By Nicholas C. Rosolanko
My favorite moments of the trip occurred during the quietest times. Whether it was taking long walks along scenic, rocky shorelines or meditating at 4:00am with an actual Buddhist monk, I fell in love with how devoted the Korean people are to the beauty and heritage of their country. I was also emotionally inspired during the visits to the disabled children’s hospital and orphanage during our stay on Jeju Island. The children and staff at both establishments touched my heart so profoundly. I truly felt blessed to have shared a moment with them that I will never forget. Attempting to properly cook a traditional Korean dish called Jap Chae and being taught the intricacies of calligraphy where amazing and humbling hands on experiences that reflect the Koreanculture. The time I spent with my home stay family provided a real life glimpse into a Korean family’s life. Although I ate what they cooked, slept where they lived, saw where their children go to school and even met their dog Yuki, I struggled at times to communicate with them. No matter how much I smiled and said “Yum” I could not truly express how terrific the “Pat bing soo” my home stay mother made for us was. These experiences truly enhanced my understanding of what it feels like to be uneasy in a new environment even though I was welcomed.
When I was applying for this trip to South Korea I kept asking myself what am I looking to gain from this opportunity? Which experiences would help me mature as an educator? How would I survive traveling in a strange land full of people that do not speak my language? Could I eat new types of food that I am not accustomed to? It wasn’t until a few days into the trip when the group was having a discussion at breakfast that I realized many of my own students back home might feel the same way. However, they are children in a strange new land and they may enter school feeling all alone. They don’t know anyone and they may not speak the language they hear chattering in the hallways. They may feel overwhelmed by how different everything is in their new school. I was visiting Korea for only twelve days; these kids have moved with their families to live in the United States for years. All these children might need is some encouragement and friendly smiles to help them get started acclimating themselves. Having returned from my journey to South Korea, I am eager to relate my experiences with all of my students. I also look forward to helping those students that might find themselves lost in their new and often strange surroundings.