Journey with butterflies in the stomach to an enriching experience

VAISHNAVI SOOD

On that Monday morning of August 28, 2017, when I raised the window shades of the aircraft before our landing I got the first glimpse of Korea and began to get those butterflies. As we touched down at the Incheon Airport in Seoul, I felt a sudden rush of emotions that can never be expressed in words.

“A girl who never stayed out of her house alone for a single night got a chance to cross the national borders and explore a foreign land amid those unknown faces. Of course, she said yes but only her heart knew the anxiety that accompanied this overwhelming joy and excitement.”

I was glad to have my four Indian friends by my side and we wanted to celebrate that moment. Suddenly, being surrounded with those unfamiliar faces also felt a bit weird. But, meeting our mentor calmed all the anxiety I had. We even went to eat outside with her and the food was delicious. But on the very first day we realized, finding vegetarian food and eating out was not going to be easy in the coming days.

The first few days were blissful. I was curious about my new surroundings and even the differences were exciting. But, as the initial excitement began to fade, anxiety started to set in. I had anticipated it wouldn’t be easy but I didn’t know it would be so hard. I felt lonely and found my confidence shaking. I had no clues how to deal with it. I tried reading articles about the experiences of other exchange students from around the world as I found it hard to express and cope up.

It took a little time but once things began to make sense, it was easier to adapt. I began to relax and enjoy my new environment. Taking responsibility for my choices and deliberately deciding how I spent my days finally returned my confidence and gave me the much needed satisfaction.

Exchange Students from Shoolini University at Gachon University
Exchange Students from Shoolini University at Gachon University with other International students.

In the process, I met people from various cultures and made friends from different countries. My four Indian friends from Shoolini who came with me in this Program have also made a huge difference to my Student Exchange Journey. They encouraged me in going out of my comfort zone and supported whenever I needed them. They would never hesitate in pointing out my mistakes either. Sometimes, I would get upset over it but later I began to appreciate it. Their support and being there for me has meant a lot to me.

These Last three months are filled with overwhelming moments and wonderful memories. Standing at the Eulji Observatory, with the view of Punch Bowl on one side and North Korean mountains on the opposite side left me wonderstruck. It continues to be one of my favorite moments in South Korea that I will never forget. 

Exploring these beautiful places and getting closer to the culture of a new country was a unique experience in itself. The Korean culture and traditions are very interesting with quite a few similarities with the Indian Culture. I was amazed to see so many traditional games of Korea that have clear resemblance to a few of our Indian games. On the other hand, the Korean Dishes are extremely different from Indian food. Though, love for Indian Curry among the Korean people is well known.

I always found Koreans to be very helpful but some of them are shy, especially with the foreigners. Language Barrier created another challenge for us in Communicating with the native people but learning a bit of Korean language helped us a lot in the later days. The way they prefer Korean over English or any other Foreign Language is something we have admired too. 

Throughout this journey, there had been a lot of things that I learned and explored. This whole journey is an experience that I can never forget. It has helped me to grow as a person. Now, I can confidently say that no other country in the world could have been a better destination for my first trip abroad than this beautiful land. 

I am greatly thankful to my Professors at Shoolini University for trusting me and to Gachon University for giving me a chance to study in their institution for one semester. I am blessed to have so many people who supported me throughout this journey and made it even more memorable.