Reverse Culture Shocks Back Home in Philly

Coming home kind of felt like I was again stepping into a foreign country except I knew the directions to my house.

There were some things that immediately stood out to me that made me think both “ah, it feels good to be home” and “I wish I was still in Seoul”. No in-between.

1. People Actually Talk to You Here

This was really nice actually and it made me feel very happy and at home. On my first train ride back home from the airport to 30th street station, I remember hearing someone say “excuse me.” I feel like I was so surprised to hear that again because people just kind of silently shove and elbow one another in Korea. The conductor/ticket-checker man also made small talk with my friend and I and reminded us that 30th Street Station was up next while we were engrossed in conversation. The next day I carried this with me and said thank you to the trolley conductor and they said “Have a nice day”; all of this felt new to me and I felt a little crazy in that moment. I had to remind myself that this is normal! Looking back on my experience abroad, people just don’t really have the same interactions on a day to day basis. I feel like people are much more to themselves in Korea and I don’t have memories of strangers speaking to one another. I was also in traffic on my electric scooter the next day and I realized another pedestrian was moving aside for me to go forth before they crossed; I said thank you and they replied “No problem!” A CVS cashier talked to me about the weather and a door dasher asked me for directions in the same hour. It felt so nice to interact with other people again and I realized that it is a big cultural difference.

2. Efficiency

Arriving at the airport in Atlanta and going through TSA made me realize just how efficient operations on all scales are in Seoul. I think going through check in and security only took me around 20 minutes. Meanwhile, I waited for a good 40 minutes in line for TSA and nearly missed my flight to Philly. It made me miss how Seoul is just more efficient in every way possible.

3. Driving

It was refreshing to see cars stop for pedestrians in Philadelphia and it was also nice seeing people follow road laws in general. In Korea, it’s everyone for themselves on the road; I really mean it when I say there aren’t many rules enforced over there. Like at all. I’ve never seen anyone get pulled over and I’ve never really seen cop surveillance on the road like in America. In Seoul, the road is really a lawless land.

4. Food Expenses

Does this count as a reverse culture shock? Food is so expensive here! A roll of kimbab at a convenience store is 1.25 USD in Seoul, but Halal food trucks just raised the price of a meal to $7 on Drexel’s campus. These are two examples of a more regular or typical meal I would buy as a student in either place. It makes me so sad that I could eat a bit of a fancier meal in Korea for under 20 USD, but an equivalent in Philadelphia would cost around $40.

5. The School Environment

After jumping back into online courses at Drexel, I realized how much more engaged you are expected to be. I’ve already made a blog post about major difference and similarities, but I think the differences became more apparent to me after switching back from the Korean online course environment. With my Hanyang experience, if it felt as if my grade was very much up to me in that the 2 components of my grade were my midterm and final. Here at Drexel though, there are other things that contribute to your grade that encourage you to continue learning on pace like weekly quizzes, exercises during lecture, labs, and discussions. I also realized that at Hanyang, I never had a recitation- a time that can be used to further ingrain what is discussed during lecture. I also interact with my peers more here in class, in that sometimes I am placed in breakout rooms with them to work on a lab together. I’ve come to the conclusion that the Korean education system is difficult in that one has to keep themselves self-motivated. The system in Korea is more unforgiving in a sense as well.

A Message from the Office of Global Engagement:

The safety and security of Drexel students is a priority for the University. As part of the efforts to support Drexel students that are studying abroad during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office of Global Engagement has conducted a rigorous review of programming and provided additional support to participating students with customized pre-departure orientations and regular check-ins during the required self-isolation period and the term.

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