During my personality class two semesters ago, my professor talked about how aspects of one’s personality may change when going to visit another country since you may begin to assimilate to that culture or experience a wide variety of events.
As a psychology major, one of my main areas of interest is in personality so, it is no surprise that I have taken a wide variety of tests to figure out characteristics about myself. Among the test results, I always score very high on organization and being a planner.
This is very true since I find myself constantly planning my day and what my next move is. Since coming to South Korea, this has helped me academically but, slowly I have come to realize that an important aspect of studying abroad is the having the ability to adapt to your surroundings and the situations you are faced with.
While it is not a bad quality of mine to be a heavy planner, I feel that I have begun to allow myself to loosen up a bit and sometimes let situations ride naturally and spontaneously. Since doing this, I have had so many wonderful experiences come out of it and also have avoided having major anxiety attacks as a result.
In the United States, if I plan things carefully, I will find myself getting anxious if things begin not going how I planned them to go but, I have learned in these three short weeks that many times, there was nothing to be worried about in the first place.
In the last three weeks, I have faced many situations that have not gone according to my original plan but in this blog post, I will mention two of them. During these times, I follow three main steps towards facing a situation: plan, assess the situation and take action.
It allows me to breathe for a bit and look at my possible options towards solving the problem. Another reason I follow these steps because I like to ask myself, “when I look back on my study abroad trip, will I be satisfied with the way I reacted to this situation?”
This further aids in my reflection of the situation and allowing myself to see if I am overreacting or if I am doing the right thing. By doing so, I feel myself slowly relax and be more open to new ideas or possible solutions.
Lotte World Experience
My first experience happened when I went to a famous amusement park in South Korea called Lotte World. I was going back after a long day of being there with my friend from my home university and a Korean buddy that we hung out with all day.
Our Korean friend helped us with getting on the subway back to Korea University and so, my friend and I were following her lead. Since there were a lot of people getting on the subway, I decided to hold my friend’s hand so that she would not get lost. Once the subway doors opened, we got on the train when suddenly, I heard the door begin to close.
The subways do not reopen once they begin to close even if there is something in the way so not to get hurt, my friend and I let go of our hands. This caused an unexpected situation: I was on the subway with our Korean friend and she was still on the platform on the opposite side of the door.
Normally, I would have freaked out and gotten nervous seeing as I was in a different country with no cell service but, I decided that I needed to remain calm even if I was a bit nervous.
My Korean friend and I begin to brainstorm what we should do to get our friend back and how to communicate with her. I allowed myself to feel uncomfortable with having to spontaneously think of the next steps to take under such a short period of time but, we worked it out.
Luckily, our Korean buddy had her added on the messaging application, Kakao Talk and was able to message her to get on the next train and we would meet her outside the first stop to reunite. After about ten minutes, we reunited and all was well.
About two weeks ago, I went to a touristic area in Seoul called Hongdae which is short for the Korean name of Hongkik University. It is full of lots of street performers, food, pretty lights, and places to shop. A friend of mine and I decided to go one afternoon when we did not have school. We had planned to walk from the subway station to the most famous street of Hongdae where we could find all of those sights.
However, upon arrival, we were having such a hard time looking for it. My map was not working properly and we did not have any point of direction. Normally, I would have probably persistently attempted to look for it since that was what I had originally come to Hongdae to see but, I decided to just take it easy and walk around with her instead.
By doing this we actually found two places in the area that we were intending to go to at a later time. We found the Kakao Friends Store where they sell lots of merchandise for the characters seen on the Kakao Talk application. We were able to walk in, buy a few things, and take some pictures. Later we got hungry and decided to look for a random place to eat.
We went into a department store and we headed upstairs to eat at a cheap restaurant. In the process of getting up there, my friend found another restaurant that she was once recommended to go to. She had no idea what the name was but it was famous for having a decoration roller coaster within it.
She now knows the name of the place and how to get there for whenever she plans to eat there which was really exciting for her. After we ate, we aimlessly walked around the area until we coincidentally found the street that we originally intended to go to in the first place.
We were able to stay and see some performances which allowed for a great closure to the night. After reflecting on the whole night, I was really happy I chose to just go with the flow and see where things would go. If we had continued to look for it the moment we arrived, we most likely would not have had the opportunity to experience as much as we did that day.
Overall, when visiting a new country or even being in a new environment, I believe that it is of great importance to let yourself feel uncomfortable and learn to work with it. These situations did make me feel uneasy due to my nature of being a planner but, I was able to explore another side of me that is fine with some spontaneity and expecting the unexpected.
It allows for healthy personal growth and learning what to do in situations you have never been faced with before. As I begin the second half of my program, I will continue to explore this side of me and learn how to balance planning and spontaneity.