One of my favorite reasons to travel is experiencing foreign cuisine. I really enjoyed dining in Korea. Meals are an event with an opportunity for relaxation and fellowship--a welcome pause to restore both body and mind. Most meals were served with meat which was rich and tender. Along the coast I got to enjoy some very fresh seafood which included raw fish and still wriggling octopus tentacles. Most of the dishes I ate were spicy soups or moderately seasoned stir-fries of fresh vegetables and meat. Every meal came with rice and about a dozen side dishes each in their own separate bowl. A feast for the senses with bowl after bowl of different colors, textures and tastes! But if I had to summarize Korean cuisine, it would be kimchi. No matter what the meal, kimchi was served in a small side dish; I even had kimchi for breakfast some mornings. Seeing the value of kimchi in Korea, I’m glad our group got to experience making it. The kimchi I made managed to get through customs so I will be able to enjoy it for another month, and my roommates will get to enjoy the smell for probably the rest of the semester. The people, the experiences, the meals...Korea provided me with plenty of food for thought. “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!” Psalm 34:8. And He is.
Aside from their food and their kindness, Koreans seem to be known for their respect of elders—not just those in the aging population, but anyone who is older by even a day. Whether it entails giving up a seat on the subway or using a more formal version of “sorry,” the junior is expected to honor and respect the senior at all times and in every situation. This is apparently an ever-present mindset, one very different from the mindset of American youth and one that has been growing on me in the last three weeks. When riding the subway, seated elders would often enthusiastically gesture for me to take an open seat. I accepted rather reluctantly, my “strong and independent” American mindset fighting to keep me standing and to prove that I was perfectly okay. Although I was truly fine with hanging on to a handle or leaning against a pole, sitting in the offered seat was a way to both accept gracious hospitality and respect my elders. And not only this, but the vantage point of the seat allowed me a greater awareness of those around me, of my elders and hosts who might need to rest their legs. It’s humbling to assume your position as the junior. Another way to show respect in Korea is to bow slightly, whether it be in the presence of an elder or as part of a greeting or parting. Upon entering or exiting businesses, museums, or convenience stores, we learned to speak the greeting/farewell (conveniently the same phrase) and simultaneously bow (or maybe I was doing this wrong for three weeks…). I came to perceive this gentle bow as a gesture of acknowledgement and respect, a way to express gratitude. Imagine now the sight of countless heads bowed in prayer, filling a huge church auditorium with multi-tiered balconies. It’s an incredibly powerful and moving sight that I will never forget, one that is changing my posture of prayer and developing a deeper reverence for my creator God, my loving Father. Bowing my head in prayer is no longer just “the thing you do when you pray,” but it is a posture of deep respect, admiration, honor; a reminder of His holiness, that I am not fit to be in His presence but for His radiating love and mercy; an expression of thankfulness; an acknowledgement of His greatness, of my humility and submission. And so, I bow in gratefulness to the people of Korea for these life-changing weeks, for teaching me lessons I didn’t know I needed. And I bow in gratefulness to God for this opportunity of growth and greater awareness, for His ever-present grace and care, for the continuous shaping of my heart.
Wow. I cannot believe we are already back in the states and second semester is starting up next Monday. Having connecting flights from Incheon to Narita, Narita to Washington D.C., and Washington D.C. to Grand Rapids was good, tiring, and cramped. I would have to be honest, it felt kind of weird and out of place to be back in the states. For the past 20 days, I was with a group of 33 people, including students and professors. It feels kind of weird not seeing my classmates or professors anymore. Additionally, when I was ordering food in a restaurant, I almost started to speak to the waitress in Korean. One thing I noticed in South Korea was when I went shopping at a store, the store clerk was always ready to help you at any moment and even stood right behind you. Personally, I was not used to having a store clerk so eager to help you. I felt awkward if I did not buy anything at the store. Also, people in South Korea seem to be more trusting of others around them. For example, when we were getting street food in Busan, the worker had a change bucket on top of his stand and allowed customers to take their change from there. I also know that I have to get used to paying for tip and tax again once back in the states. Reflecting back on my experience in South Korea, I am so grateful that I got the opportunity to participate in this course. Prior to coming on the trip, I only knew two people because they were in my Korean class back at Calvin. Now, I am so grateful that I got to meet great people on this interim trip and grow spiritually. I enjoyed visiting churches in South Korea and seeing the Buddhist temple in Busan. Furthermore, I am glad that we got the opportunity to go to a Korean church without any English translation as we got to experience a Korean church in South Korea. Moreover, I am grateful that I got the opportunity to practice Korean. After coming back to the states, I believe my Korean has improved as I am able to speak and understand the language more readily. As I am getting over jet lag (a 14 hour time difference) and preparing for second semester, I will continue to reflect on this enriching, amazing, and fulfilling experience.
