"Live for today, look forward to tomorrow." -Saya Annyeonghaseyo! (안녕하세요!) My name is Heather Snow, proudly 15 years young and from Munson, Florida. I live out in the middle of nowhere (it's not as bad as you think) and I go to the microscopic Central School as a sophomore. The best part of this bio? I'm going to ruin the surprise and tell you that I'm going to South Korea in approximately eight months! That's right, I'm going to be living and breathing in South Korea for a whole year! South Korea...yea, it's different alright. It's going to be like nothing I've ever imagined, but let's step back into the here-and-now. I live with my mom, my older sister, and my nephew in Munson, Florida. My mother and father are separated, but that doesn't stop me from sharing my love. My step-dad also lives close by and, even though my determination is strong, these three guardians have given me the love, support, and resources to carry out my dream. My sister, Corie, has influenced me substantially, and my nephew, Sean, has taught me that patience is rewarded. (He's 8!) School isn't just an obligation to me; it's a privilege. If you look around at the world, you'll see quite a few people who can't go to school and pursue their dream career. Don't take it for granted. At Central, I enjoy all of my classes and the teachers, no matter how difficult the subject is. Everybody is close-knitted. I've been with most of my classmates since elementary school. At home, I do a number of things in my free time, ranging from playing the piano to just letting my imagination run wild for a bit. After school, I participate in Central's only band as a pianist, help with school events, and hold events with the Interact Club. My personality in a nutshell: shy (that shell breaks pretty fast), outgoing, a bit random, thoughtful, eager to learn, and happy overall. All of that crammed into a blue-eyed, white-blonde haired teen (recipe for destruction...just kidding!). I've been told my excitement is contagious, and I find that to be true.
Foreign exchange - it's something I've wanted to do since middle school. It may just be me, but there's something so exciting about the new; the mysterious; the unseen. I want to be able to make a total cultural leap. I want to be immersed so deeply in a new environment and see it through the eyes of the natives - people who have thrived in different ways than I have. Don't get me wrong, I'm forward to the fun! However, I also know it will be rewarding in ways I can't imagine (BUT not without hard work). I don't know what to expect of the upcoming year, but I know I will make the best of it! I'm not going to lie - my family is not what you would call wealthy. Without their full support, this would not have been possible. I just wanted to thank you guys and let you know that I love you so much! Also, to Rotary, words can't describe how grateful I am for this opportunity. Much love and hugs to everyone who has helped me grasp this dream! In eight months, I will be a certified outbound. After a year in a new home, who knows who I'll be? 그렇게 오래! Geuleohge olae! (So long!)
Heather- Outbound to Korea
April 5, 2013
First of all, I would like to say I am sincerely sorry for no keeping up
with these journal entries. It's not everyday, until you're on exchange,
that you get to live in South Korea. Many things have happened and the
resting time in between was little to none. Also, my iPad seems to have a
problem with the RYE journal updating system. Luckily, that problem has been
resolved and I will now grant you a journal. A massive, perhaps overly
My arrival in South Korea was fraught with peril:
Trying to steer large bags on a cart around gawking Korean people.
Hearing what sounded like a whole new language all around me (oh wait....).
Lastly, but not least, trying to find a Korean man whom I had no name for or
information. You have to remember, at this point, everyone looked basically
the same to my frazzled mind.
Once finding this man and his wife, whom I later found out was my P.E.
teacher, I felt at peace for a few seconds...then we maneuvered our load to
his car and made our trek to a small town called "서천" (Seocheon). My first
thoughts of 서천 were "Oh my! It's so much larger than my town in Florida" and
"I'll never be able to get anywhere". 서천 has proved to be quite easy to make
way in, actually. Although it boasts a population of nearly 25,000 in that
region, it is quaint and simple in structure.
Back to the story!
When we arrived in Seocheon Haley and I, the other exchange student, parted
ways and went to our host houses. How did I greet my host family? I gave
them each a cultural American hug (which they were enthusiastic about).
