Sara Anne’s Post-Arrival Blog Entry #6: Distance Makes The Heart Grow Fonder…

“인생은 모험이다.”

(“Life is an adventure.”)

Well, I am back America after one of the greatest adventures of my life, but I think one thing that I hope to remember after all of this is that this is just the beginning of my biggest adventure of all. “인생은 모험이다,” or “Life is an adventure,” so it is my goal to make the most of every moment of it, while taking all the lessons and the growth from all of my past adventures to make each new one even better… I am getting ahead of myself, though. Since I have been sharing some Korean songs throughout my time in Korea, now that I am back in the States, I think it is fitting for me to share an American song that is on theme with the post. So, without further ado, I hope you all enjoy one more song that my brother had shared with me in the past and that I believe to be rather fitting for what I will be covering in this final blog post: “Figure Me Out” by “The Summer Set.”

인생은 매일에 배우고 있고 좋아지고 있는 모험이라고 생각해요. (I think that life is an adventure where I am learning and improving every day.)

So, as I have alluded to with my recent song choice, this post will be all about wrapping up my experience abroad by discussing how, exactly, it has affected me and by setting the rest of the foundations for how I will move forward into the long and daunting future of figuring myself out. I believe that I mentioned in my first blog post that this summer internship actually marks the start of my senior year at the University of Notre Dame. In a romantically poetic way, my story in Seoul started the end of my Notre Dame experience. While I still am fully against overly-idealizing things, I believe everything in my life seems to have lined up way too well when it comes to my once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in Korea. I will forever be grateful for every aspect of my time abroad during this foreign language internship, and I am sure that I will always hold the memories of my time in South Korea in my heart as highlights for the rest of my life.

Firstly, I would like to revisit my first post, where I wrote about my goals for this incredible internship experience. In order to provide a quick recap, one of my goals was to set up a basis for my own cultural identity, and my other goal was to better understand how my personal cultures are interrelated with the Korean culture as I learn to interact with the community. As a general, overarching goal, I had the hope and great expectation that this summer I would help to start myself off on the long and winding road to “figuring myself out,” hence my final song choice. It would not be an understatement to say that my expectations in this area were greatly exceeded, but I am pretty sure that it happened in the most unexpected ways imaginable. After all, not everything on this trip could be considered a success. Because of everything, both the successes and failures, that I have experienced during my wonderful weeks in Seoul, I managed to learn so much about myself: my values, my strengths, my weaknesses, and my hopes and dreams for who I hope to become. With all of this invaluable information, my confidence has grown, and, for the first time in a long time, I feel as though I have a greater sense of purpose and direction in life. At the very least, I now know for a fact that I definitely want to return at least once to the beautiful Republic of Korea~! It is important to reiterate that this experience, as with every other experience in life, was not absolutely perfect, and I definitely have my regrets, but the critical part is that I learned from each and every moment and memory I made, even the mistakes. In this internship, I got to know myself in ways that I never have before, and I also found myself growing in genuine love for my true self while I was “falling in love” with Korea and the Korean culture.

Armed with the vast array of new knowledge that I have gathered during my time in Korea, I know for a fact that I will be living my life much more authentically from this moment on, especially since I have a much better understanding of who I am and my own, personal culture. Because of this, I can easily claim to be one of the cliche people who, though it may appear overly exaggerated at times, can safely say that “study abroad changed my life” and sincerely mean every word of it. During this entire journey of an internship, I truly grew in body, mind, and spirit. I learned so many, different, new lessons on independence, determination, creativity, and the general concept of self from every, single person I met, whether they were American, Korean, Filipino, or otherwise. I have come to experience so much more than ever before and have grown in sincere appreciation for every single aspect of both my own, personal culture and that of the country of South Korea. The increased confidence in myself and the greater appreciation for both myself and for Seoul that I have acquired during this internship experience are absolutely priceless, and I would not trade them for anything else in the world. I will be holding onto and treasuring each and every one of the memories I have made in Korea for the rest of my life, and I can confidently say that my life will never be the same because of them.

