Sara Anne’s Seoul Blog Entry #5: Koreans “Just Go Hard” In Every Dimension… And I Am Totally Here For It~!!!

“보고 싶은 대로 봐 / 편견은 얼마든지 환영해 / 놀라지 마 반전에”

“Go ahead and see what you want to see / No matter how much prejudice you have, we welcome it / Do not be surprised when we pull a reverse on you”

It really breaks my heart, but the time has come for me to share my last K-Pop song from Korea: “Go Hard” by 트와이스 (“TWICE”). I think this song perfectly describes what my views on Korea has grown to become since arriving here earlier this summer. The people of Korea always do everything to the best of their abilities, even when I may not always understand their methods, and this is a quality that I have grown to admire and that I believe this song is a great descriptor of. Enjoy~!

이건 노래는 한국사람들의 항상 최선을 하는 것을 너무 잘 표 화하는 것 같아요!!! (I feel like this song really represents how the Korean people always do their best!!!)

There are many dimensions along which cultures may differ, including the various spectra of Individualism to Collectivism; Low to High Power Distance Index; Low to High Uncertainty Avoidance; Achievement to Nurturance; Short to Long Term Time Orientation; and Indulgence to Restraint. As I have been alluding to throughout this entire blog series, living in a culture different from your own can really highlight some of the unique ways in which other cultures may view life through different “lenses.” My experiences in Seoul have helped me to better understand where America stands and, critically, where I, myself, stand when it comes to these different cultural viewpoints.

I personally think that one of the most interesting dimensions is that of Achievement over Nurturance, and I was rather surprised to see how similar I was relative to Korea along this dimension. While I may not be entirely aware of why Korean culture emphasizes Achievement so much, I have always been acutely aware of the fact that I personally value Achievement very highly, simply because I think constantly helping others be the best that they can be is the greatest sign of love possible. To me, there does not seem to be as much genuine love in simply coddling a person their entire life; allowing them to face the world alone and deal with their shortcomings independently, helping only when absolutely necessary, may actually be one of the most loving things you can do for a person. Koreans do pursue this idea of Achievement to great lengths as well, ranging from their heavy emphasis on the singular college entry test required to enter one of the SKY schools to the relentless focus on education and long working hours in day-to-day life. In fact, I am constantly impressed and inspired by the hardworking nature of my lab members, with many of them staying in-lab an average minimum of nine hours a day and showing up in spite of rain or shine and sickness or injury. While I acknowledge that American culture has taught me that rest is still important, I cannot help but be a bit awe-struck by their dedication to what they do and can only hope that I will end up in a place where I can perform to a similar level as well one day.

This desire for Achievement did initially confuse me though, since, as many people acknowledge, especially Koreans themselves, Korea is one of the more Collectivist nations. As an American, I come from a place where Individualism is heavily valued, and, yet, while a part of me does want to become the best version of myself, as I previously mentioned, I cannot help but feel as though I am more on an intermediate portion of the scale than both Korea and America. Admittedly, there are likely times where Koreans see me as too Individualistic in that I do still stand out or wish to show my true self in some instances, depending on the situation. However, I seem to have learned to appreciate the Collectivistic ideals in Korea, especially since it still somehow lines up with my desire to become the best, possible version of myself. While many Americans may believe it to be restrictive and an infringement on independence, I think that Koreans view Collectivism more as an opportunity to figure out where exactly you belong within the community. When viewing this dimension through such a light, it actually makes the striving for Achievement rather profound, in that you are not only doing your best for the sake of yourself, but you are also doing your best for the sake of those around you. It simply feels like a more selfless point of view that allows for people to put everything in life into context more easily.

An interesting aspect of the Collectivist dimension of Korean culture is that it seems to have led to the development of multiple heterostereotypes in the West that often suggest that Koreans do not know how to enjoy themselves. Therefore, many Westerners seem to assume that Korea falls on the Restraint side of the cultural spectrum, when, in reality, they are one of the most Indulgent cultures I have ever seen in one of the coolest ways possible. Remember that the final theme song that I had decided on for Korea was titled “Go Hard.” Well, from personal experience, Koreans live by the mantra of “going hard” in everything they do, meaning their lifestyle can easily live out definition of “work hard, play hard.” In fact, it flew in the face of my own autostereotype of Americans as well in that I had originally believed Americans were undeniably some of the best partygoers on the planet, when Koreans may actually be on a similar level if not better in some circumstances. Though their desire for Achievement may drive them to do their work to the best of their ability, it does seem that this desire for Achievement similarly permeates into their personal lives as well. Therefore, not only do they want to be the best in their work, but they want to be the best in their play as well. One cultural aspect of Korean work culture that is a fun example of this is that of 회식, or the concept of “business dinners,” where Koreans meet up with their fellow business or lab members to eat, drink, and bond late into the night every once in awhile for the sake of team building and community formation.

