A new place with new people!
Updated: Aug 11, 2020
By Agatha Gregorio from the University of the Philippines Diliman, Philippines
I can clearly recall my first memory of South Korea, and that is how the grass looked just as green and the sky just as blue as it did back home. My surprise mostly came from the fact that this was my first time stepping out of the Philippines, and I expected everything—including the grass, it seems-- to be different.
It was only when I actually had to learn to ride buses on my own, as well as learn to ask directions with minimal knowledge of the Korean language that I realized how far away I was from home.
Initially, it was daunting to be in an entirely new place with new people and entirely new living arrangements for four months. But I was thankful because not long after I’d felt that fear of being alone in an unknown place, I’d been able to make new friends through my buddy. After a while, I’d also gotten to know the beauty of Chuncheon through adventures I’d opened myself up to.
(me on Hallym Campus)
It took little to no time for me to get accustomed to campus life in Hallym University. Being an exchange student there meant learning about Korean culture while also getting to know more about people coming from all around the world through the Hallym International Dormitory, and the activities set for both Korean and exchange students to get to know each other. Daily conversation at the dorm kitchen usually consisted of learning new words from exchange students’ home countries, or making impromptu plans to travel for the weekend.
The opportunity to go on exchange is also largely made more meaningful in the classes that I got to take that I couldn’t back home because they were very much grounded on Korean culture. Most issues I’d also familiarized myself with back home felt more expansive in meaning when we tackled them in the perspective of various countries, as most classes I had contained both Korean students and exchange students.
But the experience probably never would have been complete without the trips around Korea I made with people I hadn’t known just a few months ago, but were now some of the friends I’d try live octopus with and share the most meaningful experiences with.
(Me in Busan)
I also remember going to Busan twice because of how the scenery felt as though they’d been taken straight out of a film. That, and how the local food made the five-hour trip more than worth it.
It’s funny now thinking about how much of my first two weeks I’d spent feeling homesick, only to have myself now so strongly missing the monthly room parties I had with my roommates eating Dakgalbi and fried chicken. Even upon writing this, I feel myself grasping at every memory I had in Hallym just so I could relive it.
Soon enough, what felt like the most foreign place in the world to me began to feel like home. And as much as I terribly miss that home of mine for four months, I can only say that I’m glad I got to experience it exactly as it was in the first place.