This post was contributed by Kevin Lee, a Global Ambassador for fall 2020. Kevin is a Government, International Relations and Global Studies, and Asian Studies major studying abroad in Seoul, South Korea. Read his first blog post.
It is finally December, and my time in Korea will soon come to an end. Like you, the last few weeks of school are filled with tests and papers. Of course, this critical period of the semester would not be complete without a healthy dose of procrastination, as many of my classmates are discovering. Just a friendly reminder to future exchange students that study abroad is not just all fun. Anyways, as I write my last piece of engagement with you all, I reflect upon my time across the world.
My time in Korea has been fruitful. I enjoyed freedom and security from the pandemic that most back home could not enjoy. I made new friends, and I immersed myself in this unique and beautiful country. Korea is truly a ‘land of high mountains and sparkling streams.’ And, hidden monasteries tucked away in the endless ranges remind me how ancient this country truly is. The history of Korea goes as far back as China’s.
It is easy to be ignorant when one looks at modern Korea, but between the skyscrapers and massive shopping malls are relics of the past. Most palaces and historical sites found today are actually imitations built recently. The actual structures were usually destroyed during the Japanese colonial rule. Although they may be replicas, they serve to show future Koreans and the world that Korea’s spirit of greatness was not recently founded by its conglomerates—like Samsung or Hyundai—but has existed since its founding.
It is the first time I have been away from the U.S. for this long. It will be a full four months in a couple of weeks, and I am looking forward to being back on home soil. I am a proud American. I have studied its short but epic history, and I fully appreciate the sacrifices it took for me to enjoy my freedoms today.
Reflecting on my study abroad experience, if I were to now describe what the purpose of studying abroad is, I would say: “Studying abroad is an opportunity for a student to go to another country and attempt to appreciate a culture that may be far different from the student’s own. As a student, he or she has the unique opportunity to fully focus his or her energy on cultural immersion for an extended period. It is an advantage that professionals do not get to enjoy during their short vacations.”
I feel like I have done my best at that task during this unique period, and I have grown as a human by doing so. Appreciation is not complete without implementing the knowledge gained, so in a task I have started through my engagements with you all, I will try to positively impact my communities back home. To do so is my idea of appreciation.
In about a month, I will return to the grasslands of South Texas—where the highways run as far as the eyes can see, and one can always find a prickly pear or two by the lone mesquite tree. Thank you for following along with my study abroad experience through the blog posts and Instagram story takeovers. I hope that you were entertained and impacted positively. Now to address the question I posed in my first blog post: Does the study abroad experience ultimately live up to the hype?
It is what you make it.