America the Beautiful

By Hyewon Yun, Korea

“America, the Beautiful.” This is what is written on my National Parks Pass, which allowed my husband and me to access all the amazing National Parks and Seashores at only $80. This summer, my husband and I drove 13,000 miles to explore America on our own. Our expedition could have been shorter and easier if we could spend more summers in the U.S., but we have to return to Korea next May right after my husband’s two-year MBA program is over. We wanted to make the most of our one and only summer break in America. Now, in retrospect, we did not know what we were getting into.

We mostly camped, because we had heard it is a great way to enjoy America’s West and our budget prohibited us from staying at motels every night. Some days out in nature were fun with a rest under the tree shade, a barbeque and star gazing at night; however, it was no longer fun when it became cold, rainy, windy and there was thunder and lightening. Oh, don’t forget the threatening warnings here and there about a bear’s potential visit! And our tent was too small, the air mattress gave us backaches, washing dishes in the rain was horrible, and a 5-minute walk to use a bathroom at 3 a.m. was more horrible. We put our 12-year-old marriage to the test. I found that it took a lot to be a kind and sweet wife when life was tougher (though I am not sure whether I was one even before we took off).

America’s amazing nature came closer to me once I gave up being pretty and charming during camping. Grizzly bears, bison, coyotes and elks were freely roaming on the wide fields at Yellowstone National Park. The towering mountain ridge with snowcaps at Grand Teton National Park took my breath away. The out-of-this-world hoodoos, or tent rocks, at Bryce Canyon were bewitching. Arizona’s Antelope Canyon was the unbelievable product of time, wind and water, and a marvel only Mother Nature could create. The full moon rising over Utah’s Delicate Arch was more dazzling and blinding than any sun. Angel’s Landing at Zion Canyon was the peak with dangerous ledges, which allows only an angel to land, but also has a view as imposing and enchanting as a real angel would be.

Yes, it is true: this country has the world’s biggest economy, spreads pop culture to the world, and has New York, Los Angeles and Disneyland – but, America’s nature is bigger than life. This is what no other place can offer. While fascinated by its grandeur and beauty, I often did not know that tears were rolling down my face and I was asking myself, “How can a person become evil in front of this beautiful nature?” America’s mountains were high, its canyons were deep, and its oceans were wide. How blessed America is to have such a huge and beautiful territory! And it dawned on me that this is it – this is what America shows me. I climbed up all the precipices, paddled the glacial lakes, trudged the dunes, and drove all the mileage day and night for the last three months to find – America the Beautiful.

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International Student Services & Activities, also known as ISSA, supports and advises the international student community at the University of Notre Dame. ISSA staff members are deeply committed to fostering a campus environment that welcomes the international student community and promotes cross-cultural interaction and understanding.

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