Keely Rice

Korea

Hometown:Homosassa, Florida
School: Lecanto High School
Sponsor District : District 6950
Sponsor Club:Homosassa Springs, Florida
Host District: District 3680
Host Club: The Rotary Club of Seocheon

 

My Bio


안녕하세요, 저는 Keely Rice 입니다! Hi, my name is Keely Rice and I am one of the 2014-2015 outbounds for South Korea. I am currently a sophomore at Lecanto High School and am part of the Lecanto School of Art. I live with my parents and younger sister. My family has always moved around the U.S. We’ve gone from the top of a mountain in northern Montana all the way to where we are now, in the small town of Homosassa. Having only lived in relatively small or rural places all my life, this exchange is going to be quite the experience. I have always been interested in traveling and learning new things so I am beyond excited for this. On top of that, South Korea was my first choice! I am extremely grateful that I was able to be chosen for the country amongst the many that applied. I remember meeting one of my best friends last year. Her name was Wenny Li, the exchange student from Taiwan. She has helped me become the person I am today and opened me up to the world around me. We brought out the best in each other. She showed me that this exchange will not only affect me, but everyone I meet along the way. Of course I will miss my friends and family when I am gone, but that is the price I have to pay for something this amazing. When you hear, “The experience of a lifetime” I think of this exchange. This is truly something that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

With the two other exchange students from my school (Germany and Taiwan) at the local beach for the sunset.

With the two other exchange students from my school (Germany and Taiwan) at the local beach for the sunset.

A traditional tea class.

A traditional tea class.

Our performance at the Rotary talent show.

Our performance at the Rotary talent show.

My friends at my first school on the last day of school.

My friends at my first school on the last day of school.

My district in our hanboks (traditional Korean outfit).

My district in our hanboks (traditional Korean outfit).

A temple at JeonJu.

A temple at JeonJu.

Our district picture at Jeju Island after a 20 minute climb up an inactive volcano.

Our district picture at Jeju Island after a 20 minute climb up an inactive volcano.

Snow!

Snow!

Journals: Keely - South Korea

  • Keely, outbound to South Korea


    Wow, okay so five months went by faster than I expected. In these past five months I have spent three amazing days on Jeju Island, tried live octopus(sannakji), preformed with my school in a Korean traditional instrument performance, switched families, and have given a speech in Korean to my school. When they say that you live a life in a year, they aren’t exaggerating. You are going all the time but it’s the most amazing thing and feeling ever.

    So first thing’s first. Jeju Island. Jeju is probably one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. But that could also be due to the fact that it reminded me of Florida. The beach was gorgeous (even though it was raining when we went) and the country side was like something out of a movie. Seriously, dozens of Korean dramas were filmed where I was.

    We also hiked up an inactive volcano. It was the most memorable and beautiful part of the trip for me. Besides doing something I never would have dreamed of doing, I got to witness one of the most incredible view ever and meet so many nice people. Once we reached the top of the volcano, we naturally wanted to take our district picture. Me, with my backwards flag, the Canadian Jessa, the Taiwanese girl Julie, and the German Leonie all stood ready until we heard a group of people yelling at us in Chinese. We had no idea what was going on until Julie translated that they wanted a picture with us. That led another group of people wanting to take pictures with us, which led to another group of wanting to take pictures with us. I honestly have no idea why they would want a picture with a random group of foreigners besides the fact that I looked super cute that day but still...

    Another memorable moment is when we went around asking people to take a photo of us in Korean only to find out they didn’t speak any Korean at all. It was so confusing when asking something to only have them stare at you like you’re crazy before speaking English. Also, because my nickname is Pig here, I can’t fail to mention the amazing chocolate the island has. They make the chocolate and add a flavor to it like the island orange, or the pink cactus on the island (my favorite), or green tea. 

    Speaking of food, Korean food is amazing. From the live octopus I mentioned to the best barbeque you will ever have, Korea has it all. Before I came to Korea the only thing I was really told about was kimchi. It’s the food Korea is known for, right? It’s good, don’t get me wrong, but why is this country not known for its meat? They have meat in almost every dish for almost every meal and it is just amazing. Korea knows what it’s doing when it comes to BBQ.

    There are some other foods though that some people would consider strange though, like the live octopus and larvae. The live octopus is surprisingly delicious. Looking at the wriggling tentacles, you’re not sure what it’s going to taste like. Salt water, slime, or your worst nightmare? Try none of the above. It doesn’t really have a taste until the waiter puts the sesame oil on it and you dip it into the chili paste. It’s actually amazing and I would recommend that everyone who doesn’t have a seafood allergy try it.

