So much has happened in my first month in South Korea that it’s been hard to find the time to sit down and process it all. These days I’ve been thinking a lot about how and why I decided to come to South Korea. I’ve been to South Korea twice and each time I’ve been here I’ve been asked why I decided to come here. It’s hard to explain so I have to think about the beginning of my journey.
My long journey began 9 years ago when I was 11 years old. It was the beginning of a new decade (2010) and I was finally getting more computer privileges. At that point in my life, YouTube was becoming a big part of my life. I’d spend hours watching Michelle Phan’s makeup videos or laughing at funny Lady Gaga music video parodies. I’ll never forget the day that led me to where I am now. I was watching a video about the newest Apple product: the iPad.
In this video, a man was talking about the exciting release of the iPad and he showed his laptop screen to compare to the size of the iPad. On his screen something caught my eye. It was a group of women dancing in colorful clothes in front of a colorful background. The name of the group appeared on the screen and I immediately looked up their music videos on YouTube.
The name of the group was Girls’ Generation and their videos had hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube. I was so confused when I watched their music videos and I realized they weren’t singing in English. Soon after I realized that I was watching a kpop music video. I spent hours looking at music videos of other kpop groups like SHINee, Super Junior, Big Bang, Wonder Girls, and 2NE1. The music videos were unlike American music videos and the tunes were so catchy that I loved to hum along.
For my next birthday I was given an iPod touch and all of the songs on my iPod were kpop songs. I watched YouTube videos about my favorite kpop stars and I watched shows on YouTube where my favorite kpop stars would make appearances. A new world had opened up to me and it was all I wanted to learn about. Although there was one problem…I couldn’t speak Korean.
I couldn’t understand the lyrics of the music I was listening to and, if there weren’t subtitles, I couldn’t understand what my favorite kpop stars were saying on TV shows. I wanted to learn how to speak Korean so I could stop relying on subtitles or translations. There were more stops along my journey but this was the beginning.
What most amazes me about my journey here is that my story is very similar to a lot of my peers. The internet brought us here. We were introduced to a new world that hadn’t been accessible to us until websites like YouTube became popular. Every day the internet opens up young people to new opportunities and possibilities. It can be a dangerous thing but in my case it was a beautiful thing.
Even if these days I can’t say why I’m in South Korea or why I decided to study in South Korea, whenever I look back at the beginning, I find motivation to keep going and keep learning the Korean language.