Eli Rowland

Korea

Hometown: Jacksonville, Florida
School: St. Augustine High School
Sponsor District: District 6970
Sponsor Club: Coastal St. Johns County, Florida
Host District: District 3661
Host Club: The Rotary Club of Busan 

 

My Bio


안녕하세요! That is how you say “Hello!” in the amazing country of South Korea! Do you know how much fun it is to write that? Well, my name is Elizabeth, but I go by Eli. It isn't pronounced the way you probably think it is, either. I am a sixteen year old that attends St Augustine High School—which is an amazing school—and take part of the AICE and SJCCA academies. I enjoy all forms of art, from photography, to drawing, to dancing—all of it. My extreme-fanatic passion is languages though. I am learning Spanish and Korean now, but plan to work on Japanese, Polish, Russian, Italian, and anything I can get my hands on really. Now, about exchange, I am beyond fortunate. I have a supportive mom and dad, a sweet little brother, and fantastic friends. I am so thankful for all of them and for Rotary with their amazing staff! I am so excited to be given this opportunity, and I hope I don't let anyone down. Do I know this year will be difficult? Yes. There is a lot I will have to push through and little stumbles I will make, but it is what you get out of the struggle that counts. Things are going to change, and hopefully for the better. I am ready to face this phenomenal opportunity with gratitude and tenacity! Thank you all!

Near the coast of Busan

Near the coast of Busan

The courtyard view from the room the exchange students in my school study in

The courtyard view from the room the exchange students in my school study in

Me and some of my classmates after school

Me and some of my classmates after school

We passed by a temple while hiking back to school. Autumn in Korea is absolutely stunning!

We passed by a temple while hiking back to school. Autumn in Korea is absolutely stunning!

An alleyway in Seoul that we took to cut through to the bottom of the mountain.

An alleyway in Seoul that we took to cut through to the bottom of the mountain.

We participated in the Busan International Film Festival (부산국제영화축제) and danced in the giant flash mob!

We participated in the Busan International Film Festival (부산국제영화축제) and danced in the giant flash mob!

Oh us. We are the four Rotary exchange students present in Busan International High School (부산국제고등학교) We were all posing with the same scarf

Oh us. We are the four Rotary exchange students present in Busan International High School (부산국제고등학교) We were all posing with the same scarf

This picture doesn't do it justice, but there are marvelous light displays in this one section of Pusan. It is the section where, during the Christmas time, everyone wants to go to.

This picture doesn't do it justice, but there are marvelous light displays in this one section of Pusan. It is the section where, during the Christmas time, everyone wants to go to.

Us Rotary kids, the Swedish kids, one of our English teachers, and a random dude from the US who goes to our school. Yup, that's us! This was our last World Issues class with everyone present.

Us Rotary kids, the Swedish kids, one of our English teachers, and a random dude from the US who goes to our school. Yup, that's us! This was our last World Issues class with everyone present.

My classmates and I had fun goofing off and eat, watching a movie, and going to 노래방 (something like Karaoke)

My classmates and I had fun goofing off and eat, watching a movie, and going to 노래방 (something like Karaoke)

All of us had gathered around the table to eat all the food that we had prepared. It was so. Much. Food.

All of us had gathered around the table to eat all the food that we had prepared. It was so. Much. Food.

So much 감~ (aka persimmon)

So much 감~ (aka persimmon)

This was an amazing, huge bridge we walked across to get to a museum and cultural site while on our field trip. This picture only shows you the end of this bridge and how beautiful it looked.

This was an amazing, huge bridge we walked across to get to a museum and cultural site while on our field trip. This picture only shows you the end of this bridge and how beautiful it looked.

The Korean students performing one of the Korean traditional Drum dances (I'm not quite sure the name of this one though) They were really good! In these performances, the students play several types of percussion instruments while dancing.

The Korean students performing one of the Korean traditional Drum dances (I'm not quite sure the name of this one though) They were really good! In these performances, the students play several types of percussion instruments while dancing.

The five of us were dressed up in our Halloween get-up! This picture, by the way, was taken in a mall bathroom.

The five of us were dressed up in our Halloween get-up! This picture, by the way, was taken in a mall bathroom.

Journals: Eli - Korea

  • Eli, outbound to Korea

    We were aware of the location of the subway and bus station the entire time though (don’t worry Mom and Dad!)