In light of understanding the differences between the various cultural dimensions of Korea and of America, I think one adjustment in attitude that I may carry with me more long-term despite my impending return to America is the Korean tendency towards a more Long-Term versus Short-Term Time Orientation. Compared to the American culture of immediate gratification and immediate results, while Koreans may appear to be fast-paced in physical transit, their method of development over time appears to be more slow yet steady. There is a much greater emphasis on planning and the careful construction of relationships and community than on immediate promotions and growth spurts, which has produced a surprisingly rapidly-growing economy and business sphere in Korea. In taking a more Long-Term approach to growth and progress, Korea has actually been able to keep up relatively well with their Short-Term counterparts in the West, and so, I think these values may be worth hanging on to and learning from, even if I may be living in a more Short-Term Oriented location again soon.

One cultural dimension that I wish I had more information on and a better understanding of when it comes to Korean culture is that of their stances on Low versus High Uncertainty Avoidance. It does seem that, compared to America, Korea is rather High in Uncertainty Avoidance. Yet, as I recently mentioned, Korean culture has had some of the most impressive advances in culture, economy, and technology that I have ever learned about in history. I am genuinely curious how such growth can occur so quickly with such a High level of Uncertainty Avoidance, since risk-taking has always been taught as a crucial part of development in America. I wish I had more insight on this dimension of the Korean culture, since I really want to learn a lot more about how to deal with uncertainty in a safer manner without compromising forward progression. If I had more time in Korea, I would love to look into how they are able to pull off the simultaneous safeguard of tradition and pursuit of progress.

In a similar manner to that of the stereotypes spurred by Collectivism, the other cultural dimension that seems to lead to a lot of stereotype formation around Koreans is that of Korea’s High Power Index, which has historical roots in Confucianism. There truly is a hierarchy, as is alluded to in many Western stereotypes of South Korea, and it often does lead to a complication of many people’s understanding of Korean culture, including my own. While Achievement and Indulgence are valued very highly, there is still an emphasis on the fact that every person has their own place in society, without as much apparent room for climbing the hierarchical ladder as in the United States. Initially, from an American perspective, this, like Collectivism, can appear to be a very restrictive aspect of Korean culture. In fact, I was initially so scared to speak Korean with my lab members for fear of accidentally disrespecting the hierarchy. However, as I have come to learn, this hierarchy is not as critical to everyday life as I had initially believed, and a better understanding of how it works has enhanced my appreciation of Korean culture. In fact, my lab members were rather surprised that I was so concerned with the hierarchy, with one of them even joking that she forgets to use honorifics with her older lab members all the time, and those “mistakes” only ever result in a playful scolding at most. While a High Power Index does align well with Collectivism, there appears to be more of a growth mindset in Korea when it comes to learning from other cultures and adapting to the times. I think this is supported by the combined values of Achievement and Indulgence that allow for Koreans to “go hard” in every aspect of their lives. Korea is a culture that values being the best and doing their best in every possible way, meaning that, while they do hold a High Power Index in that they desire to show genuine respect for those with more experience in life, they are still willing to adapt and are likely much less strict about sticking with one form of social hierarchy in the future. In general, it seems that South Korea is an intriguing balance of growth and tradition, and I have come to a better understanding of this through my exploration of how, exactly, Koreans practice their High Power Index in their daily lives.

Honestly speaking, there is so much more that I could say about the many dimensions of Korean culture, since South Korea truly has a rich culture and community to learn from. However, for the sake of time, and considering the fact that I would need much more time to properly process and analyze the various connections that come together to formulate the network of Korea’s unique culture, I will leave my present statements as basic foundations to build on in the future for now. Words cannot describe how much I have grown to love being in Korea, and I am admittedly incredibly sad that I have to leave. Yet, as I had noted in my previous post, I will simply have faith that I will always end up where I am meant to be, when I am meant to be there, and I will just see where my future adventures take me. Despite any difficulties, struggles, and failures that I have faced, I will always look back on all of these memories with a smile on my face, because I think that I have grown more and become more of my authentic self throughout my entire experience here, flaws and all. I look forward to finding out where I end up next, and I hope and pray that, one day, I will be able to return to this beautiful country and continue to build the unforgettable connections and relationships that I had the opportunity to create during this dream of a summer abroad.