I can also safely say that my world viewpoints — my “cultural lenses” — have been forever affected or “tinted” in the best ways possible by my time abroad. I have learned such a large amount about the elusive and complex concept of culture through both the instruction of my foreign language internship cohort and through unforgettable firsthand experiences, and this new understanding is something I could not have attained anywhere else. In immersing myself fully in my new Seoul lifestyle, I learned a lot about the many similarities and differences between American and Korean culture through personal experience, and I gradually came to realize that culture is much more complicated than what many people originally believe. Culture is not merely a social tool that is cognitively constructed to categorize other people (even though, technically, according to some fields of study, this would be a more correct definition). Rather, I now believe that, while big Cs — or general cultures — may exist, every human being is so much more than just one of these general cultures. Due to the incredible beauty behind the presence of individual differences, it is absolutely key to look at each person as a unique culture in and of themselves and to learn about them as a full person instead of only focusing on one aspect of their little culture — or the smaller cultures that they are a part of and that make up mere bits and pieces of who they are. In other words, while “culture” may initially seem like a big thing, to see the even bigger picture of who an individual truly is, you have to look at them as a unique combination of many cultures or even a custom-chosen culture of their own. If we could learn how to view others in light of this perspective and thus appreciate the complex nature of every person around us, I believe it could easily lead to a more comprehensive understanding of others which, in turn, may overall result in a more loving and open society in the future.

이건 플레이리스트를 서울에서 만들었어요 — 만드려고 한국사람한태서 노래 추천들을 많이 받았어요~ ㅋㅋㅋ! (I made this playlist in Seoul — I received a lot of song recommendations from Koreans to make it~ lol!)

I am honestly rather hesitant to write this as a “final” post, since, even though this is the last post I am technically required to write, I truly think that my Seoul adventure is just the start of a much greater adventure: a journey of self-discovery and true exploration that will last throughout the rest of my life. In fact, as I am writing this, I have started taking a “teaching English as a foreign language” class; I got the idea from foreign English teachers in Korea. This means that, even though one chapter of the story has come to a close, my novel adventures around the globe are only beginning, especially in relation to Korea. I miss Seoul so much, and, honestly, with each passing day I seem to miss it — and every little, unique detail that makes the South Korean lifestyle special — a little bit more (for, as they say “distance makes the heart grow fonder”). However, it is also rather nice to be able to reconnect with my roots after traveling so far for awhile. Having time to reconnect with my family, both in the Philippines and at home in Minnesota, after my time in Korea has only solidified and built upon everything that I have learned so far, and it has helped me to grow in appreciation for each and every one of the cultures that have come together in a unique combination within me; I have come to a much better understanding of how they relate to and interact with each other, both externally, in their perspective cultures, and internally, within myself. I will carry the memories of Korea close to my heart forever, and I believe that, somehow, my relationship with South Korea is only just beginning. After all, there are still so many cultural connections to make and people to meet, and, with my limited time abroad, I was only able to just start establishing a global network. I have a lot of faith that my story is far from over, which is why I will not necessarily say goodbye with this particular post. Rather, I will just end the blog with another genuine note of gratitude for every single person who has in any way supported me or followed me throughout this entire experience as part of the inaugural Foreign Language Internship program and simply sign off with my usual greeting. I really hope to see everyone again very soon, in one way or another, and I look forward to staying in touch somehow! May God bless you all!!!


Sara Anne

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~

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…

Sara Anne’s Seoul Blog Entry #3: You Should Know, I’m A Good Girl, Yeah~

“색안경을 끼고 보지 마요 / 난 좀 다른 여자인데 / 겉은 화려해됴 아직 두려운 걸…”

(“Please don’t look at me with your tinted sunglasses / See, I’m a bit of a different type of woman / Even though I may look gorgeous on the outside, I still feel afraid…”)

While we’re on the topic of stereotypes, I thought it’d be a good idea to direct you all to a song, especially since it’s on theme as a K-Pop song while I’m in Korea, and it ties in perfectly with my running metaphor of “cultural glasses”: “색안경 (STEREOTYPE, although the literal translation is “Sunglasses”)” by 스테이씨 (STAYC).

