experience “Korea” in person and from a local’s point of view. I am able to engage with my physical surroundings and see eye to eye with Korean people on a personal level by being able to speak the same language and being aware of elements of Korean culture such as social etiquette, traditions, customs, beliefs, and history. Though I was already very much in love with Korea before arriving and experiencing it for the first time, I fall deeper in love with it more and more everyday. Everyday I am excited to try new things I’ve never done before, visit places I’ve never been before, taste things I’ve never tasted before, meet new people, and have a good time while doing so.
On an academic note, my biggest goal and motive for studying abroad in South Korea this summer is to work on improving my Korean speaking skills and expanding my knowledge of the Korean language, since I have been self-studying the language over the past 4 years. In order to get placed into a Korean language class at Yonsei University, students are required to take a placement test in Korean with a written and verbal (interview) component. This placement test was definitely nerve-racking and not easy, however, I was excited to find out that I was able to successfully test into the (level 4) Intermediate Korean I class at Yonsei University. This was definitely a life-changing moment for me as I was able to prove to myself that all those years of dedication to studying Korean paid off and I was able to be in a classroom with classmates who understand and are passionate about Korean language and culture at a similar level as me.