Eli, outbound to Korea

We were aware of the location of the subway and bus station the entire time though (don’t worry Mom and Dad!)

The second day turned out much better. We got together with our other friends and all dressed up. Together, we made up a band that consisted of a cat, dead doll, vampire, Korean ghost character, and a Kpop idol. We also put on the actual make up in the middle of a giant department store, because houses in Korea don’t really have the room for five of us girls all trying to get Halloweenified.

The party-event-thing was great! It had food, crafts, things to buy, things to do, a dance competition, magic show, several acts, and a haunted house. The haunted house was actually very impressive. It was made by the students, and they had transformed the school into rooms that were themed by several countries’ takes on a Halloween type holiday. It was done very well, and the entire time I was simply smiling and giving them praise.

The next month consisted of Global Forum and a school field trip! Global Forum was this interesting event my school participated in. Students from schools in China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea (of course), Russia, Sweden, Switzerland (Rotary), and the US (Rotary) participated in discussions about three topics: Ecological Integrity, Cultural Identity/Diversity, and Social Equity. The students that had been selected to participate were assigned a topic and then a role. The roles were the Presenters, those who gave a presentation on their stance for the project, and the Commentators, those who criticized and questioned the Presenters. I was assigned to Cultural Diversity as a Commentator.

It was definitely an experience I won’t forget, and, in the end, I am thankful to have participated in. At the time, I was nervous beyond belief and feeling very unprepared. The entire time, I reminded myself that Rotary had warned me that I would have to participate in more public speaking. I, personally, have a hard time with public speaking. I have improved quite a lot at this point, once I go back and compare myself to my ability before coming here. It might be the fact that I have had to step on that stage several times now. But I’ll explain that later.

Basically, I sat at what looked like a desk from a congress meeting or something and listened to the groups present and Commentators play their parts. Then, my assigned group presented. I had to find my courage, rise from my beloved seat, and grip that microphone with two of my hands, because by this time, my one hand was shaking. I gave my point of view on the matter and my questions, everything going rather smoothly as I had hoped.

That was the scary part. The fun part began afterwards. The students from each country performed in some fashion—dances, games, videos. It was extremely entertaining! Especially because Korean audiences are the most superb audiences someone could ask for. They ooh and ahh, cry, boo, laugh—everything! They are so animated and get into it all so much, that you yourself can’t help but want to become just as enthusiastic. The kids from the other countries seemed to also feel the warmth from this experience and performed well with smiles on their faces. Once all the foreign students performed (besides Rotary), the Korean students performed. Our dance clubs, bands, orchestra, Korean traditional dance/music clubs—they are top notch. Seriously. I recorded their amazingness, and the videos are also on youtube (I just have to find them again…)

The foreign students stayed with us for five-ish days. We got to know them starting Monday, the Global forum was on Wednesday, the field trip began on Thursday, and it ended Friday. Our field trip was actually volunteer work. It was persimmon picking. When I heard we were going to go pick persimmon for two days, I couldn’t think of how that would be truly fun. Yet, I was proven wrong. We picked persimmon for 4 hours each day, but we talked, had fun, adventured, and were allowed to eat the ones that had already become too ripe. Also, we rode in the backs of trucks, experienced the country atmosphere, play games, eat food, and really get to know one another. I spent so much time with my classmates, and that was the beginning of my making friends with more of the foreign kids as well as Korean students in other classes.

At one point, we even had a class competition, where each class competed in some way. My class danced several songs, and we were the second class to compete. I even danced some on stage!

The goodbyes were hard. Not me saying goodbye, but rather the foreign students saying goodbye. They had to all return to their home countries. The amount of tears that had been shed was rather surprising. These students had known one another for four days and yet had still become so attached. It made me think about how it could be once my departure arrived, and I quickly shoved the thought out of my brain. I had so much more time before that date, and I had no need to worry about it then.