그리고 이건 노래는 제 연구실에서 하는 연구하고 관계가 있는 것 같아요 ㅋㅋㅋ. (This song also seems to be related to my research in the lab lol.)

So, now that you are somewhat introduced to my topic for the day… stereotyping! Coincidentally, as I hinted at in my caption for the music video, the research that I am studying happens to be on the topic of the psychological processes behind stereotypes, so this blog post’s theme seems to nicely suit my life at its current stage. I actually brought this coincidence up in conversation when I was walking to lunch with the lab director and the lab member that I was interviewing, and the lab director joked that he was a “clairvoyant” of some sort, since he was the one who had directed me towards the topic of stereotypes in the first place.

Anyways, firstly, I think I should introduce the lovely lab member who I had decided to interview. Her name is 지은 (“Jieun”), and she is a Korean PhD student with a particular interest in eye tracking and visual search in the VCC lab at Yonsei. In particular, she seems to be interested in facial recognition, which is really cool to me, since it has a connection to my current interest in social psychology. At first glance, she appears to be one of the more extroverted members in the lab, and she was one of the people who reached out to me first when I had just arrived. She really helps me feel more welcome by encouraging me to speak both in Korean, when I’m comfortable enough with it, and in English, when I’m struggling with my Korean skills. Throughout my time in the lab, she has always been so friendly and inclusive, and she continuously checks on me to make sure that I am doing alright.

As I talked more with Jieun, I realized that one of the reasons why she appeared to be so confident in her English skills was that she had been an exchange student in the United States for one year, and then, the following year, the friends that she had made in America came to Korea as exchange students themselves. So, essentially, she had two years of practice with the English language and interaction with American students. Before knowing this, I had actually been surprised by her answers to my questions on stereotypes, because the first heterostereotypes — that is, stereotyping from another group’s perspective — that she had mentioned were incredibly positive.

The first thing she mentioned was that Americans were “optimistic” and “always willing to cheer other people on.” Without any context, this was really odd for me to hear, since, honestly, the previous times I had interacted with international students, their collective view of American students appeared to be rather negative. However, in light of her friendly experiences and her close relationships with American citizens in the past, her positive view of the United States makes a lot of sense. I do know that any American who is simply acting as a good friend would fulfill that positive stereotype easily; in fact, while I do not really tend to be a very optimistic person, I know that I act super optimistic and constantly attempt to cheer my friends up whenever they are down. I can definitely see where Jieun is coming from when she stereotypes American students as optimistic, since those are the typical behaviors of a good friend, at least among American university students.

As we continued to talk, Jieun proceeded to note that Americans appeared to be “quick to move on after a breakup,” which was another surprising heterostereotype to me. Though I have personally known American students that fulfill that stereotype at Notre Dame, I have always had trouble believing in it, because, from my personal experience, moving on from heartbreak has always been incredibly difficult and painful. However, considering what I know about hookup culture in the United States as well as my firsthand experience with acquaintances who were able to move on from breakups relatively quickly, I can see how this stereotype may have come to be. I cannot really tell if this is a positive or negative stereotype, especially considering the differences between Korean and American dating culture, but I suppose it depends somewhat on the situation. Either way, this stereotype took me off-guard, partially because I did not think I could relate to it. Yet, maybe, in some contexts, I could appear to move on more quickly in comparison to the average Korean student. I would not be able to truly know this unless I asked around a bit more.

The final heterostereotype that Jieun stated was really interesting, since it looked like it contradicted one of her initial stereotypes: she said that the Americans who had come to Korea during her friends’ exchange period were “pessimistic.” My lab director even built upon this stereotype by going over some of his personal knowledge of summer school in an American university. As we continued to discuss this topic, we came to the conclusion that the “optimistic” versus “pessimistic” outlook varied greatly on an individual basis, especially keeping in mind the fact that each American university appears to have its own, unique culture. This “pessimistic” stereotype makes more sense to me than Jieun’s initial “optimistic” one, simply because I, along with many of my own American friends, tend to be on the more pessimistic side.

