Eriana Velez

Korea

Hometown: Orlando, Florida
School: Colonial High School
Sponsor District : District 6980
Sponsor Club: Winter Park, Florida
Host District: 3680
Host Club: The Rotary Club of Seocheon

 

My Bio


안녕하세요! 저는Eriana입니다! Hello! My name is Eriana! I'm a 2015-2016 outbound for South Korea. I'm 17 years old and currently a junior at Colonial High School. I don't really have a basic nickname because it's kind of hard to do with my name, so my friends all have their own nicknames for me. If you come up with one too, go for it!

Let's see, well I love any form of art. I love the fact that art allows people to express themselves. I also love any form of storytelling, like books, movies, or music. I think storytelling is a form of art in itself. My favorite flowers are cherry blossoms, orchids, lilies, peonies, and lotus. I think one of the biggest interests I've had for awhile now is other cultures. I love learning the things that make the people of this world special, what sets us apart, and the parts of us that are similar and remind us that we're all connected, even in small ways. I LOVE other languages! I think they are beautiful, and I can't wait to speak fluent Korean! Languages I would also like to learn in the future are Japanese, Spanish, and French.

As for this exchange trip, well I'm excited beyond words! I'm so grateful to supportive family and friends and appreciative to everyone from Rotary for this opportunity! When I first got my call, after I hung up, I was sitting in the passenger seat of my mom's car laughing and crying at the same time (apparently it's possible everyone). I couldn't stop smiling for the next week, I still smile whenever I think about what my future holds. I'm a bit nervous, but it's only natural I think and my anticipation outweighs it all. Watch out Korea, here I come!

 

Hanging out on a random Saturday with some friends I made in Seoul

Hanging out on a random Saturday with some friends I made in Seoul

Cafe with friends in Gunsan!

Cafe with friends in Gunsan!

Cafe with friends in Gunsan!

Cafe with friends in Gunsan!

Korean cafes why are you so amazing????

Korean cafes why are you so amazing????

At the Skywalk

At the Skywalk

When you want a good picture of the sunset on your street and your phone is like "nah"

When you want a good picture of the sunset on your street and your phone is like "nah"

Another view from my street

Another view from my street

The host fam before my host brother left on his exchange to the States!

The host fam before my host brother left on his exchange to the States!

Host mom and dad on Chuseok

Host mom and dad on Chuseok

My friend Sharlien from Germany!

My friend Sharlien from Germany!

At the Hanok Maeul with friends and fam

At the Hanok Maeul with friends and fam

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Third host family + American family = fun times

Third host family + American family = fun times

With mommy and aunty at Dongdaemun Design Plaza!

With mommy and aunty at Dongdaemun Design Plaza!

Found a cute photo op while shopping in Hapjeong!

Found a cute photo op while shopping in Hapjeong!

Journals: Eriana - Korea 2015-2016

  • Eriana, outbound to Korea

    Hey everyone!

    It's been awhile and I can't believe so much time has passed already. I'm down to under a month and half and I have so many feelings that I don't even begin to know how to process.

    I feel like I've lived a whole lifetime in under a year, and at the same time like I haven't lived long enough. I've made so many amazing connections both in my town and in school that I'm confident will feel like home for years to come. I'm always delighted when the workers in cafes and restaurants I often go to recognize me and give a cheery greeting. Walking around this place, I feel so privileged to have had the opportunity to call it home for a year.

    I've been so many places while I've been in Korea and thanks to many of my friends and family I've been able to truly learn and experience much of the culture. Korea has without a doubt found a solid place in my heart and has become like home. I'm nowhere near ready to leave, and even though my language skills are not where I wanted them at this point, I will continue to study and strive to be better in the future. It is my wish to come back one day soon maybe for college or for work.

    Recently, my family from Orlando had the opportunity to come and visit me here in Korea and I was beyond ecstatic. For me, this visit was symbolic of my two worlds and my two homes colliding. This trip was so fun and I was so happy to be able to introduce my host families to my mom and my aunt and I was even more happy when we stayed in Seoul because it's one of my most favorite places in Korea!

    There was a time before I went on exchange when I didn't know a single thing about this country. Through Rotary I got to learn about not just through a text book but up-close, hands-on, and in person. I have fallen so deeply in love with South Korea and I just want to thank everyone again who made this experience possible for me.

    It's been real South Korea, I'll be back for you one day really soon!

    And thanks to everyone for enjoying the journey with me.

    Love,
    Eriana

    To see my home page and some photos click here


  • Eriana, outbound to Korea

    안녕하세요 여러분!

    너무 오랜만에... 죄송해요~! Hello everyone! I'm sorry it's been awhile.. But for now I decided that it would be a good time to submit another journal. Right now I'm on my fifth month of exchange and I'm at my second host family's house! So far I've had the kindest host families and I'm so grateful for it.

