Six Hundred Words About My Six Months in South Korea

Quite naturally so, I would have never guessed what it would be like living all on my own on the other side of the world. From the heat of late August to the empty streets of early March, it has now been about six months out of ten I am spending here in Seoul, South Korea. What a marvelous time to do a little bit of reflection of what I have learned as an apprentice of Life, or, as they also call it, an exchange student.

 

I have learned just how kind people can be. It seems that no matter where I go, people are willing to lend a helping hand. On some days my Korean is enough, and on others, I am just as confused as I was on the day I landed. Nonetheless, the grandmas at the market or the baristas in one of the 18,000 cafes in the city are always kind and supportive, even when I have a bunch of stupid questions or just an awkward silence to offer.

I have learned to appreciate everything that at first glance seemed “different”. When you go somewhere new, you eventually have a bout of longing home. I cannot lie and say it has been just butterflies and happiness here – as a sensitive person, I can get overwhelmed over the smallest things. The most important thing for me to get out of the slump was to communicate with others, take part in activities and immerse myself in the culture. The food and the coffee shops, studying nooks at the campus, misty mountains, a curious history, quirky neighborhoods, mysterious smaller cities, Korea is filled with delicate elements that are as interesting as they are breathtakingly beautiful.

 

I have learned that we tend to take things for granted, no matter where we may be. Because I am nearing the last phase of my exchange program, I’m beginning to realize everything that I’m going to miss when I’m back home. However, it is no use to be sad about it, when it is still a perfect time to go out and enjoy everything that this place is made of. That is to say, this moment is all there is ever going to be. So, I’ve learned how important it is to see what is in front of me and learn to love it with all my senses and heart.

I have also learned that life is a mystery. This experience has been a once in a lifetime kind of opportunity to try everything new and become completely open. Even so, even during an exchange, some things get repetitive, like the parties and the stress of studying. Thus, it has been my responsibility to turn inward and ask myself if I’m staying as curious as I want to be. This place has been like a home to me because of those more silent moments, honest moments. Those moments when life suddenly seemed to slow down, and everything, the past and any future worry, crumbled down and vanished. I could see the smiles on their faces, eyes sparkling like stars, beings living as their genuine selves. Those moments, moments of presence, are my gentle reminder that we are so much more than we may think we are. Words are not enough to describe what I am or what you are, or what this life is.

 

No words are enough to describe everything that has happened during these precious months, but I will continue to try, for it is the only way for me to honor this place, that too is indescribable with mere words.