Journal #1 2019.09.04
I have been in Korea for 33 days now and it has been absolutely incredible so far. It would take hours to read everything that I have done in the past month so I am going to outline some of my best memories so far.
My first day in Korea:
I arrived in Korea at 4 in the morning in Korea’s time after a 14-hour flight on August 3rd. I was pretty tired, to say the least. My host mom and host sister came to pick me up at the airport along with my host club coordinator. Everyone was super friendly as soon as I arrived. I felt so relieved and happy to finally be here. It was a 3-hour drive from the airport to Seocheon which is the town that I am currently living in. When we got to the place I now call home, I was greeted by my host dad and host brother. In pictures, my host dad appeared really serious, but I quickly learned that he is quite the comedian. My host family is really great. They are so nice and patient with me. They explain things to me and speak slowly so that I can understand. I am so thankful that I got such a great host family. We stayed home and everyone slept for a few hours when I got home because it was so early here too. Thanks to this, I did not experience jet lag and was able to last the whole day. After sleeping for a few hours, my host grandparents and cousins came over to visit. I shared some gummies and snacks with them from the United States and explained to them where exactly in the U.S. I am from. We then all went to a beach nearby and swam and played for a bit. The water here is warm in the shallow parts of the beach; it was quite surprising when I stepped into the water for the first time because that is something that I am not used to. At the beach, we also rode a banana boat. It was my first time riding one and it was pretty scary but so fun. After going to the beach we went out to eat 삼겹살 (pork belly) with my host family as well as host grandparents, aunt, and her friends. It was delicious, but I was so tired that I could barely keep my eyes open. That was just the first day.
Every Tuesday, I do not go to school and I attend Korean culture and language classes with the other inbounds. There are eight of us and we are all really close with one another already. I could not ask for a better group of friends to spend this year with. We all get along very well.
My trip to Seoul:
On the weekend of August 17th, I went to Seoul with my host family. My host siblings had to attend a Rummikub competition so they decided to do some tourist things since I was there as well. My host brother ended up getting third place which was pretty exciting. While in Seoul I was able to visit Insadong and Hanok Village. We slept at my host aunt’s house and went to a beautiful botanical garden. We later went to a cave which was absolutely stunning. There was a light show and sculptures on the inside. There was also a light tunnel. It was so incredible. That cave is now one of my favorite places in the world. Going into and coming out of that cave was the moment in which I realized how incredibly lucky I am to be able to take part in this amazing and life-changing experience.
The PSY Concert:
My favorite memory so far along with the cave in Seoul is when I went to a PSY concert. PSY is the man who sings Gangnam Style. They gave all of the Inbounds as well as one of the Rotex tickets to a PSY concert. We had floor tickets so we were able to dance and sing to our heart's content all night. This concert, however, wasn’t a normal concert. While PSY sang they poured tons of water on everyone in the audience. By the end, we were all absolutely soaked. During the concert, I once again felt how fortunate I am to be able to have come to Korea and be surrounded by such amazing people throughout the year. We all hugged and danced together for hours and felt so happy to be there together.
We had Inbound Orientation last weekend. The Inbound students from Busan and Gwangju came and met up with us here in Seocheon for Orientation. It was really nice to be able to meet them all. We had a ceremony first in which we all introduced ourselves. I was chosen as the representative for the Inbounds, so I read a sworn oath in Korean representing the Inbounds of 2019-2020 for the Rotarians. It was a bit nerve-wracking, but they told me I did well in the end; that was good to hear. After the ceremony, we went to where we would be sleeping. We had some time to get to know each other and talk after that.
Going to school has been very fun so far. I am starting to make some Korean friends. I can understand most of the time when they talk to me slowly. The classes, however, are very difficult and I can’t understand almost all of what is going on. I study Korean in my textbooks whenever I am having extra trouble understanding classes. The teachers and students are all very patient with me and help me when I am struggling or don’t understand.
Being here has already been unforgettable. I am so excited for everything that is to come this year. I want to say a huge thank you to Rotary and everyone who helped and supported me in my preparation for allowing me to come here and do something that I know will change my life for the better. I can’t believe that one year ago I was sitting in a conference room with Mr. Parks telling me and a few other teenagers that it was possible to travel, learn a new language, and make amazing memories through a program called Rotary Youth Exchange. I had never heard of this program before and decided to give it a try. I am so glad I did. If it is you sitting this year in a conference room contemplating whether or not you should do it or not, this is my advice to you. If you want to do it, go for it. Rotary is an amazing and well-organized program that gives you everything that you need to be ready when you depart. You won’t be alone in a different country, because they give you plenty of resources that you can use if anything ever comes up. You are not alone, but you are independent and that is the beauty of it.
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