A Special Guest Post By Kayley Edgin
(Kayley Edgin, one of the two CCMI 2014 Summer Interns submitted this column telling about her recent fall semester studying in Korea; Kayley has now returned to Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she is completing her junior year as a Communications major.)
My first view of Sogang University was from the back of a taxi filled to the brim with my suitcases. My parents had flown to Korea with me so that I could bring more luggage than I would normally manage alone, and I was beginning to regret how many “essentials” I had dragged the nearly 10,000 miles from California to Seoul. Each step I took in Korea was one step further away from home than I’d ever been, but being on campus at Sogang was surprisingly familiar. The buildings, a fusion of modern glass and traditional brick, reminded me of my university at home, as did the smiling faces of the students. My home university is Marquette, located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My school is 3000 miles away from my hometown of San Diego, California, so I’m used to being away, but nothing compares to being in a foreign country. Before August, I’d never been to Asia, so Korea was completely foreign to me; almost exotic. I’m still occasionally shocked by how different Korea is from the United States, but I’ve found that the differences have only helped me learn. The similarities and differences between life in Korea and life in the U.S. have really allowed me to experience a fresh perspective on what learning and cultural exploration really is.
One of the first things I did in Korea was travel to Muiido Island for Chuseok, the Korean Thanksgiving. I had only been in Korea a few weeks, and was still adjusting to the change. I packed my bag with what I thought were the essentials for a weekend at the beach; cute swimsuits, tanning lotion, and shorts. However, a cute swimsuit doesn’t do you much good when the sun sets and the temperature drops. I did not plan on the frigid temperatures the beach would reach in fall, or the lack of towels, hot water, and beds at the resort we were staying at. Now I don’t mean to sound like a prima donna, but in the U.S. when someone tells me we’re vacationing on an island, I expect a bit of luxury, or at least modern amenities. But despite these perceived inconveniences, I made some of the best memories of my entire trip. We didn’t do much but swim and explore the rock formations, but the simplicity of it all only highlighted the budding friendships that were growing among my fellow exchange students. I learned to not take anything for granted, and to be prepared to be unprepared. This really defined my experience in Korea, because I was able to let go and enjoy spontaneity. When you remove your preconceived notions, you can truly experience life.
While I physically traveled to Korea to study, I also metaphorically traveled outside of my comfort zone into an unfamiliar environment and way of life. I believe that all the new experiences have not only increased my knowledge about me, but also about the people who live outside of my country and frame of reference. Returning home was exciting because I missed the familiarity of a comfortable environment, but I will certainly carry all that I have learned with me and attempt to educate others accordingly. Living abroad has been a life changing experience and I’d encourage anyone with the opportunity to take it, because the lessons you learn living outside your comfort zone are far more important than those you learn in a classroom or an office.
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