Looking at the stereotypes provided and applying my own autostereotypes — or stereotyping from my within group perspective — it seems that the only autostereotype that aligns with Jieun’s heterostereotypes is that some Americans are “pessimistic,” and this is solely because I can base it off of my personal viewpoints. Additionally, whenever I view American news or log onto social media, I only ever see pessimistic attitudes and complaints from American citizens on the pressing issues. In the cases where I do see some optimism, it almost appears to be either sarcastic or insincere. So, when Jieun said that she believed that Americans were “optimistic,” I was incredibly taken aback, as it did not seem to be in agreement with my personal experiences as an American student.

I was similarly shocked at the heterostereotype that Americans had a “willingness to cheer people on,” and I think this, again, was based on personal experiences I have had. I grew up in a competitive educational environment, and so, I was well-aware of how cutthroat competition in America could be. This was also why I seem to have taken up a contrasting autostereotype of Americans as “competitive” or even “selfish” in some cases. Regardless, I can definitely see how this stereotype can form in the eyes of a Korean student, since the Korean education system is unbelievably intense in its own right. Some of the competition that I had to deal with would likely hold different weight for a Korean student. This is not to say that one of us works harder than the other; rather, the amount and type of pressure in the educational field is very different from one country to another. Therefore, it is likely that Jieun may have simply seen a different side of American students that I did not experience due to our different backgrounds.

Furthermore, I was also somewhat surprised that Jieun thought Americans were able to “move on easily after a breakup,” but this confusion also makes sense in light of the “selfish” autostereotype that I had previously mentioned. Additionally, as I had alluded to before, dating culture in Korea and America is very different. What one country considers to be “dating” varies drastically from what the other believes to be “dating.” For this reason, what constitutes a “breakup” could also differ dramatically. Not to mention, the ability to move on from relationships simply varies from person-to-person and relationship-to-relationship. So, depending on the personalities and relationships of the students that Jieun had gotten to know, this view could easily change. In fact, I think I used to hold a similar heterostereotype of my own with regards to Koreans and their relationships before I had come here, which is an intriguing parallel to consider.

Without attempting to minimize the differences between our two, wonderfully different cultures, I think that the underlying virtues and values of friendship and relationship that all humans share shine clearly through in Jieun’s heterostereotypes of Americans. While some behaviors that seem entirely natural to me may stand out to her, because she is looking at it from another perspective, I can see the same behaviors in her that she had used to describe American students. This is even more evident whenever she has shown any level of care and concern for me. In particular, this past week was really difficult for me due to some personal conflicts with some close relationships from back in the United States, and, through all of it, Jieun was constantly cheering me on and helping me think more optimistically about the situation. She even offered possible solutions and advice. Though she may not have realized it herself, she was filling her own heterostereotype of an American student, and, in doing so, she was comforting me. I could not have been more grateful, because, even though we do not know each other well, and we come from different backgrounds, she was treating me like a friend. I think that this scenario shows that some positive heterostereotypes may actually implicate the existence of shared, universal values such as friendship and genuine care for others among all human beings.

Reflecting on possible Korean heterostereotypes of Americans (specifically, American students, since that is the group Jieun had the most experience with) has been very interesting, especially since Jieun seems to view my group in a generally more positive light than I do. I suppose that the formation of positive heterostereotypes is a natural response when someone has had good experiences with a country, and Jieun would probably think similarly of my American heterostereotypes of Koreans that I had held prior to my arrival in Seoul. Because I had such a wonderful time in South Korea the last time I was here, I think I overly generalized those positive feelings and romanticized the country a bit too much in some senses. While I was talking with another intern at this lab, something that he said stuck with me, and I think it is very applicable to this discussion of stereotypes: “Overgeneralization across entire groups can be very dangerous.” He was likely referring to the vast amount of foreigners flooding Korea due solely to the Korean Wave, without any other background knowledge of the culture, but I think that this is still generally an important statement to keep in mind whenever someone interacts with another country.