It's 3:24 in the morning, the day after arriving back from South Korea, and I don't feel tired at all thanks to the jet lag (its currently 5:24 PM in South Korea). As I lay awake in my bed, I'm able to reflect back on the trip and how its affected me. Overall, the trip was amazing. We did so many cool things and visited so many beautiful places. Each city we visited (Seoul, Pohang, and Busan) was spectacular in its own way. Seoul was the hub of the country, enormous yet still filled with so much history. Pohang provided the ability to experience a Christian University in South Korea. Busan was by far the most beautiful city, allowing us to take in some of the breath-taking images that Korea has to offer. However, the thing that surprised me the most was not the beautiful cities, historical monuments, or fun events but instead the friends I made and relationships I built along the way. When I look back at this trip years from now, I probably won't remember all of the museums we saw or beautiful views I experienced, but I will remember that great times a had with some good friends. I'll remember getting lost in Seoul and having to find our way back to the guesthouse. I'll remember all the weird food we tried together. I'll remember exploring the cities, experiencing Korea for ourselves first-hand. This interim taught me a lot about South Korean culture and business, and I'm thankful for that, but I will never forget the adventures I had with some great friends, new and old.
T'was the night before the deadline and here I am frantic about posting before I fail. Resting everyday, my body has finally caught up on the fatigue and stress from all it has endured throughout our adventure. I genuinely enjoyed the places and events that we were able to attend and see and I'm thankful for all of those who were involved in the process of making this trip happen. My final reflection, at least through this blog, is going to be addressed to the experiences I faced with the language of Korean amidst my being Korean. As a Korean American, it isn't assumed that we all know Korean. Though it is very common, many do not know the language of our culture. As I grew up, my first language was Korean however as I grew up in California, English became our household language in order to be accustomed to the society my family live in. Because of this transition, Korean was less used and therefore, my knowledge of the language lessened. Coming to Korea, I had to bring most of what I had in my knowledge out of the language. I understood most things but conversationally, I had to work to speak. It was another blessing to have come so I could push myself to use the language of my culture and further my knowledge of it. Recommending those who have no idea of the language, I believe it is smart to preview some of the cultural things that the places you visit do and some key phrases that can really go a long way. Closing up, thank you to the professors for getting the trip to happen and taking care of all of us through the confusion and mystery. Thank you to Suzie for her work as translation and "boss lady" as she had a lot on her plate as well. Thank you to all of those that guided us to show what wonderful things Korea has to offer. Thank you to the students who came on this trip and made it a memorable one. Thank you all and peace out.