Adjusting to the time difference was quite easy. The heat and sounds...not
so much. Since I arrived in mid-August, South Korea was in the peak of its
summer season. In other words, it was scorching. However, when being
assaulted with jet lag and the familiar sounds of nighttime insects, I found
that I slept quite well.
After three days, my sister 송은 (song-eun) and I
went to the school for an orientation. Once there, I reunited with Haley and
met Taylor and Maddie, two other exchange students from America. In my mind,
I was singing "it's a small world after all...". I was introduced to all of
my schoolmates in 동강중학교 (Donggang middle school) that day as well, and I
acquired a small taste of what my school life would be like. After school,
we took a bus (it's one of the main transportation methods in South Korea)
to our homes, and I found that all of the exchange students were located in
very close proximity of each other. Although this made me happy at the time,
later on it would prove to hinder me in some ways. Later on, a student from
Mexico was also placed near us.
In September, after being allowed one month to partially adapt to my new
life, the exchange students and I were given permission to attend a
country-wide conference at a prestigious college called "경기대" (Kyonggi
university). In order to get there we had to take a three hour train (my
first train ride ever - needless to say, I was ecstatic) to "경기도" Kyonggi-do.
When we arrived, we met a former student of 동강중학교 and took a taxi to the
university where we were assigned name cards and talent fields. The choice
talent fields were "human rights and politics", "arts and culture", and
another field that dealt with Eco-friendliness and such. I was placed in the
Human Rights and Politics group. We traveled to some pretty awesome sites in
the few days we were there, and also formed debate and discussion teams for
the final exhibition at the end of the conference. I worked with other
exchange students from around the world and also native Koreans who spoke
English well. The conference really took everyone out of their comfort zones
and put them on the spot. All in all, it was very enjoyable, especially when
my group won the final exhibition with the best debate.
Soon after returning to 서천, in the days that followed, I had an accident.
While climbing the wall to unlock another exchange students door (she forgot
her keys), I slipped and severely gashed my hand on a piece of tin. My right
index finger hand major damage done, along with surrounding areas on my
palm. I was rushed to the hospital and given temporary stitches, strong
meds, and plenty of doses of morphine while being advised to attend my
surgery date on October 5th. Yes, I had microsurgery in Korea. However, it
was a great experience. My surgeon was amazing and the women I bunked with
at the hospital all had a great sense of humor. Do I recommend it? Unless
you need to be admitted to the hospital, no.
Before my tragic finger incident, I attended a swimming class every two
weeks for one day. If you have an aversion to naked people and offered back
scrubs, I highly recommend going to a public swimming pool. Once in the
class building, you are required to go to a gender-specific room and, quite
literally, strip with other women. First you must take a shower and cleanse
yourself in a large public shower with other naked women. Then you must put
on your swimsuit in the shower...with other naked women. After that, you go
to the swimming pool and swim until your heart is content. Now you simply
have to strip again, wash, (while being stared at and having women offer to
wash you) and change back into your clothes. Easy, right? Definitely for the
naked-squeamish students out there.
After switching from the swimming class to the
bowling class once it began to get bitterly cold, I found the korean idea of
sports much more enjoyable. For bowling, I got to sit out. You can't bowl
with a cast, right? After my finger healed, I did get to enjoy the bowling
class a little. At that point it still hurt to move it too much, so I
couldn't afford to put strain on it.
I am currently attending a golf class now and, let me tell you, it's much
harder than it looks! Hello lower back pain.
Since I've been in Korea, I've been able to travel here and there. One of
the first trips I went on was the designated Seoul trip for all of district
3680 exchange students. The trip was three days, two nights, and it was my
first time traveling to the capital. Heres a heads up: don't be overwhelmed!
You'll miss so many things and not even realize what you're doing until
you're out of the city. While in Seoul, I went to an old palace, one of the
largest museums in Korea, and of the best shopping areas in Korea. (There
were many other places as well, but I'm trying to summarize). Our hotel was
located in the Olympic park and was called, for obvious reasons, the Olympic
I've also had the opportunity to take day trips
to other cities like Daejeon and Suwon. Although these trips were lovely, I
recommend finding a host so you can spend more than one day in these areas.