    While I was still at my first host family's house, my older host sister took me with her to Seoul for Halloween! It was so fun; we got our faces painted, met her friends, and walked the streets of Hongdae and Itaewon! The streets were FULL of people in costumes, makeup, or even people just dressed normally and taking a night out in the city with friends. I love the streets of Seoul morning, afternoon, or night. There's always such a big and interesting crowd and it's so full of life. Then that night, instead of a hotel, we slept in something of a Korean spa/bathhouse called a Jjimjilbang! It was quite the experience.. there's a wash area, several large baths, and more than a few sauna rooms. Then, after you're done washing up, there's a common sleeping area for everyone if you choose to stay the night. So me, my host sister, and her friend grabbed a corner and slept the night away. The next day we did SO MUCH SHOPPING. Shopping in Seoul with the m was one of my favorite experiences so far because I saw so many things and completely fell in love with the city. I want to live here in Korea for a few years one day...

    Now that I'm with my second family, I miss my first host family a little but I still go back and visit and it feels like coming home every time. Now instead of two older sisters I have one older brother and one younger sister and they're both so kind! So far I really like this family too and I'm certain that I'll be just as close with them. Christmas is not really celebrated in Asian countries very much at all..so I decided I would get my host families presents anyway just to share a bit of my own culture! And I was so happily surprised when they got me a present too. I now own one of the cutest polar bear sweaters thank you very much. Also, New Year's is another holiday that is not very celebrated here in Korea. However, there is something that occurs on this day that's very different from the rest of the world. On New Year's day in Korea, everyone gains a year together because although birthdays are celebrated, you only gain a year to your age when a New Year comes. Also, it's counted from the year you were born! So to find your Korean age you subtract your birth year from the current year and add 1! Example: 2016-1997+1=20 My Korean age is 20!

    Just recently I went ice skating with my host sister and some friends which was really fun. And also we went to a very big amusement park in Korea called Lotte World and that was a really cool experience because it's actually indoors and connected to the Lotte World Mall and Department Store. It was so big and awesome to see! Right now in Korea students are on Winter Break... so it's up to me to keep up with my studying and adventuring. But I'm having too much fun! I can't wait to see what the rest of the year has in store for me.

    Thank you everyone from home, especially some of the coolest Rotarians I've met, for all the continued love and support!
    Sincerely,
    Eriana

    To see my homepage click HERE


  • Eriana, outbound to Korea

    안녕하세요 여러분!

    Hey everyone! It hasn't been too long since my last journal post but today, this weekend in general, was awesome enough that I figured I'd share a bit with you!

    This weekend is one of two very big Korean holidays; it's their version of Thanksgiving and it's called Chuseok. Different families celebrate in different ways of course, but in my area it seems it's mostly a very traditional holiday. My host sister tells me it's usually a three day process:

    The first day is usually preparation; families getting all the food ready and everything... But on prep day I actually did something a little different. My friend and her family invited me to go with them and the exchange student they're hosting to another city where we went to a place called Hanok Maeul. It was very fun because we wore traditional Korean clothing and walked around what was something of a small town comprised of traditional Korean houses turned shops/restaurants.

    The food was SO delicious; my favorite was the octopus! Never thought I would say that. But the octopus on a stick was the bomb. I always have fun whenever I'm with my friend and her family so I'm so happy to be invited places with them! The German girl they are hosting is like my best exchange student friend over here, we got really close really fast. My friend and her brother and her mom are all ALWAYS so kind and funny. Also, they brought another friend along who comes with us to church on Sundays as well! Whenever we're all together it always makes for fun times. When I got home that night I spent the rest of prep day watching tv with my host family.

    Today was the actual day of Chuseok and the experience was somewhat beyond words. This morning we all slept in quite a bit and when we all woke up it was so fun getting ready together. My host mom, my host sisters, and I were all running around the house laughing together as we put on our hanboks, the traditional Korean clothes. I did my host sister's hair and we all took turns putting on the makeup...it felt like playing dress up somehow haha.

    Then, on Chuseok, it's traditional to go visit your grandparents on your father's side of the family. It's usually so personal that I've heard of some instances where the exchange students are asked to stay home. I didn't really understand this until I saw it in person. In my host family's situation, my host father's parents have long since passed on so we went to their resting place. The journey was so beautiful as we traveled roads that climbed through the mountains. The colors of fall are starting to decorate the trees here and it was breathtaking.

    Then when we got there and the actual experience started I was left without words. I was formally presented to the deceased grandparents to whom I respectfully bowed and introduced myself. Then, tables with burning incense were scattered throughout the place for people to set up memorials for their deceased loved ones.

    The set up goes a little something like this: there's a mat on the floor in front of the table where you are not allowed to wear shoes. The incense burns just in front of the mat. Then, on the table usually a picture goes on a little stand, this is in the center, but my host family just put up a piece of paper with writing in Hanja (Chinese based characters). Then around the picture are candles and fruits and the favorite foods of those particular people. Then, after you set up the picture and food, you step onto the mat and pour alcohol into a cup, swirl it before the incense, and place it next to the picture. After this, you must do two deep bows all the way to the floor in greeting. It almost looks like an altar but having experienced this in person I can confidently say it's not really like that.

