While abroad in Korea, I realized how quickly my life trajectory has changed. After studying abroad, I no longer labeled myself as only Asian American or a Business and Computer Science major…I am simply Kelly. Who am I without the achievements attached to my name, without the accolades and professional development, which defined me prior? In the beginning, it was hard to present myself without saying “I am a Business and Computer Science major.” I did not know which parts to share about myself when meeting new people. Who do we want to be without our titles?
Along with the many adventures I had sightseeing and making new friends and memories, I discovered many things about myself while working on my intrapersonal skills, developing my emotional independence, and navigating a new world without being afraid. My proactive personality did not fail me and along with that, I learned to be kind and assertive in my needs along with being emotionally independent. Korea has taught me many things about clothing, material, and fabrics along with its long history of temples and interesting history. My study abroad trip not only became about learning about myself but deconstructing vital stereotypes I learned about Korea from the Korean media along with participating in Korean culture; the karaoke bars and street foods to name a few. Coming back, I feel closer to discovering what my dream is along with having the tools necessary to prepare me emotionally for this new exploration. The world is so big and having traveled a bit already prior to Korea, the world expanded a whole lot more through meeting locals in Korea along with international students from all over Europe and Asia. I am slowly beginning to realize how small we all truly are in this world, yet, with the ability to make a great impact.
It has been twice now where I was between the borders of two neighboring countries at war with each other or at a stalemate. One, the Israeli army across the Gaza Strip where I learned about the deep histories and the lives people lived in Gaza. Two, the DMZ tour which showed me the dangerous lives those at the border live. At any minute if conflict breaks out, those individuals are the most vulnerable. During my time throughout the DMZ, I learned how history never does the event justice. As I walk through the Infiltration Tunnel with my body bent to avoid hitting my head on the ceiling, I found myself understanding the treacherous lives North Koreans and South Korean soldiers lived. The North Koreans who built the tunnels with their backs hunched must have experienced a hard time. On the other side, the South Korean soldiers built an even faster tunnel to block the ongoing tunnel build. These stories are the vital histories that history textbooks never serve to share properly. Just like my study abroad trip, a moment cannot simply be summarized but experienced.