I hope that, through the way I live my life going forward, I can somehow bring a bit of Korea home with me by following in their example and “going hard” in every aspect of my life to become the best possible person that I can be. I am looking forward to the future, and I feel incredibly blessed by my entire experience here. I can only pray, wait, and see what other adventures God has planned for me in the future, but I know that my Seoul adventure will always hold a special place in my heart and memories, and I am forever grateful for it. Thank you all for sharing this journey with me, and I am waiting (impatiently) for the next good adventure that heads my way!!!


Sara Anne Festin

P.S. I am even thinking of picking up an online degree in teaching English as a foreign language so that I may have more options to return to Korea in the future… you know, just in case~

Blog Post #6

As my time in Portugal comes to a close, it was interesting to read about Hofstede’s D6 model and think about the similarities and differences between my host country and my home country. One of the dimensions I saw most in my day-to-day life was the concept of individualism. Portugal scores a 27 in this category, compared to the U.S.’s 91. In Portugal, everyone is treated like family, and the concept of a “boss” seems fairly foreign. Everyone calls everyone by their first names and greets them with a hug and kiss. At Mila, the owner and manager both would work the floor. Other interns I talked to would take coffee breaks with their bosses. It’s a much more collective society. In the U.S., there is definitely more hierarchy, especially at work. There just tends to be a degree of separation between the “employees” and the managerial roles that you don’t necessarily see in Portugal. I do think that sometimes maintaining a professional environment is a good thing; people tend to get more work done and aspire to move up in the rankings. But there is something undeniably special and warm about a place where you are treated as family the moment you walk in the door. 

A second dimension that I found interesting was the concept of masculinity. Portugal scores a 31 here, while the U.S. scores a 62. This means that Portugal is a more “feminine country”, while the U.S. is more “masculine”. According to the model, this means that a country like Portugal focuses more on “equality, solidarity, and quality in their working lives” and try to solve conflict with compromise and gentle negotiation. Time off work tends to be generous. The U.S. is different, in that there tends to be more competition in work and school and more emphasis placed on achievements and success. I think this is valid. In Portugal, life seems to be quite laid back. School and work doesn’t generally seem to be as demanding and competitive in the United States. Coming from a competitive high school, college admissions process, rowing team, and now at a competitive university, it is a bit of a welcome change. I personally do really value competition, but it comes with a cost sometimes. Portugal has seemed to try to do away with competition. 

Blog Post 6 CSLC – Running to Notre Dame

Bouqinistes of Paris with Notre Dame de Paris and Pont de la Tournelle with the statue of ​​Sainte Geneviève

I like to run. I throw on my headphones, put on some punk rock, and clear my mind. When I was in Paris last summer, I was never able to establish a running routine, but this year, I created a habit of running before dinner. I would walk down Rue de Pontoise onto Quai de la Tournelle and then down onto the banks of the Seine. The run east was always interesting. I would run past people dancing by the banks, and people meeting up for picnics with their friends. I would run under bridges that always smelled bad. I would see restaurants and boats with houses, restaurants, and even a boat converted into a swimming pool, Piscine Joséphine Baker. All of these were true in Paris. I would see other people out for a run, all going about their day-to-day life. I was not an American Tourist when I would go for a run. I was just another weirdo trying out this new trend called jogging!

The return trip, however, was the best part of the day. I would be exhausted from running, and pain in my ankles thanks to the uneven cobblestone of the banks, but then I would see Notre Dame de Paris on the horizon. It was my beacon home. Once I saw the cathedral, I knew my run was almost over. It was one of the coolest feelings I experienced in Paris. I had gone beyond just being a tourist, but that cathedral would consistently take my breath away. To be able to enter into the routineness of a daily jog, but allow it to be highlighted by the beauty of Paris, this showed me I had made it. 

These runs were my victory lap. They proved that I could belong in Paris, and as of today, a week since my return, I miss those runs the most. They were nothing special but showed me that I could be a normal Parisian. Running is not always easy, but every time I saw Notre Dame in view, I would start to smile. Suddenly, I was not just running to stay in shape, I was running to be a part of the city. On the last run I took, I could not help to think how reflective each run was of my own Parisian experience. It was all just one big journey away from Notre Dame, and in a few short days, I will be back under the Golden Dome.

