When I had my first four international buddies, I was inexperienced. I considered myself as a tour guide and felt stressed to hang around in English. I contacted them only when I felt like I had to take them somewhere; and they answered me after a day or two although they all had phones. We had our semester like that. They went back to their countries in June, and one didn’t even show up for our last goodbyes.
In late June, I was matched again with four new international buddies who stayed for the summer session. Once, we stopped by the cereal corner in a the mart for their breakfast. I thought eating cereals inside their dorm rooms would not be sufficient. I said, “Breakfast is important for Koreans.” And I still remember my American buddy’s response: “Of course, breakfast is important for everyone in the world.” This was the moment I realized that I had always been under a sense of obligation to show, tell and do things about Korea. I was regarding myself only as a Korean and not as a friend to them.
It was hard to adjust, but after having the new attitude, things were easier and more comfortable. I didn’t feel like I was making sacrifice or losing my free time anymore since international buddies were also my friend. They only had one limited month; we met up almost every day and made the most of our time eating, talking, and experiencing things. And I did join with other PEACE Buddies, which made organizing easier and gave me remaining good friends even after my international buddies were gone.
One day, after a field trip to DMZ, a Singapore buddy said in a few passing remarks, “Good and hard is the best combination.” I think I understand this. Being a PEACE Buddy was never easy for me. I always had to try to be their good friend even when sometimes they didn’t seem to need nor care about me. I busied myself with organizing trips and looking for restaurants without spicy foods. I can see it was and is still hard, but good since it is a meaningful experience to grow through moments and people.
With 11 international buddies I have been matched, this semester will be my last as a PEACE Buddy. Now I know they open up their minds just as much as I did. I learned to care about them more in person, not just contacting them only when I want to. I don’t consider myself as a good enough buddy from what I’ve learned until now, nor do I think that’s all I’m supposed to learn. I am willing to learn more and have memorable moments through my remaining days as a PEACE Buddy.
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