    The second day turned out much better. We got together with our other friends and all dressed up. Together, we made up a band that consisted of a cat, dead doll, vampire, Korean ghost character, and a Kpop idol. We also put on the actual make up in the middle of a giant department store, because houses in Korea don’t really have the room for five of us girls all trying to get Halloweenified.

    The party-event-thing was great! It had food, crafts, things to buy, things to do, a dance competition, magic show, several acts, and a haunted house. The haunted house was actually very impressive. It was made by the students, and they had transformed the school into rooms that were themed by several countries’ takes on a Halloween type holiday. It was done very well, and the entire time I was simply smiling and giving them praise.

    The next month consisted of Global Forum and a school field trip! Global Forum was this interesting event my school participated in. Students from schools in China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea (of course), Russia, Sweden, Switzerland (Rotary), and the US (Rotary) participated in discussions about three topics: Ecological Integrity, Cultural Identity/Diversity, and Social Equity. The students that had been selected to participate were assigned a topic and then a role. The roles were the Presenters, those who gave a presentation on their stance for the project, and the Commentators, those who criticized and questioned the Presenters. I was assigned to Cultural Diversity as a Commentator.

    It was definitely an experience I won’t forget, and, in the end, I am thankful to have participated in. At the time, I was nervous beyond belief and feeling very unprepared. The entire time, I reminded myself that Rotary had warned me that I would have to participate in more public speaking. I, personally, have a hard time with public speaking. I have improved quite a lot at this point, once I go back and compare myself to my ability before coming here. It might be the fact that I have had to step on that stage several times now. But I’ll explain that later.

    Basically, I sat at what looked like a desk from a congress meeting or something and listened to the groups present and Commentators play their parts. Then, my assigned group presented. I had to find my courage, rise from my beloved seat, and grip that microphone with two of my hands, because by this time, my one hand was shaking. I gave my point of view on the matter and my questions, everything going rather smoothly as I had hoped.

    That was the scary part. The fun part began afterwards. The students from each country performed in some fashion—dances, games, videos. It was extremely entertaining! Especially because Korean audiences are the most superb audiences someone could ask for. They ooh and ahh, cry, boo, laugh—everything! They are so animated and get into it all so much, that you yourself can’t help but want to become just as enthusiastic. The kids from the other countries seemed to also feel the warmth from this experience and performed well with smiles on their faces. Once all the foreign students performed (besides Rotary), the Korean students performed. Our dance clubs, bands, orchestra, Korean traditional dance/music clubs—they are top notch. Seriously. I recorded their amazingness, and the videos are also on youtube (I just have to find them again…)

    The foreign students stayed with us for five-ish days. We got to know them starting Monday, the Global forum was on Wednesday, the field trip began on Thursday, and it ended Friday. Our field trip was actually volunteer work. It was persimmon picking. When I heard we were going to go pick persimmon for two days, I couldn’t think of how that would be truly fun. Yet, I was proven wrong. We picked persimmon for 4 hours each day, but we talked, had fun, adventured, and were allowed to eat the ones that had already become too ripe. Also, we rode in the backs of trucks, experienced the country atmosphere, play games, eat food, and really get to know one another. I spent so much time with my classmates, and that was the beginning of my making friends with more of the foreign kids as well as Korean students in other classes.

    At one point, we even had a class competition, where each class competed in some way. My class danced several songs, and we were the second class to compete. I even danced some on stage!

    The goodbyes were hard. Not me saying goodbye, but rather the foreign students saying goodbye. They had to all return to their home countries. The amount of tears that had been shed was rather surprising. These students had known one another for four days and yet had still become so attached. It made me think about how it could be once my departure arrived, and I quickly shoved the thought out of my brain. I had so much more time before that date, and I had no need to worry about it then.

    Thanksgiving also passed. Of course, Thanksgiving isn’t a holiday here. It’s an American holiday from the US based off a historical event. Why did I mention that? Because I had one friend ask me if they celebrated it in Korea. She immediately realized what she had asked me and processed her mistake, but I just had to be sure to specify this. And just to make her read this and remember

    Anyway, the Rotary students did celebrate a miniature Thanksgiving. We all went to our friend’s house (he moved here from the US because of his parent’s job) where his father had cooked traditional dishes. The non-US Rotary exchangers also came, of course, and had the opportunity to sort-of experience what it is like to participate in this holiday. We also invited the Swedish students from our school! It felt so odd to eat things like stuffing again.

