My last lunch in Korea was especially indicative of my growth there. During the first week of the trip, my friends and I went to a Korean barbecue place near the University and struggled greatly to order because of the language barrier. When the food arrived, we didn’t know what to do, and the friendly restaurant owner made and fed us lettuce wraps. We developed quite a liking for her, so we returned to her restaurant for our last meal. This time, I dealt with a complicated order for 11 people in Korean and managed lettuce wraps and more with artful chopstick dexterity.
During this study abroad, I explored all the corners of an enormous city, gaining confidence in my navigation abilities. I spoke with my hands to those whose English was anywhere from nonexistent to semi-fluent, increasing my nonverbal communication skills. I sang Karaoke with students from all over the world, learning about their cultures and gaining perspective on how mine fits into the world. I learned what it’s like to be in the racial minority, and now feel better equipped to relate to minorities in the United States. I’ve grown in some ways I can’t explain and likely in some ways I don’t recognize.
Sitting in the Chicago airport, eavesdropping on English speakers and not getting stared at because I’m blonde is bittersweet. This has been such an amazing experience and I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to study abroad in South Korea.
Until my next adventure, 안녕히 계세요!