El Fin

¡Buenas! I arrived in the US about two weeks ago and have been catching up with family, getting use to the heat here, and working as a swim instructor. I was super sad to leave my host family, coworkers, internship, and friends all in Costa Rica. But I will never forget the great adventures I’ve had during my time there.

Working in a clinic in another country was full of surprises. I have learnt so much about how medicine works in Costa Rica and how to do different things. What I value most of all is the interactions I was able to witness between the doctor and her patients. It was amazing to see the time and dedication she put in each consult. No matter the degree of the problem, Dra. Gabi would always be there for her patients and make sure that they felt comfortable and cared for.

I think that Dra.’s attitude toward her patients is a quality that goes beyond the medical world though. Through the cultural awareness modules we have been completing with the CSLC, I have come to recognize the importance of patience and care in all interactions.

The program opened my eyes to the fact that immersing oneself in a new environment and culture is no easy feat. When entering this unfamiliar setting, we are immediately displacing ourselves from the known– a fact that is often not credited enough. We are thrown into the cultural deep end and have to teach ourselves to “swim.” This swimming can occur by beginning to understand and appreciate practices and customs, trying our best with the native language, challenging our own beliefs based on what we experience.

Dra. Gabi’s care and dedication are the exact tools we need to stay afloat in this new and exciting deep end. By beginning to invest in opening our worldview, we can challenge our comfort and grow as we experience the new.

I am so grateful for this once in a lifetime opportunity and am so thankful for the CSLC, the PRAXIS Center, the Centro Médico Integral Andalucía, and everyone who supported me on this journey.

Pura Vida

I have a tendency to overthink

Cultural tendencies are inclinations of different cultures to exhibit certain behaviors. Learning about the Hofstede dimensions of culture allows us to explore these cultural tendencies and how they compare and contrast between nations.

This concept seems pretty simple on the surface. For example, America: the land of the free, home to the American dream, where people love reaping the benefits of their hard work. It seems fairly safe to say that there is a greater focus on achievement than nurturance when compared to Italy: land of the coffee break and home to many a fine wine. However, this is not always the case. It was and is my experience attending a top 20 university in America where everyone was an overachiever in high school, compared to working in one research laboratory in rural Italy. But, university is often used as a steppingstone for the rest of life, a job basically is the rest of life. The comparison doesn’t seem fair.

Whilst it’s difficult to try to make things seem black and white when the reality is that there are many shades of grey in between, I appreciate the thinking that the cultural dimensions promotes. Do Italians act in a more collectivist or individualistic manner? Are they making decisions for what they want right now or thinking about the future? Do they show restraint, or do they indulge? The answers seem to always be somewhere in the middle, but it’s interesting to consider the differences between what I perceive is the motivation for their actions and their real intentions. However, something that I can comment on with a high degree of certainty is how I present each cultural dimension in different countries, and, therefore, how exposure to each culture has impacted me. I think I am…

In Italy: individualist, low power distance index, medium-low uncertainty avoidance, nurturance leaning, time orientated both short and long term, and indulgence leaning.

Compared to in America: halfway between individualist and collectivist, medium power distance index, low uncertainty avoidance, achievement leaning, long term time orientated, and slightly restraint leaning.

Reconciling New Perspectives

I have been continuing to enjoy my time here in Lisbon. I recently faced a bit of uncertainty with trying to continue to reconcile my expectations of having an organized and demanding ‘corporate America’ internship with the reality that I’m living which is a ‘Portuguese non-profit’ internship. I have learned to appreciate how open my boss has been to communicating with me and this has made my experience a lot better. I am now working on the ‘atendimentos’ with immigrants who come to Renovar a Mouraria seeking guidance and help with their transitions to Portugal.

I am working with some other outstanding individuals with all sorts of different backgrounds. I have met people from Brazil, Chile, France, Spain, Italy, Moçambique, Bangladesh, Ginuea-Bissau, and Portugal of course. The number of cultures, identities, and individualities that I have been exposed to has enriched my individual culture so much. As I am learning about the Portuguese immigration process I am also practicing my Portuguese, learning some words in French, trying Bangladeshi food, and talking about the culture in Italy. This internship has been a great immersive experience and I feel very grateful for being able to participate in it.

