Sejong trip to Korea, A Parent’s Perspective

Mihea Kim

 

I was asked to write a short essay by Julia about my son's trip to Korea this summer. I am grateful for this opportunity to express and share my experience of sending my son, Ben Schiller, to Korea.

Last summer (2009), Ben expressed his interest in going to Korea. By that time, it was too late to consider any programs. I had heard of Sejong program from my sister, who sent her daughter to Korea last summer. Upon my inquiry, I learned about the history of Sejong; its commitment to Korean American youths, both second generations as well as the Korean adoptees; and its overall awareness outreach to the community of Korean culture. These aspects were very attractive to me.

Furthermore, I was impressed with its Leadership Training for the kids that were going on the trip and the Parenting Course for the parents sending their kids to Korea. The Leadership Training classes gave the kids an opportunity to get to know one another before the trip, so that when it came time for the trip, they were traveling with friends and not strangers. As for Ben, he enjoyed his classes very much. He said he laughed a lot and made friends. This, in turn, had him be that much more excited for the trip. As for the parenting classes, it allowed me to stop my daily routine and take time out to reflect on my role as a mother, and share with other dedicated mothers our daily challenges and triumphs of raising our kids. The course, thanks to the ever-patient, Mrs. Jo, gave me some tools to work with when communicating with my kids. These aspects added more comfort for me in sending Ben to Korea with Sejong.

On a personal note, when Ben expressed interest in knowing more about his Korean heritage and wanting to visit Korea, I was delighted. When I ask my kids what ethnicity they identify themselves as, they always say "I am American", not Korean-American, Amer-Asian, etc. So when Ben said he wanted to know more about Korea, it signaled for me openness and a sense of maturity about him. To discover another dimension of whom he is. Thus, it was my hope that this trip to Korea will open up a new road of discovery for him, not to replace what he knows, but to expand his worldview. I think traveling expands one's mind, it forces you to experience new things, see things in a different way, and expose yourself to new ideas. For Ben, his summer trip to Korea did all of these things. The home stay with a Korean family gave Ben a glimpse of what it is like to live there. He experienced how families relate to one another and what their day is like. The traveling afterwards allowed Ben to see all the different facets of Korea, its culture, its history, its natural beauty. Ben was thoroughly impressed with Korea's educational institutions, especially the Yonsei University, with its paperless library. So inspired, in fact that he said he wants to go to college there! His enthusiasm was wonderful to see. The trip also resulted in Ben making good friends with others that went. I think he shared an experience that created strong bonds with his peers, a valuable experience in one of itself.

To conclude, Z want to thank all the people at Sejong who made this trip so enjoyable for my son. He wants to go back and visit Korea again. I also want to thank Sejong for giving me a peace of mind in sending him on such a big trip.