America Isn’t Everything

This week in class we covered an article that was published by Brown University about a variety of experiences that people had studying abroad. This article seemed to cover every major culture there is (Europe, Africa, India, Asia, Latin America, and the Pacific). The people who recorded their responses were not named, but identified by their ethnicity and sexuality.

I was more surprised by myself than what I read. I approached this reading with the American mindset, so I was very judgmental and taken aback by how these other cultures behaved. To me, these other cultures seemed more traditional. The men seemed to be at the head of power, women are severely objectified, and race is an extremely prominent issue. The United States has all of these issues, but it seems like they are all amplified. I had to take a step back and try to look at it from their perspective. How they treated these foreigners reflected how Americans are viewed and how their culture operates. To them, none of that is considered abnormal; it is just their culture.

One specific instance recorded by an African-American Female stood out to me above the rest. She was visiting Ghana due to its history of slavery and convenient language of choice (English), but when she arrived she was immediately treated differently by the people who were supposed to relate and connect with her. Instead, she was identified as an American, and African-Americans are referred to as “white” due to their westernization. It is very interesting because many African-Americans in the United States want to keep their African identity, but to Africans they are compared to white people because they are a part of, what Africans consider, a white culture.

With this newfound knowledge about how different people are treated differently among the world I now know I hold a whole new role as when I study abroad. I will be faced with unknown societal obstacles, and instead of questioning I will conquer or submit; depending on the situation. As for when I encounter people visiting from another country, I will consciously make an effort to not perpetuate stereotypes, and to be more open-minded.

– John Moore

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10 Reasons Most Humans Are Exactly the Same

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Most humans are the same.

To you, this may seem to be a closed-minded, ignorant point of view, but I believe the opposite.

Across borders, language barriers and the like, I have noticed a few things that seem to transcend dissimilarity of mindset, ethnicity, nationality, origin, etc.:

1. Most human beings are just trying to get by.

2. Most people aim to make the most of their everyday lives.

(Although, in my opinion, this is prioritized less in the U.S.; see statistics on the U.S.A.’s vacation time, workday norms, average time spent using Internet or watching Netflix).

3. To most humans, relationships with friends and family members are prize possessions.

4. Across the globe, it is common for people to heavily rely on their family as their support system.

5. Most humans are simply attempting to make the best futures for themselves – whether for their future career, for their future health, for their future mind, or on behalf of their spiritual beliefs.

6. The worries that haunt individuals on one side of the globe are similar on the other: worries about food, water, shelter, education, jobs, healthcare, savings and retirement.

7. Most humans could benefit from lower stress levels.

Can’t take the vacation? Take the staycation. Can’t get the massage? Get the $5 massage roller. Not feeling like uncorking a whole bottle of wine on your own? Get the boxed wine. If it makes your day a bit better, hopefully, in turn, it makes you a bit happier – therefore extending your life a little, no?

8. Everyone could benefit from a little more love.

(Going off of the previous statement, who says that doing things for oneself is the only way to improve a person’s quality of life? Give a card to your loved one for the hell of it. Volunteer a few hours a week at an after-school program or at a donation center. Offer sincere compliments more frequently. Give more love.)

9. Most humans are afraid of what they don’t fully understand. Misinformation-fueled hatred continues to manifest itself in social issues of international scale (regarding politics, race, nationality, sexuality, body shapes and sizes).

10. Most humans, from all corners of the globe, continue to hope for a better tomorrow.

I Am a Woman

I have felt as though I have been an “other” for upwards of 75% of my life.

On a surface level, I am a white, blondish, privileged, smartish, wanderlusting, artsy, upper-middle class girl who has been given a lot of opportunities already in life–I fit the majority bill pretty well. However, I have gone through a lot in my life which I believe has skewed my own perspective of myself as an “outsider”.

I was born with my right leg from the knee down appearing to be fine, but couldn’t quite keep up as I physically developed. By the age of six my right leg was two-and-a-half inches shorter than my left leg and one foot was smaller than the other. Over time the development of my right leg became even worse. I eventually, starting at age six on Valentine’s Day, had four corrective surgeries to fix what a dear friend of mine lovingly coined my baby leg (it’s highly hypotrophied and deserved a cute nickname after all the crap it’s been through). I’ve had a toe removed (hence Fourtoed Travel Wannabe), my Achilles tendon cut twice, an external fixator for six months (if you are curious and aren’t highly disturbed by gross medical equipment, it’s worth a Google), a plate placed on my shin, my heal broken and shifted, all the tendons and ligaments cut on the bottom of my baby foot, and have been wheelchair-bound for six months. The majority of those procedures took place before I was ten, and the hard ones were when I was six or seven.