    The larvae however, is more of an acquired taste. They soak the larvae in boiling water and I’m not quite sure what they use to season, if they do. My first host family loved the stuff so I thought it was safe to assume it was pretty good. Everything else they ate was good so how was this going to be any different? Boy was I wrong. But you’re not going to like EVERYTHING you try, right? Again, please try it if you come, but just know that this one may not be the best thing you try so don’t be surprised if you don’t enjoy it.

    One thing you have the opportunity to do if you are in my school is the traditional music class. It’s an afterschool class that you take with the other students in the club and, if I remember correctly, you have around three months until your first performance. You pick your instrument (the janggo, buk, gwanggari, and the jing) and then you practice every day after lunch and then Thursdays after school. I played the janggo and I needed the practice, it was difficult. Our first performance was for a talent show hosted by Rotary and our nerves were through the roof. In the end though it felt so rewarding and the feeling only increased as we did more performances and improved. Definitely a rewarding experience I hope all exchange students here get to experience. 

    I also was given the chance to go to Taiwan for two weeks where I visited my friend Wenny. Travel rules in my district are very strict so I have honestly no idea how I was able to convince my teacher to let me go. Whatever magical spirit possessed her and had her say yes was what allowed me to visit my best friend and experience another culture along with my amazing grandparents.

    The strangest thing for me had to be almost panicking after I couldn’t find the trashcan to throw the toilet paper in, only to realize that I could actually flush it down the toilet. It was like I went back to my first month of exchange: barely understanding anything and having no idea how to get around. I think that’s what made me realize how far I had come.

    Unfortunately I couldn’t visit my friends in Taiwan but that didn’t stop me from having an amazing time. I visited night markets, went to an exhibition for Kobitos (I guess they’re a Japanese character but I’m not 100% sure due to it being my first time ever seeing them), went to a Taiwanese high school where they have nap time like all high schools should have, lit a lantern, went to a theme park that I said I wanted to go to at the beginning of my exchange before I found out that it was in Taiwan, went to a beautiful aquarium, and met amazing new friends that I will never forget. The food is amazing, the people are nice, the country is beautiful, and some words in Korean are the same in Chinese so I could understand some things. It also comes in handy when you’re watching Ellen and she asks what the Chinese word for ‘king’ is and you’re able to respond because it’s the same. It will make it a whole lot easier when I start to study Chinese next. 

    Overall my exchange has been amazing. I can definitely tell how much my language skills have improved too. I’m nowhere close to being fluent, but I’m able to converse with my host parents now and ask questions with little difficulty now whereas in the beginning I could barely ask where the bathroom was. I can watch TV without subtitles, understand jokes, tell jokes, and hang out with my friends and keep them entertained with barely any awkward silences as I try to translate some things in my head.

    I wish I could go into more detail with these journals but how can you begin to describe every experience and all the feelings that you have during this time, no matter how small and insignificant they seem? It’s something you have to truly experience yourself and I can’t thank RYE and the Rotary club of Homosassa Springs and everyone else involved enough for this opportunity. This exchange has taught me so much about myself and has shown me what I’m capable of doing and I can’t wait to see what the next 5 months has in store.

  • Keely, outbound to South Korea

    Protip, never flush your toilet paper in Korea without asking if you can unless you want to be responsible for a broken toilet. 

    I'm going to skip the story of how my flights were because everything went pretty much according to plan. I left with a smile on my face, ready to leave, and I landed with an even bigger smile, ready to start my exchange. Now, I gave you that wonderful advice about the toilets because I, on my first day, broke my host family’s toilet. I woke up at around 6 AM extremely jetlagged, mind you, and on my way to the bathroom. At first I couldn’t find the button used to flush the toilet. That wasn’t a big deal. I just had the girl my family back home is hosting, Seulji, text me and tell me where the button was. The button wasn't the problem though. I did something that I swore I would never do after researching Korea. Yes, I flushed the toilet paper. No amount of research was staying with me, being that tired and that included the little bit about Korean toilets. So there I sat crying in the bathroom while asking my fellow outbound friends for help. Seulji, once again, came to my rescue and texted my host sister who came and helped me with the mess. After trying to flush the toilet again (don’t ask me why we thought this was a good idea) we went and got my host mom. Thank goodness she wasn't mad. I like to think the crying helped. Instead of yelling at me, she called someone to come and fix the toilet and made me beef. Nicest. Host mom. Ever.

    With all that happening on day one I was more than nervous when the first day of school came around. As if I didn't stand out enough, I didn't have a uniform yet either (And won’t until about the end of September). But… it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Everyone is extremely nice and by the end of the day it was like I belonged there. I had friends and the teachers liked me. Nothing embarrassing just any other school day if you take you take out the fact that I barely understood anything. School is pretty nice though. Not as hard and strict as everyone says it is but I am in a middle school right now. I’m sure it will be different when I move into the high school because that’s when the students have to start preparing for college. School here is from 8:00-5:00 (not too much of a difference), there are eight classes that are 45 minutes each except on Friday when there is only seven classes, and the students only switch classes for English, social studies, gym, and Thursday meeting in the auditorium. I did follow the normal class schedule until the rest of the exchange students arrived and started school. Once they were settled in, we started our Korean classes.

