Korea Trip: Summer 2017

Grecia Melgar Garcia

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This past summer, I (Grecia) had the chance to travel abroad to Korea after winning a scholarship to study there for a month. As a student, this is one of the greatest opportunities that has ever been made available to me so far, and I’m grateful for the support and encouragement of my Korean teacher, Ms. Park, who made it possible.

This particular scholarship is presented by a foundation known as the Korean Language and Culture foundation, and it is made available to students ranging from middle school to high school juniors. Applications open for students near the end of the first semester with an essay topic of your choice. Of the hundreds of applicants, only a select few win; however, this doesn’t mean you win the trip to Korea. Third and Second place win small cash prizes and first place wins the three week trip with all expenses paid.

I actually won third place but was still selected to attend the trip. In the thrill of the moment I forgot I didn’t have a passport. By this point, I only had a month until the actual trip. After a few hundred dollars and some runs, I finally got my passport and was ready to leave. I won’t bore you by explaining the whole trip. However, I will say that traveling alone for 13 hours over the Pacific ocean with a bunch of angsty teens is one of the scariest things I have ever experienced, that and having to share a bathroom with someone you don’t know for three weeks straight.

Korea, in a nutshell, is a hot, humid, rainy bubble, surrounded by history that dates back centuries. The culture shock was immediately present. We were sweaty kids in neon yellow t shirts – completely out of place. But I found that this is what brought us together in the end. On the long bus rides to and from all of our destinations, we often talked about home, school, being lonely, and how the food was that day.

We stayed in Incheon by the George Mason University, Korea. Our dorms were small, there were only two desks, two beds, a bathroom and a shower stall with no door. I admit it was very awkward. I happened to be paired with an amazing person who made the trip so much fun, comfortable, and easier to bear. The homesickness struck very quickly, and the staff tried their very best to keep everyone happy.

Three weeks may seem very long, but in the end, it turned out to be extremely short. We explored the northwest area of Korea, making frequent visits to Seoul for sightseeing, museums, and of course, shopping. A few of the highlights include: Namsan Seoul Tower, Myeongdong shopping district, Music Bank, Gwanghwamun and Gyeongbokgung palace gates, Mud Flats, and Everland (the Korean version of Disneyland). On some days, we’d have to rush through some destinations just to make sure we’d have enough time to visit all of the planned spots. Personally, my favorite place had to be Everland because of all the thrilling rides and the cute animal theme.

The highlight of the entire trip, however, had to be the food. There were so many types of food that we had the chance to try. Of course on most days, we’d have the campus cafeteria food. The cafeteria food was a mix of western, modern and traditional Korean food. Nonetheless, an amateur foodie dream come true. On the days we got to go out, we tried Instagram level food. If you thought the Korean food here in Koreatown was amazing, you haven’t lived at all!

If I haven’t yet convinced you that this trip is a once in a lifetime opportunity you should take, maybe this picture will change your mind.

Yes, there was a dog cafe in Korea. And yes, that dog was our waiter, his name was Goldeng. My friend Klaudia couldn’t resist taking a picture with the cute celeb.

 

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