As anyone can imagine, this wreaked havoc on not only my perception of myself. But unfortunately, the way everyone in my life saw me changed, too. Being a six-year-old in a wheelchair with an halo-like external fixator didn’t do much good in the friends department. Since little kids didn’t want to be friends with the girl who had new casts every few weeks and had to learn to walk four times (and in hindsight understandably so), those same people who saw me during my strife while I was young in school never particularly lost their perception of me as an outsider as we all grew up. Even a decade after my surgeries I didn’t truly have a friend group–everyone had made friends in second and third grade while I was in Shreveport being sliced and diced.

So yes, I understand being an outsider. It’s not scary, folks. It teaches you a lot about yourself. I highly recommend it–and studying abroad is a GREAT time to test it out!

Although I have no fears of being an outsider in the US, there is one particular topic of “other”-dom ” I am petrified of while being abroad.

I am a very independent, driven young women, and I am very, very afraid of how I will adjust to cultures where women do not have as many rights and liberties as I am accustomed to. I know that sounds snobby and unaware, but please understand: I am highly respectful of other ways women live across the world and I am very adaptable to many situations, cultures, and environments. However, I am so nervous that I will “slip up” while being abroad. I might smile at a guy and get groped. I might unknowingly step into a man’s role or space and upset someone enough to warrant some bad juju and worse. And what I am most afraid of, I might miss out on opportunities and experiences because I am a women.

I need a little more time to mull this over before I word vomit my heart out on this subject matter–I haven’t had a problem before, but this one hits me harder than most.

Ladies (and gents!), if you have any words of wisdom, I could use some love.

Coffee? I’ll buy.

About Me

Hello, All!

Long story short: Lucy Kates, University of Oklahoma class of 2020, Global Engagement Fellow, Letters major and French minor. Never left the United States, hoping to travel to France, Italy, and a Francophone region of Africa.

Long story long: My name is Lucy Kates, and I was born and raised in Jefferson, Wisconsin, a town of about 8,000 people. Though Wisconsin is prolifically mocked (yes, people really do wear hats shaped like cheese), it’s an incredibly beautiful state, and I wouldn’t have wanted to grow up anywhere else.

I’m now a student at the University of Oklahoma. While I originally looked at this school because of their generous National Merit Scholarship, I decided to come here for a whole host of unrelated reasons. When I began telling my family and friends that I was considering going to school in Norman, they usually responded in one of three ways: 1) “That’s so far away!” 2) “What’s in Oklahoma? Why?” or 3) “Ohhhhklahoma where the wind comes sweeping down the plainnssss….”

I toured 11 colleges, and I am unequivocal in my conviction that I couldn’t have found a more appropriate place to grow than here at OU. I smiled and nodded in response to their singing and commentary on exactly how far of a drive it is from home (831 miles), but I am becoming able to precisely answer the quip “What’s in Oklahoma? Why?” I was presented with myriad opportunities even before arriving on campus, and I have quickly found a community of people who, by virtue of the state’s humility, are simultaneously driven, grounded, and curious about the rest of the world. This makes OU feel like home.

Aside from a thrilling jaunt into Canada for about two hours back in the day when you didn’t need a passport to cross their border, I’ve never left the United States. Thanks to OU’s Global Engagement Fellowship, that’s going to change.

I applied for the fellowship mostly for the obvious reason: the study abroad scholarship. But I was also excited by the notion of surrounding myself with people who are well-traveled, or who aspire aspire to be. Growing up in rural Wisconsin, you realize that many people don’t experience wanderlust. They don’t itch to see as much of the planet as possible. They’re not interested in the implications of globalization. These people exist in Oklahoma as well, but it’s also not an uncommon mentality even in the world’s most beautiful and culturally-rich places. It’s easy to be content with stability and routine, and it’s also easy to be stagnant.

With the fellowship, I plan to study abroad for a semester in France. I took four years of French in high school, forgoing other language options simply because my older sister told me the French teacher was really nice and the class would occasionally make crepes. Fortunately, my rather uninformed decision making led me into studying a language that I now love. By spending several months completely immersed in the culture and language, I’m hoping to eventually become fluent.

Besides traveling to France, I’m hoping to bolster my language skills in Africa. It is so easy to dismiss the entire continent as an impoverished place that needs aid from the Western world that we often forget about how vast and economically and culturally diverse Africa is. Spending even a few weeks in Morocco or Senegal could teach me so much.

