Name: Angela Hwang
Location of Study: Seoul, South Korea
Program of Study: Sogang Korean Studies Programs at Sogang University
Sponsor(s): William Kennedy
A brief personal bio:
Hello, my name is Angela Hwang and I am currently a freshman Theology/Arts and Letters Pre-Professional major and Catholic Social Tradition minor (Class of 2015). I am from Honolulu, Hawai’i and a first generation Korean-American. I enjoy travelling, and I have travelled abroad once when I was an infant, but I am looking forward to this very exciting opportunity and experience as a student!
Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:
The SLA Grant provides the amazing opportunity to not only better master a foreign language, but to become immersed in a different culture. Studying abroad can exponentially help the growth of one’s fluency and efficiency in a language while exposing a student to a different culture and people. This, I think, is something that can help me foster a deeper appreciation for the unique differences of people around us and shape me to become a better person. As an aspiring Cardiologist, this would be a great advantage to have, since relating to patients is essential. Additionally, the intellectual challenge of living in Korea will be immense, and a positive learning experience that will help me to learn how to overcome uncomfortable situations and grow from them. This will also help me to better work under stressful and foreign situations in the future.
What I hope to achieve as a result of this summer study abroad experience:
As a first-generation Korean-American citizen, and I am very interested in learning more about my heritage. From what I understand, the culture and society in Korea is very different from America, and I am curious about these differences. I do want to explore, perhaps, the reasons why societies can be so different but still work. This grant will also give me opportunities to not only learn in the classroom but outside of the class as well. Thus, I want to become more fluent in the language and be able to interact with native speakers. Since travelling abroad is a great opportunity, I hope to make the most out of it.
My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer:
- By the end of the summer, I will be able to hold complex conversations on a daily basis without awkward pauses.
- By the end of the summer, I will be able to describe the health care system in Korea using appropriate vocabulary.
- By the end of the summer, I will be able to speak, read, write, and listen at a level equal to about two semesters of coursework beyond my current level.
My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:
Not only will I study inside the classroom, but I will try to bring my learning outside of the classroom as well. By going out into community daily, I will attempt to engage in conversations with the locals and purposely put myself in new situations that will push me out of my comfort zone to help facilitate my learning. Since I am going to be in a foreign country, I will immerse myself in the culture with my friends in an attempt to try and see the world through a different perspective. Since I am interested in working in the medical field, I also plan to volunteer at a local hospital, which will not only help me interact with Korean patients but also give me an opportunity to gain some valuable insight of the health care system in Korea.
Reflective Journal Entry 1:
Getting to school was not that difficult: a bus was able to take me directly into Sinchon, the district that my school was located in. However, upon asking the taxi driver for a ride to Sogang University (since I was lost), he shook his head and told me to walk.. Honestly, the distance to the front gate was not that far, but the dormitory was located in the back side of the school and I had to drag my suitcases up a hill so it was quite a journey.
This was an interesting first-day, since in America, I have yet to meet any taxi driver that will not take me somewhere, even if my destination is nearby. I suppose that walking is an encouraged activity in this country.
I think that the culture and style of living in South Korea is going to be a lot different from America.. Hopefully it is a good difference!
Reflective Journal Entry 2:
Shopping In Korea is quite an experience. One of the many markets that my friends and I went to is Myeongdong. Although some street markets are only filled with street vendors, Myeongdong is a mixture of vendors and chain stores. People are always swarming the streets like ants trying to find the best deals on clothes, food, accessories, and other misc. trinkets. Although all of the chain stores are just like the ones you can find in America (ie. Nike, Holister, Ralph Lauren, etc.), the street vendors are what make shopping in Korea very different!
At every street vendor you can haggle for a lower price~ Most of the time, you can get ₩2,000-5,000 off or even ₩100,000 depending on what you are trying to buy! All of the vendors are very friendly and willing to make conversation despite your Korean speaking proficiency.
One interesting thing to note is that everything in Korea that is locally made is relatively cheap! Everything imported is maybe 150% more expensive than buying that same item in America…
Reflective Journal Entry 3:
The country side of South Korea is very different from the city… I suppose it is somewhat like America. But perhaps the difference is more drastic? In the modern city of Seoul, Korea is a like a mix of new and old customs, traditions, and ideals. For instance, there are high skyscrapers and mega screen tvs that fill the streets with people and cars that zoom by every minute. Yet, in the heart of the city is an old traditional palace of the royal families from centuries ago.
If the city is the more modern part of Korea, than the country is definitely the more traditional part. For instance, there are wide open fields and low buildings—there is almost nothing that will block your view of the horizon. The air is clean and fresh and the atmosphere is very slow paced and relaxing.. Everyone wears more comfortable, loose clothing—the difference was amazing.
