Reflecting on My Time in Korea (by Eli)

The idea of studying abroad had always just a daydream that I never thought would be fulfilled. I had this idea that I would go on all these wonderful and thrilling adventures and see the most beautiful and unique places in the world. It sufficed for a while, but in 2015 I went through a major transition in my life that encouraged me to do more than daydream. For the first time in my life, I wanted to turn a dream into a reality. So I set my sights on studying in Korea.

When I first came to Seoul, I had no idea what to expect. Many people in the exchange group talked about traveling to other countries throughout the semester, and I thought I would also do the same. However, my plans drastically changed when I saw that the school had a kendo club. I initially had dismissed the idea of practicing kendo in Korea because I thought it would be too hard, or that they would turn me away because I didn’t speak Korean. But in the moment I saw that booth, I decided to ask anyway. Imagine my surprise when they not only allowed me to join them, but they also lent me a set of equipment to use while I wait for my own to be sent to me! I quickly realized that this was not only an opportunity to continue improving my kendo, but also to learn more about life in Korea.

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In the four months that I had in Korea, most of it was devoted to spending time with the club. I would go to practice whenever my schedule would allow it, and I also was able to go to a few events, such as an MT, a university kumdo tournament, and a joint practice with Konkuk University (건국대학교). However, as much fun that all the practices and events were, my favorite times were the downtime and dinners between these things. There were so many conversations about what life is like for a young Korean. Many people were so willing to open up to me and share their hopes and dreams, the things that drive them and keep them going. From starting a new life in another country to planning for a future family, my friends all had clear goals and were working so hard to make them come true. I admire their determination and willingness to face such adversity. I thought that it was hard for a U.S. student to find a job as an undergraduate, but I quickly realized that it’s just as difficult, if not more, in Korea. In that sense, our shared struggle to build our own lives bring us together, and kendo was a foundation for us to build our friendships.

I have few regrets about how I spent my time in Korea. If I had to name one, I would’ve liked to spend more time with people other people outside of the club. Much like how the kendo club was a starting point for me to learn about life in Korea, I believe that school life in general was an opportunity to form new friendships. I had met many fellow exchange students and Koreans that I wish I had talked with more. There was a German man by the name of Alexander that I had many enjoyable conversations with. I could have shared conversations with many other people, that I simply didn’t because of my devotion to practice. However, if my time in Korea has inspired anything, it’s to continue to seek, understand, and love all walks of life no matter where I go.

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I didn’t know what to expect when I came to Korea, but now I can’t imagine my time there going any other way. While my time in Korea has filled that void in my heart, it’s given me an insatiable desire to continue making new friends, continue learning, and to continue enjoying the world and its people. Until next time, Korea. And there will be a next time.

 

Article by Eli from the U.S.A.

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