Lastly, I’d love to visit Italy. I want to stand before Michelangelo’s statue of David and experience it in the city for which it was intended. I want to revel in Renaissance culture, luxuriating in a cultural soup of egg tempera frescoes and flying buttresses and garlic butter sauce.

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Three Days in Paris: tips from a 20-something

Bonjour!

 

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As you may know from previous posts, this semester I am studying in Italy to finish up my minor in International studies and fulfill a study abroad requirement for the Global Engagement Fellowship.

One of my recent weekend trips was to Paris (Cinque Terre, Genova and Sienna/Capri posts coming soon). In order to give a steady rating system for every major city I visit, I have created a ranking with sub – scores based on categories I find important for the 20-something traveler:

Transportation, Helpfulness, Affordability, Sightseeing, and Overall Opinion.

Below you will find my brief review of Paris within these categories that includes things I wish I knew and helpful tips.

Transportation – 9

Getting to Paris from another European city can be rarely cheap if you play your cards right. If you are in France already or a country pretty close, you can overnight train for a low price.

Because I am all the way in Tuscany, flying seemed the most practical. If you haven’t discovered skyscanner.com you need to check it out. You can enter a destination (without specifying an airport or with specifications) and it will scan the web for the best flights for cheap. I flew out of Pisa to Paris for 24 Euro through Ryanair.

Paris has an insanely efficient metro system. There are pretty much stops every three to four blocks. Maps in the subway are easily navigable and most lines cross over at some point so getting anywhere can be reached by only a few stops or none at all.

If you are spending a few days in Paris, it would be useful to buy a daily metro pass that can be bought down at the ticket machines in every station. At busy times, scammers will try to take advantage of mass amounts of tourists by “helping” them buy tickets. These people look official. They work in teams and wear badges. Let me save you the trouble of being scammed out of 37 Euro and tell you that ANY UNSOLICITED HELP IN PARIS IS NOT HELP. Buy your tickets on your own. Tickets can be bought in zones. The zones range from 1 – 5. 1 – 3 can be considered the main tourist/sightseeing areas of Paris. Zone 5 will get you to the outskirts of Paris to places like Versailles.

Tip: anyone under 26 years of age is considered a child. Buying children’s metro passes can be the difference between 17 or 8 Euro.

Metro is the best form of transportation in my opinion. Trains are always on time and run pretty close together so do not fret if you think you missed a train. The busiest hours are weekends and then weekdays around 9 am and night from 5-7.

Other systems are pricy and less efficient than the metro. If you want, you can uber, taxi or rent a bike.

When it comes to walking, make sure to wear comfortable shoes. I know the Parisians are fashionable and you want to fit in, but your feet will thank you if you wear tennis shoes. A lot of places are cobblestone which can hurt if you don’t have proper arch support, and you will climb a lot of stairs if you visit museums and monuments. On my first full day in Paris I walked more than 30,000 steps.

Always beware of pickpockets no matter how you travel around the city. Keep a hand or eye on your bag at all times and keep important items tucked away. People may ask you for help to distract you or “bump into” you.

When walking you will run into persistent people trying to sell you items on the street. You can give if you want, but know that everything is overpriced and you may be contributing to an underground business. Just say no or keep walking.

Helpfulness – 3

It is probably not a surprise to most people that Parisians are not the friendliest or most helpful. It isn’t that they mean to be rude, but Paris is one of the biggest cities in Europe with a plethora of annoying tourists. For them, it is easiest to tune you out and keep walking.

What worked best for me was asking other tourists for help or asking police. Don’t be surprised if you get attitude from people who are supposed to help you, though. I was ignored by airport workers and told to learn French by desk operators at important sights.

Only three people helped me the whole trip (which is why I gave “helpfulness” a 3 out of 10): two youths we asked for directions to Notre Dame, our Air B&B hostess who let us store our bags for free (great location and price here) and the metro worker who printed out a google translate document saying we were scammed on tickets (still bitter).

If all else fails and no one will help, do what everyone else is doing, but (and I will emphasize this until I die) ANY UNSOLICITED HELP IN PARIS IS NOT HELP.

Affordability – 1

I came into Paris not really knowing what to expect. I was so accustomed to small Italian destinations that I didn’t think about how costly Paris would be. Unfortunately I need to save up and really buckle down for the rest of the semester because of how much money I spent. Below is a breakdown of what I spent and tips on how you can save.

