Around the world in 18 years
Living abroad in South Korea for nine years and traveling to over 20 countries have been the most transformative experiences in my life.
Promptly after I was born in Hawaii, I moved to South Korea, where I lived from ages 1-10 while attending Korean schools. My world consisted of the circles, squares and lines that defined the logic-based Korean language, spicy rice cakes and red-bean filled, carp-shaped pastries I devoured on the way home, piano lessons and math academy, obeying strict teachers and conforming to society.
The world I once knew changed drastically at the start of fifth grade, when I moved to Irvine, California. I had no friends and I struggled to catch up linguistically, as a fifth-grader with a first-grade English level who forgot to add periods to the ends of my sentences, and culturally, as a timid Korean boy who was taught by society to be incredibly conscious of myself and my social image. While South Korea taught me to strive for academic excellence and practice filial piety, it failed to teach me what America did: the value of originality, assertiveness and self-confidence.
After attaining fluency in English and adjusting to American culture for several years, I decided to explore the world, again. While studying Mandarin in Deyang, China for six weeks on a fully-funded State Department scholarship, I learned to be bold, resourceful, fearless and to always give back to my surrounding communities. Compelled by my amazing experiences last summer, I’ll be taking a gap year to further study Mandarin for 10 more months in Beijing, China.
Living abroad has taught me more than any textbook could, both in tangible and intangible ways. It has shaped the way I live, eat, dress and think about myself and the world. It forced me to think globally and shoot for the stars, frame myself in a larger, more meaningful context and taught me that despite cultural, language and geographical differences, we are more united through universal human desires and tendencies than divided.
I am forever grateful and indebted to my international experience, so when the opportunities to live, study, travel or work abroad knock on your door, I hope you will scream ecstatically, sprint to your door and embrace them with open arms.