Psychology and music major Grace Kim studied in Seoul, South Korea, during fall term 2019.
Through my experience with International Studies Abroad, I was able to meet multiple, newly influential people in my life. I learned many life lessons from my exchange student friends and native Korean friends who helped me transition more easily into the busy urban life of Seoul.
From the beginning of my time at Korea University, I was given the opportunity through ISA to be linked with a “buddy” who was part of the Korea University Buddy Assistance program, which was designed to help exchange students adjust to student life in Korea. Also, there was a language exchange component, and this allowed the exchange students to teach English or another foreign language to the KUBA buddies.
In my case, my Korean language speaking and listening skills tremendously improved because of all the practice I got from casually interacting with native Koreans in this program. My KUBA group notified me of many fun events on and off campus. The group members ate together twice a week, and every time I attended, I got to speak with different KUBA buddies.
Each time I spoke to a new person, I learned about a different flavor of student life in Korea. Looking back, I am really happy to have had the opportunity to study abroad through this program because I got to visit several aesthetic places with the help of my new friends, whom I still keep in touch with to this day.
One such experience was the time I visited Seoul’s Lantern Festival in the middle of November. When I compared the cultural event to practices that I grew up with in America, what comes to mind was the traditional event where my family and friends would light up fireworks on the Fourth of July. Though very different from American customs, I felt a similar ambiance of festive feelings, as many couples, friends and families were drawn toward the beautiful lanterns glowing on the stream.
What was especially unique about this event was the fact that these lanterns depicted ancient Korean folktales and international fairytale stories by using the lanterns to represent characters who took part in the storylines. Other remarkable works of art included Chinese zodiac animals and famous tourist landmarks.
At one point, I noticed there were people making either mini lanterns, which used electronic candles attached to the end of a stick, or durable, semi-transparent boats that were created with those candles inserted inside. Actually learning how to fold the material to make the boat proved to be one of the most challenging arts and crafts projects I ever completed (with the help of my friend).
After painstakingly crafting the lantern boat, I ended up writing a positive message which read: “Every day is a new day. Smiling is a beautiful me.” As I kissed the side of my boat and sent it to float with the rest of the lantern boats on the stream, I felt a bittersweet moment in this sacred and ceremonial event.
To Broadway and Beyond is a student-managed blog from the Transylvania study abroad program. This article was written by Grace Kim, a junior majoring in psychology and minoring in music. Read more of her Korean experience.