Thanksgiving also passed. Of course, Thanksgiving isn’t a holiday here. It’s an American holiday from the US based off a historical event. Why did I mention that? Because I had one friend ask me if they celebrated it in Korea. She immediately realized what she had asked me and processed her mistake, but I just had to be sure to specify this. And just to make her read this and remember

Anyway, the Rotary students did celebrate a miniature Thanksgiving. We all went to our friend’s house (he moved here from the US because of his parent’s job) where his father had cooked traditional dishes. The non-US Rotary exchangers also came, of course, and had the opportunity to sort-of experience what it is like to participate in this holiday. We also invited the Swedish students from our school! It felt so odd to eat things like stuffing again.

We spent the night eating and singing—some English songs, some Swedish songs, and some Korean songs.

This month was different. The Swedish exchange students had to return back to Sweden after having stayed for 3 months (they were in our high school through a sister-school exchange). Those goodbyes were extremely difficult for everyone, and I have come to discover that it doesn’t have to take time for people to become close.

There was a farewell thingy for the Swedish kids where the Rotary students were asked to speak about our time thus far, and then the goodbye speeches began. We spiced it up and gave, as one teacher put it, ‘the best goodbye presentation so far’. The Rotary crew made a video with pictures and music, including pictures with our friends from Sweden. Then, all of us foreign kids performed three dances for the students, and lastly gave the speeches. Everyone had fun, and the night managed to take place without tears—though it came really close at one point.

Christmas came around as well. Here in Korea, Christmas is seen more as a couple/friend holiday where one goes out around the town and does something fun or relaxing. The family-only idea isn’t extremely common. Even the Korean Christmas music shows the cultural take on the holiday, as many songs that come out during this time of year are about confessed loves or lost loves. One is also reminded this fact when they walk outside and, literally, all you can see are couples. Everywhere. It was actually really cute!

Us Rotary exchange students had a Christmas party! It took place two days before Christmas, after school, and we decorated, cooked, and eventually had our friends come on over! It was splendid. We played Korean games, ate a TON of food, danced a little, goofed off a lot, and had a great time. For many of our friends, it had been their first Christmas party, so I was extra glad that they enjoyed themselves.

At one point in the night, I was focused on getting all the camera-shy peoples’ picture. I spun in circles while randomly stopping and clicking pictures. I got some good ones, some decent ones, and some ridiculous ones. In the end, I think I accomplished my goal and got everyone’s face at least once!

Needless to say, my Christmas was different. I skyped my family, relaxed at home until 3, went out with a friend, and then came home. In a way, it was like any other day. It wasn’t hyped or huge—they actual Christmas day I mean. The season is hyped pretty big, though. In the spirit of Christmas, I gave my host family a gift to show them that I truly appreciated them, even if I couldn’t afford much. They seemed so happy with it, that it basically made my morning~

Now, here I am. I don’t really feel homesick, but I’m also not seeking out anything that is currently taking place in the US. I feel a little sad. I believe it is because this is the last time I’ll be with my classmates. In the United States, school ends in the spring-summer time. Here, it ends within December. I had been so busy with college applications, presentations, rotary things, Korean tests, and other such items that I didn’t get to spend an extreme amount of time with my classmates during class. I felt as if I had so much more time, but I just came upon this realization that I didn’t. My class will be different on February 2nd. I will have new classmates and a new room. This has just today hit me kind of hard. I know it will be okay though. I have come to know many students in my grade, and I will no doubt still be speaking with all of my other classmates! Not to mention, change is a delightful thing. Though there is a sad side to the matter, just around the corner is an entirely new experience coming at us.

Four months. Four months can feel like a few days. Four months can feel like a year. Four months can hold more treasured memories than one thought possible. Four months can be full of so many wishes and hopes, friends and families, and experiences than imagined. Four months is a fragment. Four months is enough time to strip down what one thought to be his or her style, personality, thoughts, ideas, and culture and cause one to take a moment and step back. Four months are easy. Four months are hard.

These last four months are unforgettable and worth the entire journey.