We are finally back to the United States. I can say that I had so much fun in South Korea, and I learned a lot from this interim trip. As I reflected on my trip, I realize that there is one thing that always struck me during our visitation to South Korea. I learned a lot and reflected a lot about time. Time is a gift from God. Time keeps going in our life, and it will keep on going no matter what we do. 20 days seem a lot but our days in South Korea went by so quickly. During the trip, we went to a lot of museums and cultural sites. We went to UN memorial cemetery, South Korea war museum, a small village where we can see and learn about how it is to live in South Korea in the 80s, and many more. Seeing those, I think that they are a good example on understanding time as a gift from God. People who die in the battle might not be able to see the good result, but if they didn't take that decision at that time, who knows what's going to happen right now. Moreover, after the Korean War, South Korea was one of the poorest country in the world, but they keep on working really hard and try to make their dreams come true, they never give up on time. Right now, South Korea brings their influence to themselves and being impactful to other countries. South Korean products and culture are enjoyed by people around the world through their electronic, steel, car, music, entertainment industry, and many more. They can proudly present their hard work as a gift to their children and to the next generation. Their sacrifice did not go in vain, rather it bring bless to the next generation, in South Korea, and everywhere else in the world. From here, I hope that I can make them as an example in my life. Which always reminds me to value the time that God has given to me so that people will not only remember me in their memory just because I have ever live in this world, but people can be blessed from my life and those blessing can remind them on how great our God is, and how beautiful His gifts are. -Nathania-
Wow 21 days of interim is already over! I cannot believe how fast this interim has went by. Overall this interim has been a surreal experience for me. As I reflect on all the places that we have visited during our 3 week interim, I really liked visiting Seoul National University. At the university, we had a chance to hear from Young Dae Kim. Mr. Kim currently works for Samsung. He also worked for big companies like IBM and Ernst & Young. Even though I am not a business major, I found Mr. Kim’s lecture to be really interesting. His lecture was very organized, compact, and succinct. Mr. Kim talked about Samsung’s strength, how Samsung’s hiring process goes, what they look for in your resume, and etc. One thing I was surprised about from his lecture was that Samsung’s major asset currently comes from real estate. I was surprised by this because I thought Samsung’s major asset came from electronics industry. But, I was wrong. It comes from real estate and according to Mr. Kim, if you drive around Seoul, you can imagine a third of all the major buildings are probably owned by Samsung. After the lecture, we had a chance to eat at one of the school cafeteria for lunch. Unlike Calvin’s dining hall, there was only one choice for food. The workers who worked at the cafeteria served us rice, pork cutlet, coleslaw, and radish kimchi. This saved us from the unnecessary difficult choice of choosing what to eat. At Calvin, if you go to Commons dining hall, there is always a pasta bar, globe in the middle, uppercrust sandwich and salad, and taqueria. Since there are so many choices, choosing what to eat at Commons is always difficult for me so, I kind of liked having only one choice for food. After lunch, we had a chance to tour around the school campus. We saw the library, the new gym where the fitness center was located, soccer field, a building where it stores Korean history records, and etc. Being the most prestigious university in Korea, the campus was huge. It was way bigger than Calvin’s campus and I just had a feeling that if I was to attend to university, I would get lost on my way to classes just about every day.
Looking back at the trip and being back in the states one thing that continues to stick out to me is the infrastructure of the United states compared to Korea. In Korea everything is built vertically because the entire country is the size of Wisconsin. Not only does Korea have huge skyscrapers it also runs deep underground. While visiting I went to five story mall completely underground on Yoi island in Seoul. Comparing this to the united states cities still have skyscrapers but don't have the same underground network Korea has. While in a U.S. city its not uncommon to see an above ground parking garage. In Korea I never saw any parking garages because all of the garages are built underneath the building. It makes sense why with Korea having 75 percent of its land being mountainous and having a population of roughly 50 million people in such a small area space needs to be used much more efficiently. Being back in The U.S. it is much different as thing are laid out much more horizontally we have so much space we don't even have parking garages we have parking lots within our cities.
It is hard to choose just one place, so I think my favorite places of the trip to visit were the POSCO and Hyundai industrial sites, as well as the Samsung Center. In particular, the POSCO/Hyundai sites were intriguing because of the vast size of both operations as well as the individual aspects of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering being practiced. The Hyundai factory impressed me with its integrated controls systems and dynamic assembly line, which allowed the factory to make its quota while allowing as much time as efficiently possible to make a good product. I would have loved to get down on the factory floor to see some of the systems firsthand! The Samsung Center was fascinating mostly in part to the large variety of electronics that the company is investing time and money in. The center also had a short history of the development of electric devices as well as an optimistic outlook on where the company will focus next. I would have loved to learn more about the technology that Samsung is working on, as the tour was relatively short. In summation, I enjoyed just about every day that I’ve been on this interim course. Each location with all its sights and sounds provided a varied and intriguing experience that I am sure to remember as I continue to study as a student at Calvin.