I am not going to lie, however, that I’m still struggling to get used to the change in pace of life. This is one of the things that when I got to Lisbon was very frustrating for me. As an Ecuadorian I thought that we already had a relatively slower-paced life (especially when compared to America) but as I’ve spent my time here in Lisbon I’ve quickly realized that the softer European pace of life is very different to anything I am used to. It has become pretty frustrating to have to wait. a lot for instructions, approvals, or email responses. It is frustrating to know you could be a lot more productive if the hour-and-a-half lunch break was an hour shorter. However, I have come to realize that this frustration is actually a sign of impatience and I would like to go back to enjoy life at a slower pace.

I think about how a slower-paced life can help people live more calmly and enjoy every second of their existence a little bit more my frustration changes. I see an opportunity to grow and to learn and I want to set this goal to really learn to enjoy a slower-paced life. I find that the meaning of life is hidden in the interactions and realizations you have on a daily basis . That moment when you can just sit in the sun and be. Or the moment when you actually go to the coffee shop and have a conversation with the waiter or drink your coffee while sitting down and simply ENJOYING it. That is what life is about and that is one of the things that I would love to get from this experience.

Blog Post #4

As I’m wrapping up my time here in Portugal, it’s been nice to take a moment to reflect on some of the earlier critical incidents I experienced while I was here. I distinctly remember the first day I arrived at my internship placement, a brunch spot in a trendy, up-and-coming location in Lisbon. My mind immediately went into overdrive trying to take in the new surroundings and the new people. At Notre Dame, students tend to be fairly similar: many of us dress alike, wear our hair alike, and speak alike. At Mila, everyone is unapologetically different. The description that ran through my mind was something along the lines of: guy with pink hair and earrings, girl with black hair and tattoos, guy with long hair and gauges, girl with short hair and glasses. The owner wore vans and chains. I began to interpret that they were probably pretty free spirited and crazy, and that we wouldn’t get along because we’re just so different. The verification and evaluation came as I began to work there, and I realized I was both right and wrong. I was right that the people at Mila were different than anyone I was friends with at home: they spent almost every night partying, they talked about the next tattoo or piercing they were going to get. They didn’t go to college and for the most part didn’t want to marry or have kids. I was pleasantly surprised, though, at despite these differences, how well we did get along. They let me in on their jokes, gave me responsibilities, and acted like I was actually a member of the staff. They made me laugh all the time. It was such a wonderful, fulfilling experience and I’m glad I didn’t just fall into the trap of closing down when I felt like I probably wouldn’t have much in common with someone. 

Blog #5: The D6 Dimensions

I’m writing this blog post from a less-than-comfortable terminal seat in the Milan-Malpensa Airport, reflecting on my past ten weeks studying both chemistry and Italian at l’Università degli Studi di Milano. At the end of our cultural experience abroad, a reflection utilizing the Hofstede Insights allows me as a student to truly reflect on the cultural differences I’ve been privileged enough to observe and experience this summer. Using the Hofstede D6 Insights allows me and my cohort to better identify these differences to gain the most out of our immersion as it comes to a close. For me, identifying differences is integral in my cultural understanding. 

One of the D6 dimensions I felt a dissonance between the USA and Italy was in Long-Term Orientation—more to say the emphasis on past culture and history in modern context. In Italy, history is everything. Culture is everything. From ancient Roman architecture to the use of the formal, Italy grounds itself in the past and respecting it. While the appreciation of history and culture is something that I absolutely devoured while in Italy—either via museums or just casual conversations with friends—there was a palpable difference to engaging in history here versus in the US. Not only is there just more culture in the sense of more time passing, but also in the feeling that history is immovable. In the USA, the majority of my historical knowledge came and went with AP US History and not much more beyond that. I would never consider myself the most well-versed in the context of American culture on that front, and so even at the personal level, my Long-Term Orientation is minimal when compared to Italy. Moving forward, not only just for Italian history and culture but also my own, I definitely want to engage more and make sure that I’m allowing my culture and its history to be shared.

Another dimension I felt a noticeable difference in was Indulgence. Something that surprised me when I had been in Italy for a few weeks was that Italians don’t really indulge in the same way Americans do. While, yes, I was in Milan—the fashion capital of essentially the world—I didn’t see many of my peers decked out day-to-day in designer brands. Clothes were understated, everyone brought their lunch everyday, and sweet treats were only for once and a while. I’m not sure why I expected Italians to indulge in the same way Americans did—maybe because of the rich pastas and delicious pizza on top of well-curated wine collections—but I soon realized that these decadent pieces of Italian culture are treated very dearly. Cultural appreciation reserves true indulgences for when they are significant. Instead, Italians definitely have their greatest indulgence in what Americans colloquially call “self-care.” Long lunches, social aperitivo, and evenings with loved ones are Italy’s greatest indulgence, which is something I grew to love. I definitely, when able, want to bring back this sentiment of treating the self emotionally instead of with material goods—I think life is better that way.

