When our group arrived at the Hongik Child Welfare Center I was surprised at how happy and loved the children were. They were so cheerful and brought a smile to everyone's faces. The children at Hongik are healthy, well cared for, and loved just as a normal family would treat them. It was touching to watch the volunteers spend their time for the children that are lacking a parental figure. Watching the people helping out at the orphanage inspires me to help children that are less fortunate than me. They may not know it but they are heroes to the kids they care for. Hongik Orphanage is definitely a place I look forward to visiting again.
High School Student, Glen Rock, New Jersey
Waiting in the room to meet my foster mother, had thoughts racing through my mind. What does she look like? Will she remember me? How many foster babies did she care for? When heard the doorknob turn I froze. A short, little, Asian woman with big hair walked in. The image of an old picture of her holding me flashed in my mind and took me back to when I was a baby. As she walked closer to me I stood up and hugged her. Other than hugging my mother, I have never felt more warmth and comfort in someone.
-Libby S. Niggli
College Student, Highland, Illinois
I was deeply touched with having the chance to visit the Disabled Children's Home in Jeju Island. It was a humbling experience not only to see the children and adults who live there but also the people who help take care of them. There is so much hard work and dedication that go into caring for these people. The director of the home explained that there are physical therapists and special education teachers who volunteer or are on staff. Physical therapists help maintain flexibility and mobility while special education teachers give the children an education. And I was impressed how clean the home was. It tells me that this is a well-maintained environment for these people to live in and that the staff deeply cares about the people who live there.
Although this was an emotionally tough event to experience, seeing the different disabilities but it was comforting to see how well these people are taken care of.
Collge Student, Troy, Illinois
The HyangGyo Culture School had many buildings and some of them were dedicated to philosophers such as Confucius, to acknowledge and recognize their work. They also have many programs and classes teach Korean traditional ceremonies and mannerism. We had a chance to be a part of two Korean traditional ceremonies, the coming of age ceremony and the wedding ceremony.
The coming of age ceremony is when a boy, usually around 20, becomes a man, and a girl usually around. 15, becomes a woman. Libby and Jack from our group demonstrated the coming of age ceremony. Then I was told that I was going to be the bride to demonstrate the traditional wedding ceremony. I was excited but at the same time I was nervous to do it in front of the whole group. I put on five layers of clothing to complete a traditional Korean wedding dress, a traditional Korean hat, traditional Korean socks, and a red dot on each of my cheeks. With Jon Meier as the groom, we completed the ceremony and we had to bow to each other many times. Out of the many things that happened, Jon had to carry me on his back and the lady guiding us through the ceremony forced me to kiss him on the cheek. The audience was quite entertained.
I learned many things that I never knew before, even though I was born and raised in a Korean home. I also got to experience a full wedding ceremony and being the bride made it even more special.
-Sarah S. Hyun
High School Student, Palisades, New York
On the second day the Sejong kids and college kids went to traditional cultural house to learn about Korean mannerisms. Again, I wasn't exactly pumped for this day. But as the day went on, I was pleasantly surprised. It turns out there are many different types of bows and certain ways to enter and exit a room, especially when elders are involved. I remember thinking to myself, "I'm going to come home and practice some of these traditions': I didn't exactly practice the exact Korean mannerisms and traditions, but I did come home with a new mindset revolving around respect and discipline. I act different around my parents. I am more cautious of how I talk to them, even when I feel overwhelmed or stressed. The life skills that were given to me from this trip to Korea are priceless. feel confident as I move forward and make my new life. Hopefully when I start a family of my own, I'll be able to incorporate the respect and discipline I learned on the Sejong Trip of 2012!
Our group and all the Chon Name University college students went to cooking class. When we arrived to cooking class the instructors told us to wear aprons and bandanas. We were assigned into smaller groups in different tables. We all had to cook "bulgogi': Master Chef and her assistants showed us how to cut and cook the ingredients. After they were done cooking it was our turn to mimic their cooking creation. When everyone was done we had a contest to see who's table was the most spotless. Surprisingly our table won! I learned a couple tips of cooking. One of the tips was that using pear juice and soy sauce will even out the sweetness and bitterness. Cooking class made me feel very proud of myself that if you put I your heart into something it will always be successful!
High School Student, Norwood, New Jersey
Temple stay at Songgwangsa Temple, on the west side of Mt. Jogyesan, deep in the folds of fog, was a truly enchanting experience. The evening and dawn meditation services left such a mark on my being that I will forever remember. The power, heart, history, and concentration behind the monks’ chants dug deep into my own soul. It was powerfully contagious. In the moment, the language barrier did not matter. I did not know what their chants meant word for word but I felt what they meant. The tones, the rhythms of short to long, the blending of all of their voices into one, it was like a song for one's heart and for the world. I knew what they were saying was selfless and was good for the world. I agreed with their hearts and afterwards kept thinking of how we all need more agreeing hearts that seek to only do good.
While I am Christian, I was fully open to learning the culture of Korean Buddhism, and in that, a large base of Korean Culture. It is not often enough that we are asked to give ourselves fully to another culture. I thought of how much more openness and respect towards people with different beliefs and cultures that this kind of exposure could create in our community.
-Caitlyn R. Young
Middle & Upper School Visual Art
Teacher at Dwight-Englewood School New Jersey
I realized how brave the citizens were not only to fight for their democracy, but also for the democracy of the future citizens. These people were risking their own lives to put an end to the military dictatorship, and to establish a democratically elected government.
The Gwangju Democratic Uprising was a struggling time period of Korea, but we should consider it as a step that made our country stronger.
I was able to learn a lot more about Korea's history, and even had the honor to watch people burn incense for the citizens who died. Although it was a serious part of the trip, it was a great learning experience for me.
High School Student Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey