Daniela, Outbound to South Korea

Journal #3 2020. 03. 22

It has been quite a bit since I last posted a journal. I wanted to experience the holidays and a Rotary trip before I wrote a journal so I apologize for the delay. I will begin by saying that Christmas and New Year’s in Korea are very different from how I am used to celebrating the holidays in the United States. I celebrated an early Christmas about a week before the actual holiday with the other exchange students in my area and we did a secret Santa gift exchange. If you are not familiar with Secret Santa, it is a game in which each member of a group gets a present for another person. On December 25th, we only got one day off of school for Christmas. On that day, I went to church with my host family from 10 AM to about 1:00 PM. After that, I met up with two exchange student friends and a Korean friend. We had a pretty simple Christmas and did what we usually would on any other day. So, pretty much karaoke and we went to a cafe afterward as well. In Korea, Christmas is not a family holiday as it often is in the United States, it is more popularly celebrated by couples and sometimes friends. The next day, everyone went back to school as scheduled. Another difference between Korea and the States is that in Korea, schools have a long break in the winter rather than in the summer. The last day of school for this school year in Korea was on the 31st of December. After school on the 31st, I went to church with my host family as well. We were there to experience the new year and left the church at around 12:30 midnight. There was no countdown to midnight or anything, we were in the middle of a song when I looked at the clock and realized that it was already midnight and we were in a new year. It was a unique way to experience the new year. That week, I started Chinese Language classes once a week to make use of my extra free time during the school break. A few weeks later, from January 24th to the 26th, we celebrated the lunar new year. For lunar new year, my host family and I went to my host grandfather’s house and spent the weekend there with a bunch of host cousins, aunts, and uncles. We ate delicious foods and I got to meet the extended family members. In February, four of the eight exchange students in my town celebrated birthdays, me included. We had mini parties for everyone throughout the month. On my birthday, I went out to lunch with my first host mom and sister as well as one of my friends from school and dinner at my host house with some exchange friends as well. My host moms are so sweet and I felt so touched that they took time out of their busy days to spend time with me. I have truly had the best host families and I love all of them so much. They are all so compassionate, caring, and understanding. On February 21st, we had a Rotary trip to a city called Busan. Saying that I fell in love with the city would be an understatement. It is a coastal city, so there are beaches but there are also green mountains everywhere. This makes the scenery spectacular no matter where you are in the city. The Busan beaches are clear blue and beautiful. I could look onto the sea for hours. There were also plenty of shops and tourist areas. On the trip, I also got to see Rotary Youth Exchange Students from other districts that I hadn’t seen in a while. While we were in Busan however, COVID-19 cases began to pop up in the city. Our Rotary Club decided to continue the trip cautiously. We stayed in large areas that had few people. We were in Busan for three days. When we came back, we stayed in self-quarantine for two weeks to prevent spreading the virus since we had been exposed to it. Luckily, no one from our District was infected. During those weeks, the number of cases in Korea were increasing at alarming rates. Because of that, two of the eight of us had to go back to their countries. I decided to stay a little bit longer to see how the situation progressed. Now, I am happy to say that the Korean government and people have been very careful and have been dealing with it appropriately. Though there are still cases, the daily report has decreased incredibly. There are no cases in my area as well so I am safe as of right now, but of course, I am taking the necessary preventive measures. To everyone reading this, please be careful and wash your hands, stopping this virus is a team effort! I hope everyone stays healthy and in good spirits.

Click HERE to read more about Daniela and all her blogs