My ten weeks in Italy, as my friend affectionately pokes fun at me for saying, were “fantastico.” Every person I met, every place I went, and every new experience I got the privilege of living have completely changed my perspective for the better. While, yes, my Italian improved by an immeasurable margin, my appreciation for other cultures even outside Italian—through Greek and French erasmus students, through late night excursions to my favorite kebab place, and even conversations with someone random on the train—grew into something beautiful. Taking all these moments with me (and a scrapbook of memories), it is safe to say that Italy is a part of my life that I will never forget.

Arrivederci, Milano. Alla prossima!

Sara Anne’s Seoul Blog Entry #4: Hold Your Breath, And (Love) D.I.V.E.

“아름다운 까만 눈빛 더 빠져 깊이 / (넌 내게로, 난 네게료)”

“Falling deeper into those beautiful, black eyes / (From you to me and me to you)”

I ended up liking the idea of sharing some Korean media in my posts, especially since I do also enjoy K-Pop quite a bit, so I found another song that remains on-theme with today’s post about the D.I.V.E. Model for critical incidents in other countries: “LOVE DIVE” by 아이브 (IVE).

사랑 노래인데 이번 노래도 제 생각에서는 한국 문화한테 사랑 노래가 될 수 있어요 ㅋㅋㅋ! (This song is a love song, but I think it can also become my love song for Korean culture haha!)

As many who have attempted to live in a different country would likely agree, learning to live in a new culture is a lot like building a new relationship. In the context of my running metaphor of “cultural lenses,” the first phase may be similar to when you first become infatuated with a significant other in the “honeymoon phase” such that “love can be blind.” At these early stages, your lenses may initially be “clouded” by preconceived biases and romances about a country when you first arrive. In fact, those lenses may continue to “fog up” over and over again, even after you clear them the first time. Those few, humbling instances of clarity that “wipe away the fog” often involve what can be described as “critical incidents” in your host country.

In a previous blog entry, I know I have described some of my own critical incidents that occurred early on in my internship in Korea, and, as uncomfortable as they have been, they have not exactly gone away, but I think this is a good thing. In particular, I will describe one critical incident that was notably difficult incredibly but important as a part of my experience in Korea: since I am (sadly) coming to the end of my internship, I just did my final presentation in front of the other lab members yesterday, and I think this has become a big critical incident for me, simply due to the large wave of emotions that have overcome me since it ended. It has been a lot to process, and I am honestly still processing it, which is why, with the help of this blog, I will work on breaking it down according to the D.I.V.E. Model.

The first step of the D.I.V.E. Model is to (“D”) describe the critical incident. Basically, my entire internship has consisted of preparing for this final presentation by conducting my own literary review and reading through countless papers on my chosen topic of visual stereotypes. I have even been building up a hypothesis on a possible research question to tentatively propose during this presentation. Naturally, as an introverted person, I was terrified to do this, since presentations are nightmares incarnated for me. To make matters worse, two days before this presentation, I ended up losing my voice from overexertion, which made the whole situation even scarier. So, when the moment came, I felt completely unprepared, and I was super self-conscious the entire time because of my hoarse voice. Additionally, since this is a Korean lab, a majority of the discussion was held in Korean, but I think, as I had alluded to in my last post about critical incidents, the lab members felt somewhat bad for me, with my slower responses in Korean, so several of them switched to English. As with the other critical incidents where this happened, this did not really make me feel better and, rather, made me more self-conscious about the presentation. Though I have a better understanding of why they do it, I was still so flustered by this switch to English, that I struggled to respond to any further questions they asked at all. This was a particularly difficult struggle to deal with when it came to the hypothesis I had so carefully crafted, since I was at a loss for words when we ended up discussing it. Then, as the “cherry on top,” I accidentally disconnected from the Zoom meeting much earlier than expected, so, when one of the members texted me, asking me where I went, I felt completely mortified. Overall, though I had originally been excited to participate more in the lab via this presentation, I ended up completely overwhelmed and disappointed in my own performance.