Humans are beautifully complicated creatures, and, in attempting to categorize someone based solely on one or two characteristics, we may deprive ourselves of the full experience of the person before us while simultaneously dehumanizing them. For this reason, I believe it is incredibly important to be aware of the many stereotypes we utilize in everyday life and to always do our best to view everything in as objective and holistic of a light as humanly possible. So, I would like to add a few clauses to my “cultural glasses” metaphor by gently warning against any “stereotypical tinting” that may affect the color and clarity of our overall vision of others. After all, in any relationship, it is truly about getting to know the real, complete person, right?


Sara Anne

P.S. For a bit of a more fun example of stereotyping, when you look at the road in the image above, what is your first impression of the area? How would the weather, the amount of cars, or the types of building in the shot affect it? Can you think of various ways in which looking at this one scene through different “tinted lenses” could affect your initial impressions on the location or Seoul as a whole, and how do you think I, as a foreign language exchange intern, feel about this particular road?

Sara Anne’s Seoul Blog Entry #2: It Is Time To Try On New Glasses!!!

저는 진실로 한국 생활에 익숙하지 않습니다… 제 한국어 실력은 아직도 자연스럽지 않은 것 같아서 새로운 사람들을 만나면 조금 불안하지만 너무 재미있습니다. 계속 연습해 볼 거라면 더 좋아지면 좋겠습니다!

(I am really still adjusting to life in Korea… My Korean language skills still seem unnatural, so when I meet new people, I get a bit nervous, but it is extremely fun. Hopefully, I will get better if I keep practicing!)

I will be completely honest: though I have absolutely been having the time of my life in Seoul so far, it has not always been smooth sailing, especially with my limited Korean language abilities. Though I have been studying Korean for several years now, I admittedly have experienced some levels of frustration with how slow my progress has been in increasing language proficiency, and that feeling is only enhanced by physically being here, in South Korea. I think one source of this tension is related to the fact that, for as long as I can remember, I have taken so much pride in my ability to learn languages quickly, as it has been a talent and passion of mine since I was very little, and so, I tend to find that I am somewhat disappointed in myself, and the experience is quite humbling. However, in addition to failing to meet my own, impossibly high expectations for myself, there have been other small areas of discomfort that I can only describe as short but sudden re-realizations that I am, in fact, a foreigner with a unique background that makes me stand out from everyone around me. As an Asian-American, I am used to being considered a part of the minority group in the United States, and, in some senses, I think I have grown in my confidence regarding that aspect of my identity, but it seems that the experiences of “being the minority” can vary greatly from country-to-country, and being a foreigner in Korea brings its own set of challenges, including several “critical incidents” where cultural differences seem to really rapidly emerge from the background and become more prominent throughout simple interactions. Though I cannot really narrow every one of these moments down to one, big “critical incident” so far during my journey in Seoul, I do think I can give this set of scenarios a general metaphor of “trying on various new lenses for my cultural glasses,” as I feel that the insight that I have gained from these little interactions have helped me to start seeing the world a little bit differently than before.

