Eric Park Palos Verdes High School 10th Grade
What could go wrong on a perfect summer vacation?
I was drowsing in the car when in a split of a second, time seemed to slow down. I was jolted awake when the car suddenly stopped. A split second later, I felt my body being thrown forward and then thrown backwards again, feeling my body slamming against the headrest. With a loud bang, I could see debris and pieces of glass slowly flying through the air as the car behind us slams into us. Welcome to my experience in Korea.
Just like a summer vacation should be, there are many enjoyable things in Korea. Korea has a very unique and strong history that no other country can compete with. Learning about Korean history left me in awe and respect to see how a poor country developed into one of the most influential countries today. As I walked through Korean Modern History Museum, it was easy to see the struggles and perseverance of the Korean nation trying to rise from Japan’s slavery into an independent nation. After leaving the museum, I decided to tour the streets of Korea’s cities. The experience of walking down the streets of each city was a one of a kind experience I have never felt even in Los Angeles. The vibe is much more relaxed and calming compared to the cities in America. The beauty and modern characteristics in Korea’s cities are also outstanding to experience. Not only does Korea centralize around city life, Korea has an amazing mountain and island experience.
Although Korea had it upsides, there were some struggles I faced while I visited the city. The first struggle I ran into right away was the language barrier I had. I was able to speak and write korean, but that was when it was simplified for my level of understanding at home. In Korea, everyone expected you to be already fluent, using slangs and talking a lot faster. The way Koreans also said their currency system was a new and challenging experience for me. This made it hard to understand many of the things people said to me when I traveled. Another challenge I faced was a method of communication. Korea, being the most technologically advanced country, has free WiFi everywhere, even in subways. The problem I found out was that many of the WiFi hotspots were only for phones that had Korean cell phone service providers. This ended up being an issue since I could not connect my phone to the free WiFi hotspots everywhere. Being used to walking everywhere in wide open streets, moving from one place to another in Korea was also challenging at first. I did not know what to expect when I rode a taxi or a bus. I did not know we had to catch a cab with our phones or pay for the bus with a prepaid card that you would purchase at a local convenience store.
Yet, it isn’t wise to judge a book by its cover. While my trip to Korea included some good, some bad, and some ugly; however, my traveling experience taught me the value of connecting with one’s heritage. As a Korean, learning about your heritage is very important. The culture and the way citizens of Korea acted and greeted one another was very different than the way people would greet each other in America. Being very respectful towards people other than you was a very important etiquette in Korea, even if the person was older than by one day. I had to greet and talk to them properly by using different words only used towards people older than you. Despite all the fun and challenges I had experienced in Korea, it was still a valuable experience that taught me more about the outside world. I got to experience first hand of traveling to a foreign country and how to adapt in different situations. My time at Korea also taught me more about my heritage and how Korea came to an independent nation.
<Eric Park Palos Verdes High School 10th Grade