As I sit here at my parents' house just a day after arriving back in Grand Rapids, it kinda feels like I never left. I spent the day relaxing and watching TV, which gave me the impression I was still on Christmas Break. However, at the same time I have seen immense change in myself over the last three weeks. The most obvious yet insignificant way is the jet lag. My body expects it to be 11:00 in the morning and is annoyed it did not get a full night of sleep yet. A big wave of drowsiness came over me around dinner time, but I was able to overcome it and attempt to stay up until a reasonable hour. However, this trip also changed me in ways that will have a much longer impact than a little jet lag. First, this trip really restarted my desire to travel. South Korea is an incredible country, and I definitely want to return there someday and spend more time exploring Seoul and Busan. However, there are so many other amazing countries that I have yet to see, so I definitely want to keep traveling and seeing the wonders of God's world before it's too late. This trip also opened me up to the possibility of living and working internationally. For most of my life I never pictured myself living outside of the United States, but now I can easily picture myself living in Seoul or a similar city somewhere else in the world. Although this would make seeing family and friends much more difficult, I think it would be worth it to have more cultural experiences like this one. Finally, this trip has definitely made me more open-minded. I have an unfortunate history when I was younger of thinking that the way the United States and American culture do things is the right way, and cultures that do things differently are weird and less effective. My time at Calvin had already done a lot of good to fix that belief, but this trip took it to another level. This trip presented me with various lifestyles I was unfamiliar with, allowing me to see the pros and cons of each of them as well as compare them to American culture. This has made me realized there is no one "right" way to live, and everyone can learn a little something from people from totally different backgrounds than themselves. Overall, this trip was an absolutely amazing experience. I'd like to thank Suzie and the profs for working so hard to make this trip a success, and I hope to take another trip like this one next Interim to keep learning about God's wonderful world.
Before I came on this trip, a lot of people asked me "oh, why are you going on the Korea Business/Culture interim? Couldn't you go on your own any time?" That's true. I could go anytime if I wanted to. But the time and money always gets in a way. It is not easy for my family to go to Korea all the time even though it is our home. So when I heard about this interim, I thought it was a good opportunity because you would be traveling all over Korea and exploring so many places. Not only was I able to explore all over Korea, but I also got to see my relatives that I haven't seen in 8 years. Crazy.. But as a Korean, when I came to Korea, I thought I never left. I adapted very well and felt very part of the culture. Even though I know a lot about the culture, there are certain aspects of the culture that I forgot about but was heavily reminded of. As a Korean, generosity was so normal, but I didn't know how prevalent it was in Korea. The amount of generosity in my culture is so amazing. Seeing peoples hospitality and willing to give was amazing. It made me realize wow, no wonder it seems so normal to me. It is because its part of Korea. Being with my family and friends that I met up with, the amount of generosity they gave me, its indescribable. Generosity is a perspective I knew but also gain. This was definitely a worthwhile trip.
After the longest Tuesday of my life (38 hours) we are finally back in the states! It is good to be back but I could have stayed in Korea longer. It is cool to compare the culture I have learned about in Korea, and compare it to how we do things at home. I have heard Americans refer to themselves as "Culture-less" but it clearly isn't true everything that we do in our lives is a part of our culture. After seeing a culture that is much different than our own it makes me look more closely at why we do what we do in our lives as Americans. For instance last night my friends and I had a celebratory meal at steak and shake and it was interesting to notice the cultural differences in the dining experience. Our water was filled through out the meal without our asking, the only dishes on the table were what we ordered (in Korea almost every meal is served with lots of sides), the waitress checked up on us in the middle of eating, the check was delivered to the table before we were done, and a tip was expected. It is crazy to notice all of the cultural differences in something as simple as a meal, after this trip I will be able to compare cultural differences like this for the rest of my life, and really understand why we do what we do.