Summer 2016 is sure to be an epic one. It’s the semester of school I’ve looked forward to the most since beginning the MAIGC program. Why you ask? Because more than anything, I LOVE to travel! My summer journey begins with an internship in Seongdong-gu, Seoul, South Korea and ends with a study tour around China. Initially, China was the only country on my itinerary. However, when my professor Dr. Kim offered our cohort the opportunity to travel to Korea and interact with our sister city, I jumped at the opportunity. This entry as well as subsequent posts will serve as an update of my adventures abroad. Please enjoy snippets of my Asian Escapades!
“Seoul’s traffic is just like Atlanta!” was my first thought after arriving at the Incheon Airport and being greeted by my co-workers for the next few weeks. I found myself in a very familiar space. There was mid-afternoon bumper-to-bumper traffic, much like what I’m sure we’ve all experienced all too often in the states, especially in Atlanta. After getting over the initial shock, I had a chance to really soak up the thought—”I’m really in ASIA!” As exciting as that feeling was, it was a bitter sweet thought that was quickly flushed with immediate home-sickness. It’s the first time I’ve been to a new country without family or friends and it finally set in that I would not only be thousands of miles away, but in a totally different time zone as well, making communication more difficult. It was also then that I realized how much the language barrier could come into play. While one of my co-workers who I had been in contact with before arriving speaks some English, our boss does not.
When we finally made it to our destination of ‘Seongdong-gu’, my coworkers treated me to my first meal in Korea, Italian cuisine (go figure!). The area where we ate seemed extremely busy for a Sunday evening. I later found out that Seoul is much like New York in that there is always some hustle and bustle no matter where you go. Additionally, we were very close to a Korean University.
After dinner we arrived at my first home, with the Kwon’s. I was relieved to learn that my homestay family spoke fluent English and had even spent time in America, making it much easier for me to communicate and get some questions answered. Although the purpose of our trips abroad is to immerse ourselves in a different culture, a little familiarity helps 🙂
My first day of work came quickly. I reported to the Seongdong office at 8 a.m. the next morning. There, I was introduced to many of the supporters who will be accompanying me to my destinations for the next few weeks.We introduced ourselves, played a couple of ice breakers and later went out to celebrate my arrival in their beautiful country.
That same day, I got a crash course on the bus and subway system–which happens to be much cleaner and more updated than some systems in America.
When I think about it, I find it hard to believe I’ve only been here for one week. I’ve already visited more attractions and met more people in a few days than I would have ever done in a month back home. I’ve been to the Seoul Forest, several traditional markets, a festival and much more- and there’s still 3 weeks of activities left here in Seoul! Each day gets a bit easier to navigate and more exciting. I look forward to what’s to come, and you should too. Stay tuned!