Train to and from airports (two trips) – 46.10 €
Hotel in Pisa for one night – 25 €
Taxis to and from airports (three trips) – 8.5 €
Flights – $92.43
Bus from airport to city & vice versa – (two trips) 34 €
Food – 83.10 €
Scammed for metro pass – 37 €
Metro pass for three days – 33 € (didn’t know about Child’s pass until day three)
Paris museum pass – 48 €
Souvenirs – 12 €
Air B & B – 58€ (split five ways)

For a grand total of 467.57 €

Yikes. Looking at this list of prices pains me. I only spent three days in Paris (four days traveling) and spent more than 100 Euro each day. Spending money in Paris is inevitable, but there are so many things I learned that could have made the trip so much cheaper. Don’t be like me. Here are tips that could save you money:

Early morning flights may give you more time, but overnight stays in small cities to accommodate your flight may cost you. Save yourself the cash and get one at a later hour.
Pack snacks! I really went cheap on food if I’m being honest. 84 Euro for Paris and four days of travel is not a lot. Look for hole-in-the-wall restaurants with low prices and then splurge on one real Parisian meal. I saved my money for macaroons from La Duree. Some of my meals I bought from a local grocery store and farmers market for around 5 Euro. Remember that water costs a lot in Paris, so bring a water bottle and (I know it sounds gross) fill up in the sink.
Don’t get scammed. I could have saved myself 40 Euro if I had been vigilant and seen through the situation. Always know where your money is going and question every person who offers to help you. ANY UNSOLICITED HELP IN PARIS IS NOT HELP.

If you are under 26, get a children’s metro pass. It is significantly cheaper. I’m talking 5 – 7 Euro cheaper which can make a difference.
The museum pass from the tourism office can be great if you are into history and art like I am. It is 48 Euro and gets you into pretty much every thing you could want to see in Paris. (Check it out here.) However, I wish I had known that my student visa gets me into most places for free anyway. The website is confusing and makes it sound as though only EU students get in for free, but flashing my student visa got me in plenty of places and I’m from the U.S. The museum pass is also a waste of money if you are only wanting to see a few select places that may be free on weekends. Between free weekends and my student visa, I could have skipped the pass altogether.

Sights – 10

Paris is a 10 out of 10 when it comes to sightseeing. Not only is the cityscape beautiful from all angles, but the amount of rich history and arts contained within its borders is unmatched. Below are the top things I think everyone must see in Paris.

Arc de Triumph

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It might seem obvious, but your mind will be blown by the sheer size of the arc. It looks tiny in pictures, but from the top you can see all of Paris and take beautiful pictures (plus it’s free to enter on Saturday).

Eiffel Tower

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This is also obvious. Tourists love it here (and so do pickpockets) but standing at the bottom of the Eiffel Tower and looking up makes you feel so small. The amount of time people took to make something so magnificent possible is unreal. Pictures don’t do it justice either. My recommendation is to skip going to the top if you want to save money and just view the tower and the city from the arc, but make sure to have a picnic at the bottom of poo champagne.

Musee de Louvre

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Ever wanted to see the Mona Lisa and Venus in one place? Then the Louvre is the place for you. A museum pass will get you in for free to see some of the most famous artworks in the world. The Louvre is something I wish I had slotted more time for. It is massive. To see it all would take a full day at least. It is worth the time though to see pictures you’ve only seen in history books right before your eyes. Not only is the art gorgeous, but the building is a work of art itself. If you go on a Friday, the museum is open until 9:30 so you can stay a bit longer taking in the art. Here is the website:

Musee D’Orsay

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Smaller than the Louvre, the D’Orsay is an old train station converted into an art gallery with famous Monet’s and Van Gogh’s. Originally this wasn’t on my bucket list for Paris, but I’m glad my friends dragged me along because I can finally say that I’ve seen some of the most famous works of art.

Musee de Picasso

Although Pablo Picasso was originally from Spain, he lived and worked in France for most of his life which is why the Picasso museum is home to many famous works of his. The museum has a free guided audio tour that takes you through the background of his art and tells you more about the phases he went through as an artist.

Palace of Versailles

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This is an obvious choice for any tourist. During tourism season, Versailles can be packed and less than luxurious. We went on a cold and rainy day at about eleven in the morning which was perfect. The line to enter was not too long and there were a lot of tourists, but not so much that we couldn’t get around to the important areas. The palace is even more beautiful than in pictures. A guided audio tour can give you the history of every room through the centuries. To fully see the palace and gardens would take a full day. Museum passes will not get you into the garden if there is a show. If you are not using a museum pass, you have to buy two separate tickets to the garden and palace. Take a look at the fountain homes, Marie Antoinette’s estate and the royal family’s summer home.

