Are We There Yet?

Alrighty then, fasten your seatbelts because by the conclusion of these blog postings, we will have flown completely around the world, circumnavigating the entire globe! I think that’s going to be my new fun fact.

Hi, I’m Savanna and I will be studying abroad in Seoul, South Korea this summer. T minus 30 days actually. I’ve never been to Korea before so I’m mixed excited and nervous. I’ve also never flown by myself and I’m kind of scared of flying, so this double header of an 8 and a half hour flight to Germany followed by a 10 and a half hour flight to Seoul is going to be a time and a half. The flight on the way back is a little bit shorter, since I will fly across the Pacific instead of the Atlantic; 10 and a half hours from Seoul to Seattle and then only 4 hours to Chicago. Flying around the whole world. Wild. Or, I could be at the bottom of the Atlantic, the Pacific, or 6 feet under in Russia by the end of this. Not spooky at all.

Once we get past flying, covid regulations, and SIM cards though, I am actually really excited to attend Yonsei University and be in Seoul for the summer. This experience will be so different from my classroom experiences learning Korean at Notre Dame. Things that I’ve only seen or heard about in the classroom will become my reality- food, holidays, traditions, everything. In Seoul, all the street signs, restaurant menus, and classroom instruction will be in Korean. I may have a roommate whose first language isn’t English. Maybe I’ll even start dreaming in Korean, since I will be receiving Korean instruction 24/7.

Although many Korean people start learning English in elementary school, I will be using Korean to conduct most of my interactions. I’m going to have to figure out how to navigate the bus and subway systems, shop at the grocery market, and order food at a restaurant. Korean food is very different from the food I’ve grown up with here in the United States. Koreans eat a lot of seafood (yes, including seaweed) and most everything is spicy. Koreans also have a very strict set of table manners that rely on a hierarchy of the age and gender of everyone present at the meal. It’s considered very disrespectful to go against these traditions, so I guess I must learn quickly. I’ve tried 떡갈비, 김밥, and 송편 before, thanks to Notre Dame’s fantastic Korean Department, and I am open to trying most anything. I am curious about Korean desserts though, because I have a huge sweet tooth. I wonder if I can find ice cream in Korea? I’ve heard that random items, such as deodorant, are almost impossible to come by, so this will all be a part of my cultural adjustment.

K-pop is another aspect of Korean culture that I expect to learn this summer. K-pop has taken the world by storm and has even gained ground in the United States. Bands such as BTS and SF9 are such a huge part of Korea’s global economy that there’s even debate over whether these band members should still fulfill Korea’s military service requirement. Many people, especially students, love K-pop music and watch Korean dramas. I’ve started listening to a little bit of K-pop recently in order to learn some pop culture beforehand, but I am going to learn a lot more once I’m there and I’m sure many of the students I’ll be with will have recommendations, not only for music, but also for dramas. Maybe we will have Korean movie nights? That would be fun!

During my time in Korea this summer, I think that I will change and grow in many ways. For one, I will hopefully become more competent with Korean language. I will also become more engaged with Korean culture and learn its rich traditions so that I can hopefully increase my knowledge of people and become a global citizen who fully embraces cultural differences. I will also become more independent- I’ve never traveled by myself before and my room & board doesn’t come with a meal plan, so I will be cooking everything for myself for the first time. I also applied for my first credit card because it doesn’t have international fees like my debit card does, so I will have to learn how to manage that and make a budget for myself. There are so many other things that I will learn that I don’t even realize yet, and all of these things together will hopefully help me become a better adult who acts as a force for good in the world.

Please pray for me on this flight and wish me luck! I’ll keep you posted:)