[Trip] 13 Days of Korea

My Sejong Trip was nothing like the trip I took two years ago. I am fourteen years old and I am thankful for everything in Korea. I truly enjoyed myself and remember a lot more than I did two years ago. Another thing I am truly thankful for was my thoughtful home-stay family.

We played some traditional Korean games such as Kongi (a game similar to jacks), omok (a game similar to Connect Four, but is connect 5), and one day we played soccer until midnight. We even played Wii Sports Resorts together.

Each day seemed to go by faster than the one before because we all became so closer to one another. Soon, it was time to leave. This home-stay taught me so many things about Korean families. For example, Korean culture of treating new people is very different than American culture. It is very surprising because they are letting strangers stay in their house and they treat them like they have been friends for years. This trip showed me so many things that I will truly never forget.

- Tyler Chung, Student from Closter, New Jersey

We arrived at Onnuri Church and I was amazed at how beautiful the church was. After admiring the outside of the church, the group of Sejong trip participants and church members finally entered to have our first meal with our home-stay families.

As we walked into the room where we would be eating, thousands of questions began to run through my head as various churchgoers welcomed me with warm smiles, cheerful greetings, and even the placing of a laurel on top of my head!   After getting our food we sat down at a table with our families and began to familiarize ourselves with one another. After talking to my host mother and father, I began to realize that Koreans were very welcoming. Not only did my family try their best to speak in English to us, but they also went onto their iPhones whenever they needed to look up a word. I had done other home-stays before in Argentina and China, but those other families had not tried as hard as this one.
While staying at their home, I realized that Koreans are a lot more hard-working than any other group of people. Not only did my host mother wake up early to make us a complete American breakfast, but she also took us to a traditional Korean village, Korean BBQ restaurant, and she even took us shopping until we couldn’t walk anymore. Her 12-year-old son even came along when we went shopping and he did not utter one complaint, which was really surprising. If I were him, I would’ve been complaining quietly, but he just smiled and walked with us. He was a real trooper.
To sum up my experience on this home-stay in one word would be very difficult because there are so many ways to describe it. I learned a lot about Korean culture including their mannerisms and general way of living while staying with this family. I enjoyed all aspects of a Korean life-style and would definitely love the chance to stay with another family if the opportunity were to come again.
- Caroline Hong, Student form New York, New York

This was my first trip outside of the U.S. so it was fascinating to see a completely different culture. The home-stay was a great start to the trip because I got to see the differences between an American lifestyle and a Korean one. The home-stay family treated us with respect and courtesy throughout the whole 4 days we spent with each other and they considered our needs greater and more important than their own.

I liked the difference in cultures in Korea because it was something new to experience and once arriving back to America I missed the different kinds of people back at Korea. I hope I get to go again sometime in the future.

- Daniel Lee, Student from Cresskill, New Jersey

In American stores, every price is marked and is supposed to be sold at that price. In Korean stores, if the price on something isn’t marked, you can bargain to lower the price.

American restaurants usually serve individual dishes for each person and waiters and waitresses take tips. Korean restaurants sere dishes that are shared between everyone in a group and there are no tips.

Most Americans usually keep to themselves around strangers but are nice when you get to know them. In Korea, people are nice to everyone including people they just met and are generous and willing to help if the person asks.

- Alex Kwang Sung Kim, Student from Newtown Sq., Philadelphia

My favorite part of the trip was meeting local Korean students and spending time with them. Through this experience, I got to get a real taste of what it was like to be a Korean and I saw what they did for fun. When we stayed with the Jeon Nam University students, I bonded with my partner, Yurim, over everything from boys, school work, composers, and everything in between. Rather than going to the movies or having dinner with the Sejong group, we girls went to a 노래방-Noraebang (karaoke room), where we sang so much that we lost our voices and danced till we were sweating and breathing hard. Going to the 노래방-Noraebang was definitely very different from any activity that I would do with my American friends, but it was still incredibly enjoyable. Additionally, I found that I really liked calling my elders 오빠-Obba and 언니-Unnee (older siblings) and that it made me feel closer with the individuals. I almost wish that we had a similar phrase in English.
Despite the apparent cultural differences, meeting Korean students also showed me that even though we have a 14-hour plane ride between us, we are very much the same. We all had the similar amount of interest in school work, enjoyed popular culture (my interest in K-pop allowed me to bridge the gap very easily), and liked spending time with the ones we love.

Going on the Sejong Trip to Korea was truly wonderful and I will always remember my first visit to the motherland fondly. Thank you so much to all those who made the trip possible and everyone who came for making it an unforgettable experience.

- Elizabeth Hong, Student from New York, New York

Towards the end of the trip, I felt my Korean and understanding of the country of Korea was a lot better. I understood that Korea was not only the beautiful Jeju but the constant moving city of Seoul, to the suburbs of Korea. I learned more about my motherland and the birthplace of my parents and it made me proud to call myself Korean-American.

- Jeremy Meier, Student from Old Tappan, New Jersey

In conclusion, what I took from this trip to Korea is to be grateful of I have and exploring different world is the way to live life! On my way back home I could not wait to land, but I was already missing the Korean food, shopping places, and beautiful landmarks. Meeting great and cool friends made me sad to be leaving. In the end I didn’t just have one thing I liked about Korea...there was just too many!

- Akeda Reily, Student from Brooklyn, New York

We went to Jeon Nam University and stayed with a bunch of college students!

They were incredibly nice and put in a lot of effort to make each of us feel comfortable. I was already a bit fluent in Korean, so I got along really well with my assigned college student. We went to Noraebang (Korean karaoke) and to various shopping places. It was so much fun to get to hang out with college kids.

Overall, the trip was amazing. I am happy that I could go on an educational, yet fun trip to my motherland. It was my first time going to Korea and I learned a lot. I met a lot of new people and I’d do it all over again, if I had the chance to.

- Harrin Choi, Student from Cresskill, New Jersey

Today more and more K-pop “singers” rely on auto-tune, more and more Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin Robbins places appear more and more dramas and even American movies showing up on television. But that doesn’t mean Korea will lose its tradition. The two cultures weave together. The fact that Korean people can live in 2011 and still hold onto their fans and hanboks and celebrate paebaek and sit on the floor shows just how powerful tradition is in Korea.

- Lauren Paik, Student from Chattanooga, Tennessee

Thinking back, I once again realize that the Sejong trip was quite unique. It was not a vacation, as we had a rigid itinerary, some uncomfortable moments, such as the long, bumpy bus ride or the night spent on the hard wooden floor at the temple. However, it was a real experience not afforded by a vacation, because we didn’t just visit the tourist places, but experienced so many different aspects of Korean life, including visits to the orphanage, the Hongik child welfare center, and home stay. To see Elizabeth helping to feed the handicapped children was a touching moment and one of the highlights of the trip.

- Laura Hong, New York, New York