I had been in Korea before this internship for a semester abroad, and so, I was already somewhat aware of the fact that I would be on the receiving end of a lot of curious looks when I got here. After a few months of the staring, I got used to it, feeling much less self-conscious about it with each passing day, and I would eventually come to learn, through several of my classes and interesting social media posts from expats, that these glances were typically harmless. Generally, the reasoning behind these looks would be that I simply stand out as a new face in this country since Koreans have historically considered themselves a homogeneous community until only recently. Since I was already aware of it, this part of the foreigner experience in Korea did not bother me as much this time. To put it in the terms of my metaphor, I had already adjusted that aspect of the prescription for lenses of my “cultural glasses” before I got here. However, as an exchange student, most of my classes (except, of course, the Korean language class) were in English, and all of them were with other foreign students, so I was rather disappointed by my lack of opportunities to interact with and converse with native Koreans as a learner of the language. For this reason, one of the things I was most excited to start doing during my internship was to start utilizing my speaking and listening skills more directly in the Korean community. However, one of the first things any foreigner will notice when they arrive in Korea is that, if a Korean native notices that a person is a foreigner, and they are comfortable enough with English, they will immediately switch from Korean to English, regardless of the language the foreigner begins the conversation with. I immediately noticed this the first time I visited a store here: I approached the cashier and began the transaction in Korean, but the moment she could tell I was a foreigner, she switched to English. Although I attempted to continue the conversation in Korean, it just felt awkward after awhile, so I reverted back to English. Similar instances continued to occur at various other stores and restaurants, but the place where this has been most noticeable has been the research lab, where my internship is taking place.

I would like to begin with the fact that everyone at the Vision, Cognition, and Consciousness (VCC) Lab in Yonsei University has been so accommodating and kind, and it is truly an honor to meet and work with them. Each and every one of the lab members has my full gratitude and appreciation, since, from what I have gathered, I am one of the first interns at this lab who has been less-than-fluent when it comes to Korean. Overall, everyone here has always been very helpful and open to questions, and they even invite me to participate in their daily lunches, seminars, and meetings as a lab group, which has really helped to make me feel much more welcome. However, when it comes to the small handful of “critical incidents” where I would struggle to practice the Korean language, the lab is where such situations are most evident. Obviously, since this is a lab at a Korean university for Korean graduate and PhD students, everyone communicates mainly in Korean during lab meetings, even when we are discussing papers that are read and written in English. At my first two lab meetings, I literally could not get a word in, not because people were talking over me but, rather, because I simply could not find the right words to communicate what I wanted to say, and it was undeniably frustrating. My silence at the lab meetings has been one of the most disconcerting experiences for me so far, since, as a Notre Dame student, I am so used to actively participating in group discussions, and this feels like such a familiar setting to do so, but, because of the language barrier, I am also well-aware that I am not quite able to get my points across easily. Of course, because of this, I understand that, for the sake of efficient communication, it is easier to use English with me, but at the same time, it simply does not make me feel better when the lab members switch to English just to communicate with me, because I genuinely want to learn the Korean language.

Yonsei University is one of the top three universities in the Korea, so most, if not all, students here are nearly fluent in English. Almost every single time I have attempted to hold a conversation with members of the lab, I have either been told directly that it is okay if I have to respond in English, or I have just had to accept the fact that the discussion had indirectly transitioned back to English over time. This is off-putting as a language-learner, especially since, from my personal, cultural background, it almost feels insulting due to the American value of self-reliance: in some of these scenarios, switching to English immediately can make it seem as though my conversation partner is implying that my Korean language skills are not good enough, and it takes a lot of cultural reframing to think otherwise. However, from my. direct observations of what life is like in Korean society, I think I have a better understanding as to why this is the case in most of my interactions. Koreans themselves would be some of the first people to tell others that Korea is a collectivist society. I even see this statement directly in the texts of various psychological research papers that were written mainly by teams of Korean researchers. Therefore, in contrast to my American value of doing everything on my own, so as not to be a hindrance and in order to empower myself, Koreans seem to look at things from a different perspective. It is a big value in Korean culture to ensure the progress of the community as a whole, meaning that, if they notice another person is having difficulty with something, most of the time, for the sake of the group, they will do their best to immediately alleviate that issue. When Koreans see me struggling with their language, it therefore makes sense that they would switch to English if they are able to do so and better accommodate me, even if that requires speaking in a language that they themselves are less familiar with. Through the lens of Korean culture, which relies heavily on building up the whole population, switching from Korean to English for a foreigner is not meant to say that the foreigner’s Korean skills are inadequate, but, rather, it is intended to be a form of support when there is a perceived complication in communication within the group for the sake of promoting forward progression.

