As I reflect on my time in South Korea so far, it hasn’t felt like my release from quarantine was just over a week ago. It feels as though I’ve experienced so much in such a short period of time and I am greatly looking forward to the weeks to come.
Coming to Korea, I knew that there would be challenges I would have to navigate. I prepared myself as much as I could mentally for such instances, but I always knew that I would never be able to predict the obstacles I was bound to face. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t difficult to resist reverting to my old habits of shying away from the fear and uncomfortability that come along with these kinds of circumstances. I’ve caught myself many times in this early part of my journey subconsciously avoiding certain people, places, or interactions. I’ve become well aware of my tendency to shy away from situations that might bring about discomfort. However, the reminder of how little time I actually have here in Korea keeps me pushing forward past this anxiety and insecurity, shaking off embarrassment and driving myself towards exploration and growth.
If I’ve been able to realize one thing so far, it’s that I am going to stumble and fall — horribly and embarrassingly flat on my face. It’s scary and I am always aware of my apprehension to making mistakes, but there is relief in knowing that this feeling has always been an inevitability. I’ve been dropped into almost a completely new world, not entirely equipped to navigate the challenges I encounter. It’s been a lifelong struggle for me to not dwell on my mistakes, but I have been able to discover the seeds of liberation through my short time here. I’m trying to do so many new things and I am putting myself out there in a way that is different than ever before — of course I’m not going to be perfect every time; and of course I am going to make what I deem as “mistakes.” Rather than let these get to me and weigh down my outlook on things, I’ve been able to successfully release many of these burdensome thoughts faster than I have really ever been able to do before. I am giving myself time to grow accustomed to this new way of life, but I also am not allowing myself to completely hide in the shadows until I deem it safe enough to come out.
I’m from a small town — I’ve lived there for most of my life and public transportation isn’t present there at all. One of my greatest challenges has been decoding the public transportation system here in Seoul. At first, I avoided it because there was the glaring issue of a lack of a SIM card (which essentially means NO DATA FOR NAVIGATION), but as soon as I was equipped with enough data to start making my way around, I was pleasantly surprised to find that getting around Seoul is a lot easier than expected. Sometimes it does take a while to get from one place to another, but riding the bus and seeing the contours of the city pass me by is an incredibly therapeutic and inspiring experience. I’m inspired by the people around me, my fellow classmates who are themselves pushing forward and taking advantage of every opportunity they can see and find. I want to explore more, also propel myself forward in order to take in all the sights and smells and tastes — everything that the city has to offer. I want to connect as much as I can with Seoul, furthering my language practice so that I can understand the nuances of this city’s (and country’s) personality. I think my time here so far has been very transformative in the way that I see things from here on out– it’s the biggest takeaway I’ve had yet from this experience — and I look forward to the growth that I will see and undergo in yet another week. The easy path is not the most rewarding and though it can be terrifying, I know I must march headlong into the uncertainty.