The second step of the D.I.V.E. Model is to (“I”) interpret the critical incident. I think I somewhat covered this in my initial response to the presentation, but, to go more into depth on my evaluation of the whole scenario, I honestly had a lot of trouble going to sleep last night, because I felt completely ashamed. I was so embarrassed, because I interpreted this presentation as a failure in my final attempt to connect and integrate with the lab. After my stumbles through the presentation, I fully believed the lab members either, at best, pitied me or, at worst, were offended or found my presentation laughable. I evaluated this entire presentation as a bit of a letdown on my part, since I failed to show that I have adapted to life in the lab and instead believed that I had displayed sheer incompetence. I think this evaluation aligns with a lot of my initial cultural expectations, since, in the United States, though I still get anxious during presentations, I have never felt as though communication is an issue, since English has always been a strong suit of mine. It was therefore a shock to realize that I may not have been communicating my points as clearly as I had originally thought. Additionally, it aligns with some of my ingrained views as a daughter of immigrants that anything less than the best or perfection feels inadequate. Though this is not a belief that I think my parents actually hold, it has been one that I have held personally for a long time, since I have always wanted to make my parents proud, knowing how hard they had worked to come to America. Therefore, my interpretation really appears to be a clear display of my own cultural expectations on my competence and incompetence in the face of pressure.

The third step of the D.I.V.E. Model is to (“V”) verify the critical incident. Due to the nervousness and disappointment caused by my own high expectations, I was very emotional during the entire presentation and have been dealing with those feelings ever since. I felt worried, because I was scared that I had left a bad impression on my lab members and may never be welcome back if I eventually decided that I wanted to visit or to collaborate with them again in the future. I felt sad, because I thought that my inability to present in the way I had initially hoped for was a sign that I did not properly adapt to my lab setting and that I had failed myself. I felt angry with myself, because I kept coming up with all the ways I could have made that presentation even better, even though I have been putting in consistent work on it ever since I got to Korea. As I am walking through the D.I.V.E. Model, I am realizing that I have let my emotions drive all of my interpretations of what I have done ever since the beginning of this internship. While emotions do occasionally give useful information, I need to remember that I still have not actually verified what, exactly, the lab members think of me. I do not actually know if they think less of me now, and, even if they do, they must have at least seen me doing my best at all points in this internship — even to the point of presenting with a hoarse voice — and any negative impression is not a complete reflection of the entire nation’s opinion of me. Though I am still working through a lot of these complicated emotions, since some of them may also be related to the fact that I do not want the internship to end, I do feel at least a little bit of relief after working through the D.I.V.E. Model. Additionally, I hope to be able to build up the courage to verify this incident with one of the lab members or the lab director before I leave. I either want to know what I can work on if I truly did give a bad presentation, or I want to be able to reassure myself that any mistakes and stumbles do not necessarily lead to a change in a person’s whole impression of me.

The fourth step of the D.I.V.E. Model is to (“E”) evaluate the critical incident. Honestly speaking, since this occurred literally yesterday, I know my emotions may still produce a lot of bias in my evaluation, but I think that, at the very least, my evaluation of the entire situation has become slightly more positive. I see this as a learning experience and a period of growth, where I get to view my own limitations, but I also can see how far I have come in my Korean communication skills. Though I am not at the level of fluency I had hoped to be at, I have still improved markedly. In addition to improvements in my language skills, I even learned a lot about myself and gained a lot of ideas on what I want to do with my future by doing the lab work. Overall, though it was not a particularly fun presentation, I still think it was an important point in my journey in Korea, as it showed off my newfound strengths and weaknesses after spending a couple of months in a culture that is quite different from what I am used to.

After using the D.I.V.E. Model, I have found that I am able to look at extremely emotionally-charged experiences from a more rational perspective, and it allows me to grow from any experiences that may initially have seemed only negative in the moment. I do think that I will continue to keep this model in mind as I move forward in my life, especially if I do get to return to Korea once more, as I am hoping and dreaming. I believe it can really help me to take a step back from overwhelming experiences and view them with more clarity.

Returning to my initial metaphors, I believe the D.I.V.E. Model is one way to “clean” the lenses of your “cultural glasses,” especially when they are “fogged over” by powerful emotions. Additionally, it really aligns with the idea that entering into a new culture is a lot like entering into a new relationship. In relationships, it is important to look past the emotional aspects of it to see clearly whether or not it is reasonable to keep the relationship going. The D.I.V.E. Model provides a method by which you can more objectively evaluate various scenarios in such a relationship. If the problems and conflicts appear to be deeper than expected, then it may be worth reconsidering whether you truly want to continue to engage in this relationship. However, if you find that you are genuinely willing to put in the time and energy to work through these difficulties, then you may be able to better discern this through the D.IV.E. Model. I think that the D.I.V.E. Model is generally a useful tool in guiding a person’s interactions, both in interpersonal relationships and in intercultural relationships, and so, I will definitely be keeping it in my mind’s toolbox as I continue to meet more people and figure out where I would like to end up in the future.

