Eli, outbound to Korea

안녕하세요! 동안 1개월 못 썼어요. 너무 바빴어요. 아직 바빠요. 하지만 지금 쓸 수 있어요.

I think the hardest part about writing these is thinking about what to write about. I have done so much and I have only been here for two months. At the same time, I sit here and I think, ‘There is no way I have been here for two months’. In a weird way, I think all of life sort of feels like this—an endless amazement of existence in time.

I could tell you about all of my trips, but I don’t think it’s what would be preferred. I remember being the soon-to-be-an-outbound, and all I ever wanted to read about was stories or culture differences. So, here is a quick rundown. I went to 보성(Boseong) twice now—learning a lot about culture the first time and learning a lot about people the second time—I have been to Seoul, I have explored this city and certain districts to a degree in which I do not even have to think about where I am walking anymore, I have been to concerts, I have been to festivals, and soon, I will be participating in something called the Global Forum.

Now that you are all caught up, I can move on. WITH SOME STORIES!

This isn’t a long story or an extremely funny story. It isn’t even a story. Let’s just say that the words ‘to be hungry’ and ‘to punch, bash, beat up’ are very similar, and I may have mixed them up on accident once.

Next…. actual….story. I was in 서면 (Seomyeon) and I was going to meet with some of the other exchange students because I was bored and hungry. They were all at dance, but I didn’t think I remembered how to get to the location, so I decided I would search for kimbab, or a macaroon, or some bubble tea—basically something I could consume. I chose a direction and I walked.

Eventually, I reached this bubble tea place and I got excited. So excited, in fact, that I hadn’t noticed the guys in fancy suits in front of me. Fancy suits are pretty common in Korea—the majority of people here are really fashionable, whether you are a boy or a girl. Well, these fancy suit people had flyers, and they were handing them out like many people do, but I was so focused on that bubble tea. One of the men went to hand me a flyer and practice his English and he said, “Hello!”

I was so surprised to have been spoken to in English that my brain couldn’t come up with anything. My mind was trying to make connections: ‘I am in Korea, so I speak Korean, especially to strangers. But, this Korean man just spoke to me in English, so what language do I use? What language do I want to use? How do I speak? How do I say hello?’ and it just kept getting worse. In the end, I replied by making this weird shriek noise and quickly escaped to the bubble tea place with my embarrassment.

What made it worse? I passed by the same guy four more times. And every time, he spoke to me in English, and every time, I panicked. By the last time, I managed to actually say hello back—and I said it in Korean. It was still really embarrassing.

I also truly enjoy spending time with others while I am here. In Boseong, we spent time with other students from the high schools in the area. It was a joy to get to know others our age in the area and make new friends—you learn a lot about culture this way. We spent time playing games, running around, singing, dancing, and enjoying one another’s company.

It was testing time recently. What does that mean? Everyone studies—and only studies. We would even go to lunch and my classmates would bring their textbooks and read. My family and friends had asked, ‘Why are there so many pictures of you with the exchange students?’ Well this was why. They didn’t have time, even on the weekend, to do something other than studying. Now, the tests are over and my friends are beginning to have time!

Culture shock. I feel that I haven’t quite experienced it, as I researched South Korea thoroughly and I have been interested in Asian cultures for a long period of time. There are moments where I am surprised or confused, but I usually accept the concept rather quickly. I think the hardest part is that, as a foreigner, people expect rather little of you. If you can say ‘hello’ in Korean, they are surprised. When I can understand they are pretty shocked. Sometimes they have others try to repeat what they just said to you in English, despite the fact you understood and replied. I think this has been the most frustrating part of my exchange as far as culture goes. I suppose I’ll just keep improving, and keep shocking them.

Also, applying to college while in a foreign country is not fun. At all. But it can be done!

In the end, it’s a pretty cool feeling—looking up and realize that you are in another country. I’ll be on the bus, with my Korean music playing in my ear, and I will just stare out the window thinking, ‘Wow….. I am in Korea right now’. That is pretty amazing.

I’m sorry this journal is so poor. I now understand why the previous outbounds had such irregular updating patterns. 

See my bio and photos : http://www.ryeflorida.org/2014-15-eli-korea