One memorable thing that I saw in the country side was a traditional village of masks (maori). All of the external parts of the housing and gates have been maintained to be traditional while the inside of the houses have been modernized, but it was still a fascinating site.. It was like being in a historical Korean drama!
Reflective Journal Entry 4:
Everything in Korea is very cute and adorable! Perhaps there are places like this in America, but I have yet to see them.. In South Korea there are many site seeing places that couples frequent, including Namsan Tower and the Wall Painting Village. Namsan, or Seoul Tower is a landmark of the city, but it has been changed in the past years into a couples spot. A newly made tradition of the tower is to put a lock on the fence or a tree with your lover, in hopes of staying together forever. I think that the symbolism is very cute and very Korean, but perhaps that impression is due to watching a lot of Korean dramas?? The wall painting village is also a very cute couple spot to take a stroll at; it is also very famous due to its feature in a Korean drama! I think that simply living in Korea is something special.
Reflective Journal Entry 5:
Getting lost is quite scary in a foreign country… But as long as you’re with (male) friends I suppose it is relatively safe? It’s a good thing that my friends knew the area much better than I did; I would have never made it back to the dorms until morning!
This experience was eye-opening because in a foreign country everything is so different: no cell phone, a different language, no family… You’re essentially on your own, getting lost just verifies that.
However, everyone in the area was very friendly and eventually we were able to catch a taxi back. It’s a good thing that we were in the city! I do think the subway system should run later though…
Reflective Journal Entry 6:
“Service” is something that almost every Korean business offers—perhaps it is a way of ensuring future business? One thing that I have learned about the natives in South Korea is that image is important, which is why customer satisfaction is important. For instance, in Korean restaurants they always give you a free stew/soup along with your meal with unlimited side dishes and (sometimes) rice. They don’t accept tips, yet they are always willing to go the extra mile: they’ll cook your bbq meat and serve it to you. Some things are self service, for instance pouring your own water from a provided water jug, or getting your own coffee, but it is all free.
Another example is karaoke or norebang in Korea. In America, all of the karaoke places I have been to are rather expensive and limited to the time that my friends and I pay for. In Korea it is different. Since norebang is a really popular social activity in South Korea, most places will provide “service” to customers. Most places will, for instance, give you extra time in the room (anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours more!) and some places have complementary snacks such as ice cream, popcorn, and/or slushies! This is one custom in Korea that I will always appreciate.. and secretly wish that America will adopt someday.
Postcard(s) from Abroad:
Reflection on my language learning and intercultural gains:
I feel that getting immersed in the culture of your target language is an experience that can help one not only gain better fluency, but also a better understanding of the peoples who use the language on a daily basis (ie. innovations, connotations, slang, etc.) Living in Hawai’i has already exposed me to a dominant Asian culture (significantly different from that of the mainland America), which had helped me transition quite easily into the Korean lifestyle. One of the most incredible experiences that I got out of the SLA programs was ultimately being surrounded in a different culture with a different national language. Simply by hearing civilians chatter on the streets and the simple day-to-day interactions helps to increase my fluency and listening comprehension of the language. Unfortunately, the summer immersion program that I was enrolled in at Sogang University had a lot more time consuming activities/schedule than I had anticipated, and so I was unable to volunteer at a foreign hospital as I had looked forward to doing.
Reflection on my summer language abroad experience overall:
One thing that I learned while studying abroad was to not be afraid. Although you should always be cautious and aware of your surroundings, don’t let yourself be self conscious or scared to talk with and/or interact with the natives. People from every fold of the world seem to be more understanding than not, and are more than interested in holding a conversation with you. The trouble is holding a conversation in their native language, not yours (haha). Another thing is to think about what you ultimately want to get out of the program. Are there places you want to go see? Foods you want to eat? Or do you simply want to experience a different lifestyle and meet new people? By making a mini itinerary and spending your time wisely, you will be perhaps more able to do more things that you want to do than left wanting to go back another summer as I am.
How I plan to use my language and intercultural competences in the future:
I have made a few native friends from the program that I hope to keep in touch with in order to maintain my level of proficiency in the Korean language. Although I am not enrolled in the next level of Korean this year, I plan to take the advanced level in the future to increase my competency of the language. In the future, I am thinking of perhaps spending some time in Korea to increase my fluency and actually have an opportunity to get involved in the healthcare system in a foreign country. I think that the SLA grant has opened my eyes to ultimately the different social normatives that govern different countries and that there is a lot to learn when you are willing to go beyond your comfort zone. This experience has definitely given me the desire to travel to different foreign countries as well, in order to become exposed to different persons and ideologies and become a better, wholesome individual. I think that by seeing and living with a whole different nation of people’s has giving me a greater desire to learn more languages in order to be able to reach out to other peoples in my future profession.