    This is where I want to give a BIG “thank you” to the training Florida puts us through before we leave. When I got here I was the student who knew the most because of the assignments we had to do and it has gained me so much respect. I just simply said, “Sorry,” to my host dad and he looked at me like I had 50 arms and was purple. I guess most exchange students that come here know 0% of the language so they were so taken aback that I even knew that. This came in handy when we started our Korean classes because guess who was given the advanced work because she could read the language and understand some of it. That’s right, this girl. Most people would probably be like, “Ew, extra work,” but it has helped me out so much. It also kinda makes me the teacher’s pet which is an added bonus because the Monday and Tuesday Korean teacher uses the “tiger teacher” method and because I’m the favorite (I know it sounds like I’m bragging but she has told my host family multiple times that I am the favorite), she goes easier on me. The same goes for the Wednesday and Thursday teacher we have. It’s pretty awesome. So advice to any future outbounds to this lovely country, STUDY THE LANGUAGE LIKE THERE’S NO TOMORROW. It will gain you so much respect here, you’ll make friends faster, and it will give you opportunities the other exchange students won’t get.

    So cultural differences are next. Another big thank you to Rotary on this one with that 12 page culture essay we had to write. Yeah I don’t really need to know everything on that outline but the little things that I found out like what is acceptable to wear, how kids interact with each other, and how you treat your elders, even if it’s only by a year, differently really helped out. I’m telling you right now that if you’re coming to Korea with tank tops and V-necks that you need to go repack right away. Here it’s pretty much the opposite of the U.S. on what is appropriate to wear out. In the U.S. you can show your shoulders or your back or your chest and it’s all cool until you wear short shorts. Here it’s the exact opposite. You could probably wear your underwear out and it would still be alright but as soon as you expose your shoulders or chest it’s a big no-no. It’s also really nice to know what is in style at the moment because you will feel under dressed about 95% of the time compared to most people here. It’s like every day is fashion week.

    Now onto how kids interact with each other. Now, I heard a lot of “it’s frowned upon for guys and girls to have contact here” back in the U.S., so when I saw most of the playing around and contact between the opposite sexes I was a little surprised. They act just like me and my guy friends back in my school. One major difference is not how the girls interact with each other, but how the guys do. Now, I wasn't the least bit fazed by the way they interact with each other, but someone with different views from myself would probably be completely shocked. Guys here act just as close as the girls do. Unlike back in my school where the girls would cling to their friends and hold hands and the guys would maybe hug once in a while, here it’s the same for everybody. You see those girls walking to the bathroom while hugging? You’re going to see guys doing the same thing.

    They also punch each other. A lot. Everyone here does. I said something funny so my friend punched me in the arm, you say something really cheesy and they punch you, you lost at a game so as a punishment they punch you. They will hit you for anything but it is important to label this as a big cultural difference. If you don’t recognize this as a cultural difference there’s a chance that you may get offended or take it personally and blow the situation way out of proportion.

    Also with the students, even if you are one year older you get treated differently. Here in South Korea respecting your elders is extremely important. You use formal language, you bow like crazy, you always watch what you say and do. It’s completely to that extent with the students to each other but instead of saying 안녕 (casual greeting) they’ll say 안녕하세요 (more formal greeting) which isn't that much of a different but it’s still there.

    One more thing I want to address is making friends here. The one thing I was afraid of, and a lot of exchange students are too, is if I’ll have friends here or not. Especially being in Asia where I was told it was going to be hard making friends because the kids were so shy, I was worried. But worry not, at least where I am, the students want to be your friend. As long as you’re nice, friendly, and approachable. You smile at one person and say hi, it’s like the whole school wants to know you. It’s amazing how friendly everyone is and how willing they are to help out with the language. I’ve learned more hanging out with the students than I ever would have just studying by myself. They want to be your friend, as long as you’re willing to let them. I know that sounds odd because who wouldn't want the students to be friends with them, but I've already seen it where someone is a bit closed off and unwilling and the students notice. Trust me. Be happy and bubbly your first days at school and have your bad days after that. It’s for the best that they like you. If they don’t, you won’t ever know because they don’t want to upset to foreigner, but everyone else will.

    So that pretty much wraps my first journal entry up with it being almost midnight on a school day.  I couldn't have asked to be in a better country. Sure the language is a bit difficult but if that’s what I have to struggle with a little bit to be able to experience this amazing life in a year, I’ll do everything I can to work through it.


RSS Feed