Wow, studying abroad in South Korea this summer has been a journey. I've learned so much about life, academics, being abroad, and putting myself out there. One common theme that keeps on reappearing during my study abroad program is the concept of culture shock.
Culture shock. Growing up in the United States, I grew up viewing my country as the center of the world. Not literally---however, the way that I perceived the world revealed that my thought process wasn't too far off from this. Since the US has a huge influence on entertainment, global politics, and everything in between, I grew up thinking that my country's way of doing things was often the foundation for how other cultures decided to live their lives. While this is true in some small aspects (regarding modern music and television), I definitely hyperbolized it. Other cultures and countries are focused on themselves and how they live their lives. I knew this, but I completely overemphasized the US' role in people's lives. Traveling to Korea has taught me that other countries' centers of the universe are not the US, but their own country. Every country views itself as the standard and as central to the universe. While we all realize that other cultures exist and acknowledge their presence, we don't seek to actually understand their worldviews. I knew very little about the East Asian or Korean way of thinking. Thank goodness I traveld to Korea.
I have come to realize that Korean and American thought are often parallel to one another. Whether it comes to Individaulism vs Collectivism or differences in what is considered polite, our lifestyles are often very different. It has been hard for me to adjust to all of the differences between our societies, including the minor ones. From people not holding the door for me to forcing myself to eat with chopsticks every meal, many things have caused me to develop culture shock. I try to ground myself in this new experience abroad. I need to embrace this study abroad opportunity and learn to adjust to new customs. That is the beauty of studying abroad: adjusting to your new life. That is the beauty of studying in South Korea. Korea is a relatively homogeneous society, it being one of the least ethnically diverse countries in the world. This is what makes Seoul one of the best places to learn to conform to how others do things. If you don't conform to Korean culture, you will find it extremely hard to maneuver and fit in with the masses. I am happy I chose to study abroad in Seoul. It is forcing me to relinquish my Americaness and learn to live how others do.
Here's a YouTube vlog showcasing some of my journey.