Overall Opinion – 5

I begrudgingly give Paris a 5 out of 10. It might be my fault. Honestly, I feel as though I needed more time to appreciate the city without feeling overwhelmed and annoyed with all the people. It would have been much better if I had gone later in the winter with fewer tourists. The city has a ton of downsides. The people are mean and it’s expensive and dirty. I just could have spent time in a better city and spent less money. I would like to visit France outside of Paris so that I could have a better opinion of the country as a whole. The only reason I even gave Paris a 5 is because the metro system rocked and the amount of history and art I was able to see is unattainable anywhere else. Someday I plan to visit Paris when I have more time and more money to blow.

Until my next adventure ~~~~

 

xoxo

Kyoto 9.27.16

My Dearest Friend,

I apologize for going so long without writing. It’s been a busy couple of weeks. I’ve attended many orientation sessions, explored Kyoto a bit more, and begun classes. I’ve also gotten to meet more people, which has been enjoyable.

The orientation week was boring, as orientations so often are. The information was useful, but was explained very slowly, so that we sat in lecture halls much longer than we needed to. At the time it was frustrating that the speakers went through each packet in both Japanese and English. Now that my classes have started and I have to follow Japanese lectures daily, I wish I’d paid more attention to the Japanese portions of orientation. Lectures are very fast and can be hard to follow even in English, but much more so in Japanese.

Last week was mostly a week off. That was very fortunate because it allowed us to settle into real routines. I began exploring a bit, both by myself and with friends. I still cannot navigate the transportation system, but I’m relatively confident in my ability to not get lost in the general vicinity of my dormitory. A couple of my friends and I even took a train up to Arashiyama where we walked through the bamboo grove. It was so beautiful there. I’m sending a picture of the forest with this letter. We had a wonderful time. I also had my first taste of matcha-chocolate swirl soft serve ice cream. I’m afraid I’ll need my own soft serve machine in the states so that I can keep eating it.

Around the dorm I have spent my time playing ping pong, joining group video games, and occasionally going out with my friends. It seems I’m not too bad at ping pong. Imagine my surprise. You remember how hopeless I was at the game back in middle school. I’ll keep practicing while I’m here so that I can impress everyone when I get home.

Although classes have only just started, I’m already quite busy. I spend about as much time in class here as I would in the States, but I’m getting fewer credits. It’s frustrating, but unsurprising. At least my hardest day is over. Wednesdays are lovely because I only have one class and it’s in the afternoon. I’m looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow.

I miss you very much, but I’m starting to enjoy being here even beyond the novelty. I’ve gotten comfortable cooking and shopping. Now all I need is to be able to fully communicate with people. I hope you’re doing well also. I will try to write again soon. Enjoy the last few days of September.

Forever Yours,

Kestrel

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Perspectives

The world is filled with gazillions of different perspectives, and this week my eyes were opened to many that I had not considered before. Starting with the visit from the international students, I realized that I had a somewhat narrow-minded approach to what I would gain through study abroad. Of course, I had always considered the fact that I would encounter cultural confusion, different perspectives, etc. However, listening to them speak firsthand about their experiences really opened my eyes to the reality of all the perspectives in our world. For instance, I asked the international students if there was ever a time where they felt that they “had to be an ambassador for their country” or “dismiss erroneous stereotypes.” They all immediately said “yes,” and jumped into explaining the idea that many people had immediate reactions/preconceived notions about the origins of the students. For example, a student from France said that there is a “romantic, ooooh-la-la” vibe that many associate with her country. All of the students, said that many Americans assumed certain characteristics to fit their entire nations. Obviously, this is not the case, and the students said that they felt obligated to demonstrate the opposite, that they do not fit their stereotype.

As there are many perspectives on all countries, I am sure that I will encounter people who stereotype all Americans. Upon encountering this, I hope that I am able to handle it as gracefully as the international students who spoke to us seemed to be able to do. I will encourage others to accept cultural differences, as I strive to do the same.

What stood out to me most, however, was when I realized that not all stereotypes are entirely derived from misinformation or ignorance. As I began to think about it, I realized that I have been guilty of (intrinsically) stereotyping international students that I have met. Now, obviously, I am not outward or ignorant about expressing these thoughts, but the fact that they are somehow embedded in my mind surprises/scares/shocks me. How do I remove this instantaneous judgement from my mind?? It is certainly not something that I want to continue to possess during my college career or time abroad. Acknowledging these embedded judgements are the first step to eliminating them, so here I go!

