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My delightful experience in Korea
2015년 05월 22일 (금) 09:05:02 Francesca Capurro evoice@ewha.ac.kr
   

Francesca Capurro

(Global Korean Studies, 2)

As for many foreign people, my first approach to Korean culture was due to the popularity of Hallyu –to be more specific, Korean dramas and music. I have always been interested in studying languages, but I was so captivated by the Korean language and the culture. So I decided to come here after high school and study in a language center. I thought I would get by just fine as I had some Korean friends living in Seoul. But as soon as I arrived here, I encountered many difficulties adjusting to the culture and society. First of all, I realized that not everything that I had seen through dramas was the real portrayal of Korea. In fact, not all of the guys on the streets looked like a flower boy I had expected. Apart from my expectations, it was really hard to adjust to the etiquette related to the respect for older people. For this reason, at the beginning of my experience, I unconsciously committed some silly mistakes that people around me easily overlooked as they knew I was not aware of their customs. For example, I nearly choked when my friend brought me to eat cold noodles for the first time. I had no idea that I needed to cut them with scissors instead of a knife which is one of the common mistakes that many foreigners initially make with Korean food.
The most valuable knowledge that I received from the language center was also about the culture. It helped me greatly during the process of adaptation to this society. In fact, I have to say that I have hardly experienced any kind of discrimination from people, and that everybody was always very nice and helpful to me, even though I could not communicate with them fluently.
During my stay in Seoul, I have also had the chance to visit many important historical and cultural sites. Personally, my favorites are the Buddhist temples. Buddhism is not fascinating just because of its entire philosophy about life, but because the temples are places that inspire peace and tranquility of the mind and soul. Whenever I went to a Buddhist temple, I encountered a gentle monk who would offer me some rice cakes. Last week, for example, I had a fantastic field trip with some of my classmates to a small Buddhist temple in Gangnam. Maybe it was destiny, and maybe it was not, but we encountered a lady who manages the temple and she showed us around and explained about Buddhism in detail. Also, we were very lucky as we met one of most important monks in the field: venerable Jigwan, who was so nice as to enthusiastically shake and hold our hands, a gesture that not many monks concede to common people.
In Korea, I also met my current boyfriend on a language exchange website. We experienced much of Korean culture together as we visited some places every week. Gradually, we fell in love with each other and became a couple.
At the beginning, I was just planning to stay here for about three months. But in the end, because I genuinely fell into the Korean culture,  I decided to invest a lot of effort to stay here longer; and here I am, staying almost for two years already and attending a very big, prestigious university for which I will be grateful forever for giving me this amazing opportunity!
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