It is 11 pm, and I am sitting in a cafe in my neighbourhood in Seoul, writing this blog. Yes, you read that right – cafes here are open till 11 pm (some 24 hours). This is one of many moments I have had to pinch myself to ensure I am not dreaming. I am here.
BACKSTORY: When the scholarship first got announced, I hesitated to apply because I thought my age and life stage would prevent me from receiving the scholarship. I had so many thoughts going through my head – I am 34 years old, married, and have a 5-year-old son. How could this be possible? Despite my thoughts and fears, I applied anyway, and I am grateful I did. When I got the email saying I got the scholarship, tears streamed down my face. The University of Auckland was so accommodating –the fact that I had a dependent meant that my son and husband were allowed to “tag along” with me on my journey. If I had let my fears get the better of me, I would not be here right now. BUT… I am here. I hope to encourage others to go for any opportunity despite their fears. Feel the fear and do it anyway!
SEOUL SO FAR: I have been to Korea before, but I am surprised each time I come. Seoul is smaller than Auckland landmass-wise, yet, it feels much larger. It has many areas, each very unique and different from the others. It almost feels like you are travelling to a new town each time. The city has an amazing blend of culture and tradition, meeting metropolitan vibes, making Seoul, Korea, so unique and magical.
When you travel to a new country, it’s essential to understand that you are a foreigner and carry an attitude of humility. When you do this and put your expectations behind you, that is when you experience the country to the fullest. It has only been two weeks, and I have experienced so much kindness, engaging in conversation with friendly older and younger Koreans. Many have travelled to New Zealand. I initially thought Koreans may get frustrated because I am limited in Korean. Quite the opposite – many Koreans welcome the fact that I am trying! This warmed my heart and built my confidence. If I don’t understand, we communicate with actions, or they will teach me the right words. I love that I don’t need to be completely fluent to communicate – I just need to put my fears aside. I need to make the most of this experience., and learn as much about the culture and language as I can because I am here.
This is the beginning of my blog. Next week, I will go into more detail about my personal experience, study life, and beautiful ventures beyond the mainstream version of Korea we often see on TikTok and other social media platforms.