    We spent the night eating and singing—some English songs, some Swedish songs, and some Korean songs.

    This month was different. The Swedish exchange students had to return back to Sweden after having stayed for 3 months (they were in our high school through a sister-school exchange). Those goodbyes were extremely difficult for everyone, and I have come to discover that it doesn’t have to take time for people to become close.

    There was a farewell thingy for the Swedish kids where the Rotary students were asked to speak about our time thus far, and then the goodbye speeches began. We spiced it up and gave, as one teacher put it, ‘the best goodbye presentation so far’. The Rotary crew made a video with pictures and music, including pictures with our friends from Sweden. Then, all of us foreign kids performed three dances for the students, and lastly gave the speeches. Everyone had fun, and the night managed to take place without tears—though it came really close at one point.

    Christmas came around as well. Here in Korea, Christmas is seen more as a couple/friend holiday where one goes out around the town and does something fun or relaxing. The family-only idea isn’t extremely common. Even the Korean Christmas music shows the cultural take on the holiday, as many songs that come out during this time of year are about confessed loves or lost loves. One is also reminded this fact when they walk outside and, literally, all you can see are couples. Everywhere. It was actually really cute!

    Us Rotary exchange students had a Christmas party! It took place two days before Christmas, after school, and we decorated, cooked, and eventually had our friends come on over! It was splendid. We played Korean games, ate a TON of food, danced a little, goofed off a lot, and had a great time. For many of our friends, it had been their first Christmas party, so I was extra glad that they enjoyed themselves.

    At one point in the night, I was focused on getting all the camera-shy peoples’ picture. I spun in circles while randomly stopping and clicking pictures. I got some good ones, some decent ones, and some ridiculous ones. In the end, I think I accomplished my goal and got everyone’s face at least once!

    Needless to say, my Christmas was different. I skyped my family, relaxed at home until 3, went out with a friend, and then came home. In a way, it was like any other day. It wasn’t hyped or huge—they actual Christmas day I mean. The season is hyped pretty big, though. In the spirit of Christmas, I gave my host family a gift to show them that I truly appreciated them, even if I couldn’t afford much. They seemed so happy with it, that it basically made my morning~

    Now, here I am. I don’t really feel homesick, but I’m also not seeking out anything that is currently taking place in the US. I feel a little sad. I believe it is because this is the last time I’ll be with my classmates. In the United States, school ends in the spring-summer time. Here, it ends within December. I had been so busy with college applications, presentations, rotary things, Korean tests, and other such items that I didn’t get to spend an extreme amount of time with my classmates during class. I felt as if I had so much more time, but I just came upon this realization that I didn’t. My class will be different on February 2nd. I will have new classmates and a new room. This has just today hit me kind of hard. I know it will be okay though. I have come to know many students in my grade, and I will no doubt still be speaking with all of my other classmates! Not to mention, change is a delightful thing. Though there is a sad side to the matter, just around the corner is an entirely new experience coming at us.

    Four months. Four months can feel like a few days. Four months can feel like a year. Four months can hold more treasured memories than one thought possible. Four months can be full of so many wishes and hopes, friends and families, and experiences than imagined. Four months is a fragment. Four months is enough time to strip down what one thought to be his or her style, personality, thoughts, ideas, and culture and cause one to take a moment and step back. Four months are easy. Four months are hard.

    These last four months are unforgettable and worth the entire journey.


  • Eli, outbound to Korea

    안녕하세요? 너무 바빴으니까 읽이가 못 썼다. 그런데 읽이 쓰기 정말 힘들다… 교환행으로 다른 나라에 살 때 보통 읽이 쓰기에 대해 생각하지 않다. 그래서 미안합니다

    Hello! I have so busy, so I haven’t been able to write a journal. Yet, writing journals in general is difficult. When living in another country on exchange, one usually doesn’t think about writing a journal. Because of this, I am sorry.

    It’s interesting. When I was still in the US, after knowing my country, I would look for journals constantly. I always wanted to read the stories of the kids in these other countries living amazing lives (and let me tell you, they are ABSOLUTELY amazing lives). I would always get so frustrated because it could take them so long to update.

    Well let me tell you something. I don’t blame them anymore.

    From the outside looking in, it seems like this, ‘Oh hey, just get on and write something! Come on!’ but its so much more. Every day, I am living life, and then I have to attempt to remember all these different moments and put them in writing for you, describing it all vividly. The truth is, is that whenever I sit to write a journal, I freeze up. I don’t know what to write about, what is interesting, what you want to hear about—anything. It is as if my brain attempts to sort through everything and then overheats.