I think looking at these uncomfortable instances through this other perspective both helps me to make my outlook more positive while looking back on my experiences so far in Korea and gives me a better understanding of the Korean values that are derived from the central value of collectivism. I also think there is an important lesson to learn when coming from a more individualist America to a more collectivist Korea: it is not a sign of weakness to need help sometimes, because it is impossible to do everything on your own, and there can be many benefits to working together with others for the overall good of the whole group. I am sure that, despite the commonly-known American value of independence, the United States would still agree with this sentiment to some extent, considering the fact that the nation originally came into being through the joint effort of thirteen colonies working together as a whole. In this sense, putting on new “cultural glasses” has also made me realize that, though they still distinguish cultures from each other and make them uniquely beautiful, some of the cultural differences many people may perceive do not necessarily lead to total disagreement.

Just yesterday, since this is a lab for visual perception, cognition, and consciousness, I was talking with my lab director about the interesting, psychological and social concepts behind viewing others through the lens of the culture an individual grew up in. The more I talked with him, the more I realized that, even if Korea is more collectivist and America is more individualist, both countries, at their core, are attempting to do what is best for their people, even if their approaches and perspectives may vary slightly in specifics. It is one of my lab director’s broader research goals to demonstrate, through psychological research, that humans all process visual information in the same way, regardless of their cultural background, and he wishes to somehow use that data to start changing how people perceive those from cultures that are different from their own. In other words, he is hoping to tackle one of the greatest universal issues of stereotyping and excluding out-groups, and I believe that this unifying research goal has a profound connection with my own, intercultural identity goals that are working to consolidate the many, confusing cultural identities within me. I know that I still have a long way to go when it comes to figuring myself out fully, especially in the context of a novel environment, but it is rather comforting to know that, while we are not all the same, we, as human beings, all seem to share the same goals and desires for a better future.

I have only been in Seoul for around two weeks, but I feel like the country has already taught me so much, and I am genuinely falling deeper in love with it the more time I spend here. Additionally, while some of my cultural differences have still led to some slightly uncomfortable “critical incidents” surrounding my language usage, I have come to a better understanding of why such cases may occur here. I have been slowly learning how to change my perspective on cultural differences. In doing so, I have also somewhat learned how to reconcile the fact that I am simply different as a foreigner in Korea with the fact that I am still being welcomed by and making tons of happy memories with the Korean community. As I am considering the metaphor of “cultural glasses,” I cannot help but think that my experiences in Korea as a foreigner are slowly tinting my cultural lenses in uniquely colorful ways, and that may not necessarily be a bad thing. I am excited to see how my perspectives will continue to change as I continue along on my journey in Seoul, South Korea!


Sara Anne

P.S. As you all can see, I am not just trying on new lenses for my “cultural glasses,” but I am putting myself out there and trying other types of new styles!!!

Sara Anne’s Pre-Departure Blog Entry #1: Nice To Meet You!

여러분 안녕하세요? 제 이름은 사라예요. 저는 노트르담 대학교에서 4학년이라고 심리학과 한국어를 공부하고 있어요 — 만나서 반가워요! 

(Hello everyone~ My name is Sara. I am a senior at the University of Notre Dame, and I am studying Psychology and the Korean language — nice to meet you!)

Well, actually, my first name is Sara Anne, but “Sara” makes more sense as a first name in the Korean language, and it is just simpler to write it that way. Having two first names is a common occurrence where my family is from, though: I am the second-generation daughter of Filipino parents – my real-life superheroes in every aspect. Words cannot describe how grateful I am for all of their hard work; without their determination to follow their dreams, I definitely would not have all the opportunities I have today. However, I do have to admit that, similar to many other children of immigrants, when it comes to cultural identity, it can get a little bit confusing for me. I sincerely want to preserve my Filipino heritage while still properly acknowledging that I was born and raised in America. I never feel Filipino enough whenever I am in family settings, especially since I lack the ability to speak Tagalog, but, at the same time, all my life, it has felt like my darker skin and family-oriented attitude set me somewhat apart from my peers, so I do not always feel American enough either. This struggle with my identity has affected many aspects of my life without me fully realizing it. For example, I know that I seem to have subconsciously attempted to make up for my lack of Tagalog language skills by learning other languages, such as increasing my fluency in Spanish. Meanwhile, the first introduction I had to Korean culture occurred because, through Korean entertainment, I was able to see other Asians in mainstream media, which was relatively difficult to see in the US as I was growing up. In these ways, I seem to have been passively trying to fill in the blanks when it comes to my cultural identity. Yet, that cultural identity appears to remain an enigmatic, missing piece that I do not think I have spent sufficient time or effort actively searching for… until now.

