Cindy, Outbound to Korea

So, I’ve been in Korea for about a month and a half and I’ve written this journal about five different times trying to figure out how to perfectly sum up the fact that choosing to go on this exchange has been the best decision of my life.

I think I’m just going to start out with the people I’ve been lucky enough to meet. When you’ve been in the same area, around the same people for your whole life you don’t really think that much about the people in other places because you get so comfortable, but the friends I’ve made are people I feel like I’ve known my whole life. I’ve formed such strong bonds with my friends from school and the other inbounds in my district. Before I left for exchange I already was overwhelmed by the amount of people Rotary has introduced me to that I didn’t even think about who I’d meet when I’d leave and to think that I’m only within my second month and I have plenty more people to meet is so exciting and I absolutely cannot wait.

While I’ve been in Korea I’ve been lucky enough to go on two tours and a trip outside of the country. The first trip was a tour of Busan, one of the major cities in Korea and it was so much fun. I went on that trip during my first week and it was such a good way of bonding with the inbounds in my district. We went to so many places and stayed in this ‘Guest House’ which is basically like a hotel but homier? I shared a room with some other inbound girls and it felt a giant sleepover. We all did face masks and shared skin care products and it was amazing. The second trip was a trip to Japan and I had never been so confident in my decision to go on exchange than when I was standing on top of the Umeda Sky Building with my friends that now feel like family looking over the city of Osaka. Although Japan was an absolute dream, we all had begun to miss Korea faster than we thought we would. It was kind of strange missing a country that I was as equally comfortable and unfamiliar with. The third trip was a tour around Seoul. We also had the opportunity to visit the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea) and it was such a great experience. We were taken to the Freedom House and went outside and stood face to face with North Korea. The entire time I was feeling a weird mixture of exhilaration and intimidation. Fun fact: They had taken us into one of the JSA (Joint Security Area) conference rooms that are right on the line that separates the North and South Korean side of the JSA so one half on the room was South Korean territory and the other was North Korean territory and guess who was standing in the North Korean side? That’s right, me. I technically was in North Korea for like 10 minutes. Just a casual day.

I feel like I’ve only been talking about the good moments which might lead you to believe that exchange life is one giant vacation. Yes, the trips have been amazing and I feel like the luckiest human ever to be able to experience them but I also feel extremely lucky to be able to do all the normal stuff too like walk to class with my friends and buy snacks from the convenience store down the road. Out of all the emotions I’ve felt since being here gratitude has been a consistent one. I’m just constantly thankful that I’m here because I'm the happiest I've ever been.

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