    The Korean Thanksgiving is exceptionally different from the American Thanksgiving. Granted, on this day there is still much good food involved. But the food is not generally the focus of the day. The purpose of Chuseok is to honor and give thanks to those who came before you. While this is similar to our American holiday, we mostly focus on what we are thankful for in the present on our Thanksgiving even though it was a tradition started because of the past. On Chuseok, the place that resembles an altar is more like a re-creation of favorite memories, and the two deep bows are the signs of deepest respect and thanks for making the current life possible.

    Also, on Chuseok it appears to be tradition to greet the husband of the house with a deep bow as well and as an acknowledgment of your greeting, your are presented with money. Another tradition is for you to make sweet rice cakes with your family; it's a bit tiring but very fun! Like we eat turkey as a special food every Thanksgiving, we eat rice cakes in Korea.

    The last day of Chuseok, tomorrow, is a day of rest. Sit with your family and watch tv....I look forward to doing so. The day was fun but a little tiring! Nonetheless, I was so honored to be able to experience this very cultural and traditional holiday!

    Sincerely,
    Eriana

    To see my home page and some photos click HERE

  • Eriana, outbound to Korea

    Hi everyone!

    Wow okay so first journal. It's hard to believe it's already time for this because it really feels like not too long ago my exchange year was still just talk; yet now, here I am! But at the same time I know my journal entry is a bit overdue because more than a month has already gone by and I almost didn't realize it. Actually, it was quite alarming to realize a month on exchange goes by that fast and I only get nine more of those months.

    One month. I'm still unsure of how to describe to you all how this feels because I don't think words can do it justice. I've already seen and done so much and there have already been ups and downs and I have things that I like and dislike and quite a few things that I never would have expected to be normal to me already are. Somehow, without me realizing it so I don't know when, this place became home even through some discomforts.

    Now I'm pretty happy because life has become a weird mixture of routine while at the same time every day is an adventure. On most weekdays I have Korean classes in the morning and school classes in the afternoon. After school sometimes I go downtown to a cafe with friends or sometimes I'm too tired and just go home. On Sundays I go to church with a friend and her family in a nearby city. It seems normal right? Well, what I think makes everything the most special to me are the people: my Korean friends, my exchange student friends, my host family, my friends' families, the people I meet on the streets, and even my neighbor! Actually, my neighbor's house is always my favorite house on my street because his garden is beautiful and is in just the perfect position so that you can sit and enjoy either the sunrise or the sunset (which are both breathtaking here by the way).

    My friend and her family took some of us exchange students to Jeju Island and it was such a beautiful place! I've seen a little bit of Seoul as well and I love the city! The food here is amazing. First thing I'll miss for sure.

    OH! Something I thought was really interesting when I first got here is that it seems most people in my area leave their dogs outside all the time. Rain or shine, hot or cold, day or night, all dogs stay outside. I'm not really sure why it was one of the first things I noticed here, but it was just so different to how I was used to dogs being cared for at home.

    Also, food and makeup and actually a lot of things here are pretty cheap. But fruit are pretty expensive most times; me coming from Florida where fruits are abundant, it's shocking to see some of the prices. And clothes are so expensive here! I love Korean fashion, but Korean sale prices are definitely not American sale prices...

    My first host family is lovely. My host mom is so kind right to her very core. She's always concerned with me and wonders how she can help whenever she can. My host father is a quiet man and he works very hard, but he also is very kind. My youngest host sister majors in animation and she is amazing at digital art! Her artistry is beautiful. My oldest host sister rocks so much. She has done so much for me since I got here and worked so hard to make me feel comfortable and I will be forever grateful for it. The thing about my first host family is...none of them speak english. My host mom, youngest host sister, and host dad speak zero english whatsoever. My oldest host sister speaks minimal amounts but its very hard for her to understand me most times. So, learning Korean has been a must for me.

    Ah...language. It's both my favorite and least favorite part. Korean is such a cool language! I love it and all the cultural significance that goes along with it! But...it's quite difficult. I studied quite a bit before I left and even though my Korean friends tell me I'm doing well and my exchange student peers tell me I'm the best out of all of us, I still find myself wishing I had studied harder. It is definitely not the hardest language but nonetheless learning a new language is quite the strenuous task. So I am working very hard. At home everyone who knows me knows how much I love people and how much I love to talk and how much I love to talk to people. But here I am with barely the basics for getting by and it's the challenge of a lifetime to interact with people and it's so frustrating. Future outbounds be warned: of all the things to take seriously, let language make the top of your list. Your language skills will be your best friend when you get to your country.

    Oh so so so much has happened and I can barely make a scratch in the surface of my life here with these journal posts. The journey has only barely begun and yet what an experience it's shaping into! I'm so appreciative to Rotary for every single second.

    With love,
    Eriana

    To see my home page and some photos click HERE

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