As my Foreign Language Internship cohort began to delve into concepts behind the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), I could not help but feel slightly behind when it comes to my intercultural identity, since my personal, cultural identity has been in limbo for such a long time. I mean, how can I properly develop a sense of intercultural awareness when I am not even completely sure of my own identity? The more I discussed this fact with the other members of the cohort, the more I realized that, while it will be challenging, this program is one of the biggest opportunities I have to start forming a firm foundation for my cultural identity, both within my personal contexts and in the context of my interactions with the Korean culture. It might sound cheesy, but I am genuinely hoping that this Foreign Language Internship program will be the beginning of my self-discovery journey, as I begin to establish my own cultural identity. In fact, the way I think of it, it is rather fitting that this quest to figure out exactly how I fit into the world acts as a solid starting point for my senior year at Notre Dame — it feels almost romantic, like the start of a novel or a drama (though, of course, I would like this incredible experience to be well-grounded in reality).

In order to tackle my new, hefty life goal of figuring myself out, it makes the most sense to come up with more tangible, smaller goals, and that is exactly what this summer internship program is helping me do. Firstly, I will work on setting up a solid basis for my cultural identity throughout the course of the program. I plan to do this by exploring activities that I enjoy while I am abroad in a mindful manner, keeping track of the habits that I develop that make me feel healthy. I will also continue to stay in touch with my family consistently, since I believe that an important part of building my identity is remembering my roots, no matter where I go, and sharing my experiences with the people who are important to me. Secondly, while it may be rather difficult without a fully-established personal identity, I would like to learn more about how my own cultures interact and relate with the Korean culture by finding more opportunities to fully connect with the community in South Korea. I have spent some time in Korea in the past, but I am hoping this will be a different sort of adventure. My first experience with Korea was technically just a stop-over at the Incheon airport in 2019, but I was unbelievably excited to be there regardless, since I already had a deep interest in Korean pop culture at the time. Then, I spent several months abroad in Seoul during the fall semester of 2022. While I learned and experienced so much during that time, I am thankful that I have another chance to return, because I truly would like to further immerse myself in the lifestyle and rich culture of Korea. To put it simply, I may have been infatuated with the Republic of Korea in 2019, but 2022 was the moment when I fell in love with the country, and I look forward to learning more about the true nature and culture of Korea in 2023.

Admittedly, my self-discovery goals will not be easy for me, especially since I am naturally introverted and am not really fluent in the language yet. Honestly speaking, the closer the date of my departure comes, the more nervous I get, since I know I have let my insecurity be a barrier to growth before. In a sense, the memories and regrets of the many missed opportunities to make and maintain connections in Korea during my previous visits weigh heavily on me, and I worry that I will get in my own way again. Additionally, the road getting to this point was really rough, with a lot of challenges that I may return to later on, and the path to the specific internship program that I am participating in is not the typical one for summer internships in Korea. As excited as I am, I am genuinely unsure of where I am headed and scared that I have already made too many mistakes in the past when it comes to my cultural identity. However, these worries and regrets are exactly why I am grateful for this blog, since it can keep me accountable and serve as proof to myself that I am always making progress and growing. I truly do not know where this journey will take me, but I am looking forward to figuring it out, and I am so excited to share the story with you all!!!


Sara Anne

Incheon Airport, 2019
Seoul, 2022
Minnesota, 2023