    I will try to do this though! It’s all for you! (Yeah, you! Sitting there and reading this. You!)

    At this point, I have been here for four months. Just hearing that, typing that, seeing that, reading that… ugh it makes me cringe. It sounds so short and so long all at the same time. I feel like I have been here longer, and yet I also feel as if I should have so much more time. I’ve come to accept this feeling as one of the many contradictions that an exchange student discovers about themselves.

    I last posted in October (apparently right before Halloween). Well, Halloween was quite interesting, and I guess I never had to opportunity to write about it! Halloween isn’t really celebrated in South Korea. It is acknowledged as this holiday that exists but isn’t quite participated in. Whenever I saw anyone dressed up, they were college kids playing a “Halloween Challenge” where they had to be in costume while on a scavenger hunt.

    My school had posters for a Halloween event taking place at another high school. It was Halloween and Día de los Muertos. My friend Bérénice and I attempted to go on Saturday to scope things out and then go again with our other friends on Sunday. What really happened was us two goofballs dressed up in not-quite-Halloween-yet-not-normal attire while getting lost in one of the many sections of Pusan. By lost, I mean not knowing where the school is and being in an area we hadn’t explored before. We were aware of the location of the subway and bus station the entire time though (don’t worry Mom and Dad! 

  • Eli, outbound to Korea

    안녕하세요! 동안 1개월 못 썼어요. 너무 바빴어요. 아직 바빠요. 하지만 지금 쓸 수 있어요.

    I think the hardest part about writing these is thinking about what to write about. I have done so much and I have only been here for two months. At the same time, I sit here and I think, ‘There is no way I have been here for two months’. In a weird way, I think all of life sort of feels like this—an endless amazement of existence in time.

    I could tell you about all of my trips, but I don’t think it’s what would be preferred. I remember being the soon-to-be-an-outbound, and all I ever wanted to read about was stories or culture differences. So, here is a quick rundown. I went to 보성(Boseong) twice now—learning a lot about culture the first time and learning a lot about people the second time—I have been to Seoul, I have explored this city and certain districts to a degree in which I do not even have to think about where I am walking anymore, I have been to concerts, I have been to festivals, and soon, I will be participating in something called the Global Forum.

    Now that you are all caught up, I can move on. WITH SOME STORIES!

    This isn’t a long story or an extremely funny story. It isn’t even a story. Let’s just say that the words ‘to be hungry’ and ‘to punch, bash, beat up’ are very similar, and I may have mixed them up on accident once.

    Next…. actual….story. I was in 서면 (Seomyeon) and I was going to meet with some of the other exchange students because I was bored and hungry. They were all at dance, but I didn’t think I remembered how to get to the location, so I decided I would search for kimbab, or a macaroon, or some bubble tea—basically something I could consume. I chose a direction and I walked.

    Eventually, I reached this bubble tea place and I got excited. So excited, in fact, that I hadn’t noticed the guys in fancy suits in front of me. Fancy suits are pretty common in Korea—the majority of people here are really fashionable, whether you are a boy or a girl. Well, these fancy suit people had flyers, and they were handing them out like many people do, but I was so focused on that bubble tea. One of the men went to hand me a flyer and practice his English and he said, “Hello!”

    I was so surprised to have been spoken to in English that my brain couldn’t come up with anything. My mind was trying to make connections: ‘I am in Korea, so I speak Korean, especially to strangers. But, this Korean man just spoke to me in English, so what language do I use? What language do I want to use? How do I speak? How do I say hello?’ and it just kept getting worse. In the end, I replied by making this weird shriek noise and quickly escaped to the bubble tea place with my embarrassment.

    What made it worse? I passed by the same guy four more times. And every time, he spoke to me in English, and every time, I panicked. By the last time, I managed to actually say hello back—and I said it in Korean. It was still really embarrassing.

    I also truly enjoy spending time with others while I am here. In Boseong, we spent time with other students from the high schools in the area. It was a joy to get to know others our age in the area and make new friends—you learn a lot about culture this way. We spent time playing games, running around, singing, dancing, and enjoying one another’s company.

