Jackie’s Words of Wisdom: Fluency Not Required

When I studied at Yonsei University during the spring of 2019 through UCEAP, I learned this: the city of Seoul is such a fascinating location. While businesses thrive in buildings with many floors, coffee shops flood the local eye, and street performers block the roads tempting you to stop for what would only be a minute but actually lasts an hour, Seoul is also surrounded by some of the most beautiful traditional and historical sites. Just a couple of miles away from the prestigious and modern looking Yonsei University, there lies the beautiful Gyeongbokgung palace that is surrounded by endless shops of eye-catching souvenirs you questioned whether to bring back home. I was one of the many tourists there with a phone camera that would not leave without a satisfying amount of pictures taken. Of course, the individuals and I who decided to explore the location knew we couldn’t leave without one thing…… Trying on traditional Korean dresses (hanboks)! We made sure to book a reservation at a dress rental location in advance just before our departure date back to the US. When the day came, we arrived at the location and spent more time than necessary trying out a variety of colored hanboks. We were very indecisive! But we came to final decisions, wore our dresses, and made our way out. Almost instantly it felt as if we were stepping into a historical Korean drama! It was almost magical! We walked around the surrounding area and took pictures inside the tourist-friendly traditional houses. At the end of the day, we were all left so exhausted, but for all the pictures we’ll keep forever, we knew it was all worth it! 

Jackie wearing a hanbok at Gyeongbokgung Palace, Seoul, South Korea, 2019

The first time I ever took a field trip alone was in South Korea. I would be lying if I said it all went smoothly and it wasn’t one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, but it was also really fun! I initially believed it would be stressful to live in a country without having any knowledge of the language. However, when I landed at the airport just before my study abroad program started, I realized how wrong I was. Koreans were really friendly and they assisted us when we needed it. It was then when I realized that a language barrier was only a learning experience to go through. Over the course of the semester, I wasn’t going to let time go to waste, so I decided to be out and about taking a trip to myself. Before going to Korea, I have always been the biggest fan of the Korean Reality Show “Running Man.” They were a group of Korean celebrities and comedians who challenged each other to missions and wild courses all while traveling all around and highlighting Korea’s culture really well. They are funny and exciting, and as long as there were subtitles, it was one of my favorite things to watch every now and then in my free time. Since I was in Korea myself, I decided to take a trip to one of their established mini theme parks located in Seoul. The mini theme park was established in a way for you to complete various challenge courses over a certain amount of time as if you were in the reality show yourself. Since I was alone, it was a one-player kind of experience, which was kind of hard to not only understand the instructions but also doing the entire course! As much as I was in it to try to win, I was really in it to see what the place was like. To my surprise it was chaotic and a perfect activity to many middle-school-aged children who ran around attempting to maximize their points and finish all the challenges. In the end, I did not end up completing the course perfectly; however, I completed just enough to be able to get a small pin as a prize! I guess all I would love to say is that you don’t have to know the language to have fun. Go out there, and explore! You never know what you’re going to experience!

Jackie at the Running Man theme park, Seoul, South Korea, 2019

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