One of the best things about living in South Korea, is that you can see a lot of the country without having to travel very far or for very long. Size wise, the entire country of South Korea is about as big as Indiana. This makes it extremely easy to accommodate going to a popular place even if its only a day trip. One of the pleasures that I have experienced was taking a chance on a random Facebook group that organizes group travel for foreigners living in South Korea. Normally, I would never trust my life to people that I don’t know, however; Korea’s crime rate is extremely low and having already lived in the country for a few weeks, I felt it was okay to give it a shot. This particular group was ran by someone who gets paid by the government to show foreigners different aspects of Korean culture. The itinerary of the trip constituted of traveling to mostly smaller towns on the West Coast.
The first thing that struck me when traveling outside of Seoul, was the complete lack of foreigners. I mean literally, I was the only European with blue eyes for miles around, and the locals are not afraid to stare at you until it becomes infinitely uncomfortable. Some people were even taking my picture, they didn’t ask me of course, but it becomes pretty obvious when you have about 10 phones pointed in your direction. Honestly, I knew they were just curious so I didn’t let it bother me too much, but that was before they shuffled our group out to make kimchi in front of an audience. Yes, that is right, they made our group into a weird performing foreigners act, where we stood in front of a mostly older Korean audience and they dressed us up and made us make kimchi. Now, if you don’t know what kimchi is, its pretty simple; its a traditional side dish of cabbage fermented in different seasonings, you will find this at almost every single restaurant served on the side of your food for free. Making kimchi is a pretty important aspect of Korean culture and most older women take this task very seriously, so it only makes sense that they would find it hilarious to have foreigners trying to make a traditional dish while they watched.
After we had humorously fumbled through trying to make kimchi appropriately, the organizers rushed us on to a stage and turned on music where they then insisted that we dance. So now I’m dancing, after having just made kimchi. Normally, the entire experience would have been humiliating, but it was a lot of fun and the locals were so nice and excited to see us. The whole thing turned out to be okay because at the end of it, they gave us free food and took us down to see the ocean. By far, this was one of the weirdest experiences that I’ve had in my entire life, but it is now one of the fondest memories that I could not have gotten elsewhere.
Emily Noe is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying History. Emily is spending the semester abroad with Dongguk University in Seoul, South Korea. Emily is working towards achieving her Bachelors, Masters, and Doctorate in history.
Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.