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Chuseok

Time has been flying by in Daegu! I knew that would happen, but it still is unbelievable that I’ve already been here for just over a month. Two weeks ago, I had an extra three days off of school for the Korean holiday Chuseok (추석). Chuseok is a harvest festival during which most Koreans go back to their hometowns and spend time with their families. Traditionally, there are several rituals performed to honor the ancestors of the family. When I asked my Korean friends about these rituals, they said things along the lines of “Oh, my family doesn’t really do that” or “Just my grandparents or my parents do that, I don’t really do it,” with a look of mild guilt.

I was a bit worried that I would be terribly bored during this break. I was warned not to travel within Korea because the traffic would be horrible. I couldn’t travel outside the country because I was not yet a registered foreigner. On top of that, many businesses close during the holiday as people go home to their families. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to be invited by my friend (and OU cousin from last year) to her grandmother’s house to eat a traditional Korean meal! This was an honor for me and I am so thankful to my friend Somin for this invitation.

Somin and I met Thursday morning and went to the Daegu National Museum. It’s not huge but it’s free and has some very nice exhibits, beginning with artifacts found around Daegu from ancient times and going up to modern history. I felt a little proud of myself because every once in a while I would recognized something from the museum that my Korean History professor had mentioned in class. After we had toured the museum, Somin took me to her apartment where I met her mother who was overwhelmingly kind. She was the epitome of Korean hospitality. I did my best to speak to her in Korean, and like almost all Koreans, she told me my Korean was good no matter how many times I faltered or lost my words in the middle of a sentence. She is interested in learning English and her English is quite good! While many Korean college students have proficient English, it is not as common to meet an older Korean adult whose English is as good as hers. While talking with me, she continued to bring out more and more snacks from the kitchen around the corner. Every time I thought she had brought everything, she would suddenly find something else for me to try. We looked through photo albums of Somin’s baby and childhood photos and talked until Somin’s father arrived from work. Somin’s mother stayed at home to study while Somin’s father drove us to Dodongseowon Confucian Academy, a school where students studied Confucianism. It was peaceful but small, so we toured it quickly before heading out.

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After that, we went to Somin’s grandmother’s house to eat. I’m not going to lie here, a little bit of an awkward situation ensued at this point. Somin thought that it would just be us and maybe a couple of other relatives, but in reality both her aunt’s family and her uncle’s family were there. There were about 10 people there in total, and I’m not really sure if anyone besides her grandmother knew a foreigner was going to be there. Still, everyone greeted me kindly. I was reminded of the difference in personal space that Koreans have, because her aunt immediately grabbed my arm upon meeting me to lead me towards the house. Her grandmother shook my hand and guided me forward with her hand on my back as she welcomed me into her house. I thought that Somin’s cousins who are around my age would feel a bit more comfortable talking to me, but in fact they were all incredibly shy and I don’t think any of them said anything more than hello to me. In the end, everyone moved out of the room we were sitting in and ate in another one, leaving just Somin and I to eat with a huge amount of delicious food in front of us. I felt a little like I was imposing at that point, and it was one of those moments where I really wished my Korean was better so that I could speak with Somin’s family and make them feel more comfortable. Somin assured me that our suddenly private room was to make me feel more comfortable, but to be honest, I still think otherwise.

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After we had eaten our fill, Somin’s uncle, aunt, and father came back into the room. Despite my assumption that Somin’s cousins might feel more comfortable talking to me, her aunt and uncle were much more interested in having a conversation with me. Of course, a great deal of that conversation required Somin’s translating skills. I would like to say that if they were speaking in a Seoul accent (which is considered standard Korean) as opposed to a Daegu dialect I would have understood more, but honestly, older Koreans make me nervous and when I’m nervous, all my Korean skills leave me. They were curious about my major, my hometown, what I had done in Korea so far, why I was learning Korean, and the like. After a while, Somin’s dad drove me back to school through very heavy traffic.

Although I was worried that I inconvenienced Somin’s family, this day was amazing for me. I ate amazing food and I was welcomed into a Korean household. Although I can never stress enough how excited I am to be in Korea, one small downside is that I am living in a dorm, as opposed to doing a home stay and living with a Korean family. Chuseok was a chance for me to get a small taste of what it would be like to live in a Korean household.

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