Coming into this experience, I was more nervous than excited. I wondered, was this the right time? Why did I want to go this year? Maybe I should wait another year. I had fear of missing out on the life I felt like I was just starting to really nurture in Philadelphia.
But, I am so glad I went to study abroad at this time. The experience has really displayed to me how resilient I can be. It has put me in uncomfortable situations that forced me to leave my comfort zone and into experiences I normally would not put myself through. Traveling by myself pressured me to talk to people, be assertive, and say yes more. However, it also demonstrated to myself that I can truly be independent. It has allowed me to learn more about my sense of self and has also left me with more questions that someday I hope to be able to answer.
Korean pop culture holds a special place in my heart, as it was the first time I was ever exposed to Asian representation beyond the stereotypes. Through the music and shows, I felt a sense of solidarity to be able to see people who looked like me and were not limited to being nerds or Kungfu masters. To be able to travel to Korea and be a part of the international summer school program was such an interesting experience, where, at least on a surface level, I “fit in.” While Korean pop culture is important to me as a tool of empowerment, this opportunity has ignited my desire to learn more about my own birth culture as a transracial adoptee.
I think most importantly, this experience has re-energized my thirst and interest in traveling. Meeting so many different people, from different places, listening to their experiences and travels, and venturing out by myself in Seoul has revitalized my fascination and passion for travel.
At one point in time, I was full of dreams and aspirations of traveling and then within this past year, I wanted nothing more than to come back home to a life of general monotony. However, after this experience, I have already been searching the catalog for other study abroad opportunities. I am thinking about how I can still travel after schooling is over with, re-piquing my high school sophomore dream of backpacking around the world. It also reminded me how much of Philly I still have yet to explore.
However, as much as I enjoyed Seoul, with all its coffee shops and convenience stores that outdo Wawa, I think it was less about the location that made my experience enjoyable and more about the people I was with.
I met some really great people on my trip. Even those who I had just one conversation or outing with, I will still cherish that time spent together. Although it was only a month, there were a couple of special people that I really felt like I connected with, who made me feel at ease. As if I could truly be myself around them. There were countless others who I wish I had more time to get to know even better.
Searching for the best fried chicken place (we vouch for Kyochon). Getting lost on the subway way too many times and having to press the help button. Seeing Seungri out in Myeongdong. Sitting by the Han River at night waiting for the light show that never happened. Rushing to get to the pier for the boat cruise. “Playing basketball.” Getting lost from the group (my bad). Taste testing samples at the market. Eating together at an empty restaurant for our last meal.
These are all memories that I am thankful for and will look back upon fondly. Even after I have long forgotten the details, I will still be left with those hazy warm feelings when looking back on this experience.
Thank you, for you have made all the difference.