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Tag: pre-departure

Pre-departure Thoughts

Pre-departure Thoughts

Watching the sunset over the Mississippi River in Moline, Illinois
Watching the sunset over the Mississippi River in Moline, Illinois

August 23

As I sit in probably one of the most scenic and calm places in my hometown of Moline, Illinois, I feel a mix of emotions build inside of me. After staying in Chicago for more than half a year, I forgot that so much beauty exists in the vibrant shades of green that is abundant nature, the unabashed curiosity of friendly passers by, and the calm that exists in quiet outdoor spaces. It’s crazy to look around and to recognize this place not only as my home but to recognize it as the United States, my place of origin and nationality. I look around and my heart tightens at the fact that I won’t be able to enjoy the sights and sounds of home for much longer; tomorrow, I will be leaving this all behind in order to study, explore, and immerse myself in South Korea, my mother’s birthplace and original home.

Much of the emotion within myself is barely contained excitement! To see the beautiful mountains, to hear the traditional music and dance, and to eat the spicy and fermented food of my ancestors with the mobility and freedom of a young adult is a chance of which just thinking of is making my eyes water with emotion! Finally being able to experience and understand the complex culture and nuances that are Korea will hopefully bring me and my mother as well as the rest of my family closer together. Family matters aside, living in Seoul, literally one of the biggest megacities in the world that is caught in between the not so distant past and the constantly changing cutting edge of the present, will no doubt be a chance to see all that Korea and its people has to offer(certainly being a young adult in any major city will have its upsides)!

Already I have written in my class schedule in my newly purchased planner, and I am beyond stoked to start learning about my majors and minor from a non-Western perspective in classes with students from all over the world! I am excited to see how university age students from Korea and from different countries interact and contribute towards class discussion and campus life. I have been in contact with the 9 other US students(most from Texas or the west coast) in my program via a Groupme chat, sharing tips and thoughts. Plus, I’ve even signed up for and been contacted by an Ultimate Frisbee team in Seoul called Seoul Train(yes, really) that has already started practices and will have 6 tournaments throughout the fall. I can’t wait to jump into life at Kookmin University, the greater Seoul area, and the rest of Korea!

Amid this excitement, however, is a fair share of anxiety. The obvious sources of this feeling being having to navigate international airports, fly halfway across the world, improvise nonverbal communication, find out who my roommates are, traverse a totally new culture, and trying to orient myself in what will be my home for the next four months. But, one source of anxiety that I believe not all study abroad students have to worry about is the prejudice that may exist towards foreigners and people of color specifically.

I am a Mexican Korean American, which in itself is a combination unique in the United States and will not doubt be in Korea. The United States, though far from perfect in terms of racial relations, has allowed me to explore my racial identity through it’s large and multi-faceted communities of color. In contrast, Korea is a country that is 96% homogeneous and reportedly has a lack of sensitivity around other races and lifestyles. I am afraid that my “otherness” will either be completely erased or unnecessarily exaggerated, and it would be heart breaking to arrive in Korea, expecting to feel at home but to face discrimination instead. However, I will try to quell my anxious and slightly pessimistic thoughts and try to enjoy my time abroad(but updates on this to come)!

In writing this blog post, the realization that tomorrow my journey truly beings really hit. I’ve been waiting for this trip for the entire summer, and I feel ready! Here’s to the journey being safe… and to the jetlag not being completely awful!