Michael Cavanaugh from Philadelphia, PA. Participant from Chestnut Hill College
My name is Michael C. Cavanaugh and I was one of the 75 students involved in the CIEE South Korea Scholarship program that was carried out over the past 10 days. If you could do me the honor of forwarding this email to the members of the Korea foundation as well as all of the faculty and staff at Yonsei University who gave lectures, sacrificed time, and shared their experiences regarding life in Korea I would be forever grateful. In this email I am going to attempt to recount what I intended to say at the farewell ceremony and hope that it speaks to the experience I had in Korea.
My experience in South Korea during the week of March 13 through March 20 was like nothing I have ever experienced in my lifetime. I first came into the program with the intent of building and leaving with memories that would last a lifetime but now realize that this is not enough for me. Korea now has a place in my future, I feel obligated to not only share this experience with everyone here in the United States but also to return to Korea in the future with the intent of strengthening the relationships I have built and additionally, learning more about the Korean history, culture, and progressive economy.
I can recall waking up almost every morning around 5:00am and taking the time to watch a Korean news broadcast, stretch, and ultimately head out onto the streets of Seoul for a 1-2 hour walk. As I would walk each morning I made it a point to look each person in the eye that I encountered and although there was a bridge between us concerning vocal communication, I was realizing that this was only a mere signal asking me how bad I wished to make a connection. I found that by simply showing my gratitude and respect for the Korean people I was able to communicate with those around me. I genuine smile, a firm handshake, a gentle touch on the shoulder all served purposeful for expressing my desire to respect and learn more about Korean culture.
Always in the forefront of my mind I wanted to break the stereotype of the rude and careless American that expresses the individualistic mindset that things must change according to her/his ideology. By fully submitting myself to Korea and all of its previously established customs, I was able to see things in a higher stream of consciousness than ever before. All of my previous anxieties, worries, and fears that have been bred and reinforced in American culture were melting away more and more each day I spent in Korea. I experienced much of the same love I have for my own family here in America, toward Mr. Kim and our peer-guides from Yonsei University.
In Korea, I felt that my attitude and ideology was welcomed and encouraged. The Korean people are responsible, working collaboratively to create and maintain a society that demands responsibility and respect. This concept is something I have been searching for during the last 3 years of my life and I believe I have found it. I was able to conclude that morals, attitudes, and reciprocal respect practiced by Koreans can serve as a model for the United States.
I view my experience as an honor and I remain forever grateful and in debt to the Korea Foundation, CIEE and all the affiliates for granting me the opportunity to live in Korea for around nine days. There is no doubt in my mind that I will do everything I can to educate others about the Korean culture and society as I navigate throughout life in relation to my own personal goals. I am also very content with knowing that I have a home in Korea anytime I return in the future, of which I plan to very soon. Once again to the members of CIEE, the Korea Foundation, Yonsei University, and the newly found friends and family I have established in Korea, Thank you so much.