There is too much to see and one day doesn't cover all of it.
Around this time, the exchange students had to
switch host families. I was graciously placed in a small town that was still
considered a section of 서천 called 화양 "Hwayang". From that day for three
months I was deemed the "preacher's daughter" due to my fathers position as
the preacher of 화양's church. Did I mention that I lived on top of the
church? Yes, the view was spectacular...because, as you didn't know, the
abode was placed atop a large hill overlooking 화양. I bonded with that family
a lot and I loved it there despite its partial isolation. I guess you could
say, in a way, it felt like home.
While with my
second host family, I was granted permission to attend a B.A.P. (boy Kpop
group) concert along with Taylor, another exchange student. We traveled to
Seoul with her family and went to my first concert. It's safe to say that I
am thoroughly smitten with this Kpop group. After the concert, we stayed in
a jimjilbang (a Korean bath house that is similar to the public pool in the
naked department) and rose early the next morning to do some last minute
shopping then head home.
While I've been in Korea, I've made many life-long connections. One of my
best friends, whom is also in her forties, is one of those many connections.
I am bringing her up specifically because she is one of the people I can
honestly say I will never part with. This woman's name is 기은, (ki-eun) a
traveling religious missionary who sought my help in learning English. We
became fast friends and have shared much with each other. Her soul is young
and she portrays that in her personality, although she's had her motherly
moments with me. I enjoy her company and she thoroughly enjoys mine. She
loves traveling with me, and our last escapade was to a small town called 순천
(soon-chan). This town boasted a beautiful national park and magnificent
landmarks. I was charmed by it and I instantly understood why she chose it
as a traveling spot.
Now we enter the final stretch of this journal, but I still have much to
tell you before the conclusion.
I am now with my third and last host family of my exchange, and I have loved
them ever since the first day of switching. My mother was woman who drove me
to the hospital and rubbed my bare bottom in front of a Korean crowd in
order to spread morphine through my blood system more efficiently. She
promptly reminded me of that my first day of living here by doing a small
rerun (with clothes) and has done so every morning when I first rise. I also
have a brother and sister who are in high school. Although we don't see each
other much, we laugh at each other's antics whenever we can. Also, I now
attend an art and design high school two days out of the week, and it's a
dream come true. My main courses are drawing and digital art, along with
Japanese and partial volunteering in the English classes. I've made many
friends already, and I thoroughly enjoy going to this school. Since it is a
private academy, Korean students from all over Korea attend and stay in
dorms on campus. They are open and always willing to make conversation, even
if it's choppy. Along with this new school, I also go to normal classes on
동강 now. Before the new courses, the exchange students were required to sit
in the library for half of the year. Now I am able to learn in a class
setting and experience the life ( kind of ) of a middle school student.
Recently, I went on a Rotary-sponsored trip to an island off the coast of
Korea but still in its technical border, Jeju. It is a highly tropical
island and the only you can travel to it is either by boat or plane. By
plane, it is a mere thirty minutes, and well worth it. While in Jeju, I
explored caves, museums, and even had the chance to see the awe-inspiring
view of Jeju from atop one of its dead volcanoes. Since our condo was next
to the sea, I slept in a small closet/balcony so I could fall asleep to the
sound of the waves (not only did it remind me of home, but the heater was
always on high - I was melting). This one one of the most memorable trips
up-to-date of my time here in Korea, and I look back on it often with
fondness. It was absolutely amazing and I have made it one of my goals in
life to experience Jeju with more time than I was allotted - there is simply
too much to take in in order to be satisfied with a few days.
Here is my short, but sweet, conclusion. I promise to update more in my
spare time, as I only have until June 1st to tell you about my life before I
leave this place I am proud to call home. Also, here is an update about the
current situation about North Korea:
There are currently no actual hostile strikes from North Korea, but the
safety of South Korea is in jeopardy. I will keep you informed, and please
visit the link for more up-to-date information. 잘자!~