Since this is one of my last few blog posts on this Korea adventure, I also want to note that I am just incredibly grateful that this internship has given me so many opportunities to learn and to grow, and, even through the difficult moments, I have been able to continue that growth into a better version of myself. I am genuinely so sad that I have to leave such a beautiful country and have been increasingly concerned with finding ways to come back, since I am aware it only gets harder the older I get, but, somehow, I know that, deep in my heart, regardless of where I end up, this internship will always be a foundational part of who I am as I continue forward in my life. I am also having faith that I will end up exactly where I am meant to be when I am meant to be there. I am very excited to see where my life is headed, both as I approach the end of this internship and as I enter into the unknowns of my future. I will forever be grateful for all the experiences, good and bad, that I have had during my time in Korea, and I hope that, for anyone reading these posts, they have inspired you to chase after your own adventures, wherever you may be, No matter how scary it may seem, I fully encourage you: if there is something you know, deep in your heart, that you want to do, just “hold your breath, and love dive” right in, since you never know what you may find!


Sara Anne

P.S. Honestly speaking, as an introvert who loves quiet nights in, living in Hongdae, a city that is well known for its bustling nightlife, was initially intimidating, but I learned to fall in love with the beautiful aspects of its crazy nights, and this became my own, personal “love dive.” There is such a wide variety of people from all over the world that visit this area, and, in spite of the times that are hectic and chaotic, there is always a new experience around every corner, which I learned to appreciate as a unique part of Korean culture. Hongdae clearly reflects the “work hard, play hard” mindset that many young Koreans seem to hold dearly! I am definitely going to miss the incredible sights and sounds of this city — Hongdae really is one of those cities that never sleeps~ I just thought this was a fun example of diving into something that may not feel entirely comfortable at first but that may provide experiences that you could not find anywhere else or by just “dipping your toes in,” as they say…

Breaking Stereotypes: Unpacking the United States Healthcare System Through Italian Perspectives

Throughout my internship at a free medical clinic for refugees in Italy, I have interacted with a diverse array of medical professionals and patients accustomed to various healthcare systems. One recurring theme that has intrigued me is the hetero-stereotype many Italian colleagues hold about the United States healthcare system, a topic that often arises in our professional exchanges.

Many healthcare workers here hold the belief that the US healthcare system is prohibitively expensive and largely inaccessible to low-income individuals. These perceptions are shaped partly by personal anecdotes, international media narratives, and stories they’ve heard about individuals grappling with medical costs in the U.S.

Earlier this week, I had a revealing conversation with one of the physicians I work with. He recounted a visit to the US several years ago where he was taken aback by the high costs of emergency healthcare services for a seemingly minor injury. His understanding of the US healthcare system was also shaped by news reports and films portraying Americans struggling with medical expenses.

Interestingly, he acknowledged the exceptional quality of healthcare in the U.S. He also recognized the considerable funding and resources devoted to research and volunteer services in America, a facet he found illuminating.
In contrast, as an American university student who has volunteered in U.S. medical services, my perspective is layered. While I agree with the perceived high costs, I’m also aware of the numerous safety nets in place to ensure that healthcare isn’t completely out of reach for the less affluent. My experiences in both countries have been quite distinct yet share parallels.

Italian healthcare professionals perceive healthcare as a fundamental right for all citizens, reflecting the ethos of Italy’s universal healthcare system. In contrast, the US system is regarded as a valuable service, yet one heavily influenced by market dynamics.

Prior to this internship, I held hetero-stereotypes about Italian healthcare, imagining it as a sluggish and inefficient system—a perception partially influenced by complaints from my relatives. However, my hands-on experience in the refugee clinic has completely shattered these assumptions. We routinely see all patients who come for help within a three-hour window—a testament to the efficiency of this system. It’s been humbling and inspiring to witness the dedication and commitment of healthcare professionals in this setting.

Engaging in these exchanges has been invaluable in broadening my understanding of healthcare systems in different cultural contexts. As healthcare providers, it’s vital that we challenge our stereotypes, foster open dialogues, and cultivate empathy to ensure quality care for all—no matter where we practice.