    It was testing time recently. What does that mean? Everyone studies—and only studies. We would even go to lunch and my classmates would bring their textbooks and read. My family and friends had asked, ‘Why are there so many pictures of you with the exchange students?’ Well this was why. They didn’t have time, even on the weekend, to do something other than studying. Now, the tests are over and my friends are beginning to have time!

    Culture shock. I feel that I haven’t quite experienced it, as I researched South Korea thoroughly and I have been interested in Asian cultures for a long period of time. There are moments where I am surprised or confused, but I usually accept the concept rather quickly. I think the hardest part is that, as a foreigner, people expect rather little of you. If you can say ‘hello’ in Korean, they are surprised. When I can understand they are pretty shocked. Sometimes they have others try to repeat what they just said to you in English, despite the fact you understood and replied. I think this has been the most frustrating part of my exchange as far as culture goes. I suppose I’ll just keep improving, and keep shocking them.

    Also, applying to college while in a foreign country is not fun. At all. But it can be done!

    In the end, it’s a pretty cool feeling—looking up and realize that you are in another country. I’ll be on the bus, with my Korean music playing in my ear, and I will just stare out the window thinking, ‘Wow….. I am in Korea right now’. That is pretty amazing.

    I’m sorry this journal is so poor. I now understand why the previous outbounds had such irregular updating patterns. 

    See my bio and photos : http://www.ryeflorida.org/2014-15-eli-korea

     

  • Eli, outbound to Korea

    What we do isn’t easy. We leave so many people behind at home to come do something that can’t be anything but experienced. I am happy I chose to do it

     안녕하세요? 2주 동안 한국에 있었어요. 이 주는 세번째 주 여기에 있어요! 와! Hello! I basically said that I have been in Korea for two weeks and that I am now working on my third week. Well… the third week is half over. It’s insane to think I have been in South Korea for this long. I mean, it isn’t a very long time in the grand scheme of things, but I just… wow.

    So. Do you want to hear about flights? How hectic they are? Well, I can’t tell you anything about that. I had every flight on time (the first time in my entire life that has ever happened). That was nice, but I had two layovers and one was 5 hours and the other was 7. I had a massive amount of time on my hands that I couldn’t do anything without wifi. Once I left the United States to head to Hong Kong, my Internet and cell data were gone and I had a boring and tough flight.

    Don’t let anyone tell you that leaving for exchange was ‘easy’. It wasn’t. I had no doubts about leaving, this was all I wanted to do, but still there was this twinge of fear. “What if they don’t like me? What if I get homesick? What if no one talks to me? What if, what if, what if.” Those ‘what-if’s in life will be the things that stop you from accomplishing what you want. I have wanted to be an exchange student and live in another country since kindergarten. Yet, at that moment, my stomach was rolling and churning, and despite telling myself, “I am going no matter what”, I was anxious. What we do isn’t easy. We leave so many people behind at home to come do something that can’t be anything but experienced. I am happy that I reminded myself that I was going to love it here, that there was no way I wouldn’t make ANY friends, and that it was just first-day jitters.

    I was right. My host family is wonderful, I have exchange friends and school friends, the food here is beyond belief, and I couldn’t be happier to be experiencing this exchange!

    Want to hear about Korea? It’s more than I imagined. I tried to listen to songs and watch shows from Korea before I came, and they gave me certain expectations about Korea. I know that we shouldn’t head to a country with any expectation, but in reality, this is nearly impossible to ask. Every person would admit that they thought things might be this way, or the food that way, or the clothes this way. The difference is that one must be open to see the things they didn’t expect.

    For example, the bathrooms here. Back in the United States, many showers are actually tubs or a separate shower, and they nearly always have glass or a shower curtain—something along those lines. Showers are also separated from the rest of the bathroom with the drain inside of the tub or shower floor. Not here. In South Korea, the entire bathroom is made to get soaked. No, not just wet—SOAKED! There is a high shelf I have to put my stuff on beforehand so that they don’t get wet. The sink is wet, the toilet is wet, the floor is wet, the walls are wet. Everything. Many bathrooms also have neither shower curtains nor a separator from floor of the shower to floor of the rest of the bathroom. In fact, the drain isn’t even under the shower; it’s under the sink. My first day, I didn’t understand why there were separate bathroom slippers from the around-the-house slippers. I now understand, and are they oh-so necessary.

    Many things are different. Food, eating, habits, and much more. I will write more later. I have school and it is almost the big Korean holiday! I’ll tell you all about it soon enough! Seeya!


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