The Cougar Chronicle

Student reminisces study abroad trip to South Korea

Briana Osuna, Features Editor

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At about midnight last March, Stephanie Martinez called her mother, letting her know her plane had landed safely — 6,000 miles from home.

 

In an email interview, Martinez recalled stepping out the airport terminal and being hit by a gust of chilling wind — these were her first steps on South Korean soil.

 

As she walked the streets of Seoul, she said she laughed to herself and began to question why she was there. Martinez said she realized that being in South Korea meant she could accomplish what she once thought was impossible.

 

Though Martinez, a fourth-year Arts and Technology major was interested in studying abroad since high school, it was CSUSM that gave her the opportunity.The Office of Global Edu-

cation provided her with re- sources including the Zwick scholarship.

 

“This was my first time studying abroad and my first time receiving a scholarship, so it was a satisfying feeling where I accomplished two goals in a single semester,” said Martinez.

The tension between North Korea and the United States at the time caused Martinez’s parents to be hesitant about her travel plans, however the surplus of available courses for her major and minor at Korea University made the difference.

 

Though far from home Martinez said she found comfort walking through the narrow, crowded streets and markets because they reminded her of her parents’ home village in Mexico.

 

“A lot of environments felt familiar,” she said. “…Even though Mexico and South Korea are thousands of miles away from each other, they share similarities that I never imagined would help me feel welcomed and comforted in Korea.”

 

Martinez said South Koreans’ tendency to stay up later than she was used to led to many late night adventures.

 

Martinez recalled walking in the streets at 2 a.m. Seeing them filled with people gave her a sense of security.

Living in a foreign culture means trying new foods. For example, Martinez said she ate 10 different types of raw fish.

 

“One of my favorite dishes is Jjimdak, which is braised chicken with vegetables and noodles, topped with a thick layer of melted cheese,” she said. “I was not afraid to try new foods because I never got sick from anything,”

 

Martinez said she felt homesick at times and dealt with it by keeping herself

busy and on the move. Deter- mined to make the most out of her visit, Martinez would walk almost 10 miles every- day “rain or shine, because I had to make the best of this trip — [to] “observe and experience as much as I could.”

 

She said one of her favorite cities was Busan, three hours south of Seoul.

 

“It’s along the coast, there was always something to do for every hour of the day. I explored different beaches with friends, we visited Gamcheon village, a very colorful neighborhood that was a refugee region during the Korean War, and continued exploring until 3 a.m.”

 

Reflecting on her study abroad experience, Martinez said she gained confidence in herself as well as empathy and appreciation for the Korean culture.

 

“This was built from everything I accomplished on my way to study abroad: my acceptance letter to Korea University, my parents eventually approving of my trip, receiving a scholarship — I felt like I could accomplish more after every achievement.”

 

Martinez said she learned the lesson that “it’s really important to listen to other people’s perspectives on their own culture because it challenges our generalized perceptions of a specific culture.”

 

**original below****

 

At approximately midnight on March 2, Stephanie Martinez made a phone call to her mother, letting her know her plane had landed safely.

 

Upon exiting the airport Martinez recalls being hit by a gust of chilling wind while taking her first steps into the foreign land of South Korea. As she walked the streets she began to laugh to her self and question her purpose for being there.

 

It was at that moment that Martinez said she realized that being in South Korea at that very moment meant that she was capable of accomplishing things she thought to once be impossible and was ready to embark on her studying abroad journey.

Though Martinez was interested in studying abroad since high school it was her time at CSUSM that truly sparked her passion. The Office of Global Education provided her resources including scholarships. Martinez took advantage of the resources and was granted with the Zwick scholarship.

“This was my first time studying abroad and my first time receiving a scholarship, so it was a satisfying feeling where I accomplished two goals in a single semester,” said Martinez.

Arising controversies at the time caused Martinez’s parents to be hesitant about her travel location, however the surplus of available courses for her major and minor was confirmation that South Korea would be her destination.

 

Though far from home Martinez said she found comfort walking through the small crowded streets and markets because of their resemblance to those in her parent’s home village in Mexico.

“A lot of environments felt familiar,” she said. “…Even though Mexico and South Korea are thousands of miles away from each other, they share similarities that I never imagined would help me feel welcomed and comforted in Korea,”

Martinez said South Koreans’ tendency to stay up later than those in the U.S led to many late night adventures.

 

Martinez said she recalls walking the streets at 2 a.m. and seeing them filled with people providing her with a sense of security. She said she remembers feeling the intense energy and excitement while watching the World Cup at various restaurants and bars. Reminiscing on the food she tried, Martinez shared that she ate 10 different types or raw fish.

“I tried many new foods. One of my favorite dishes is 찜닭(Jjimdak), which is braised chicken with vegetables and noodles, topped with a thick layer of melted cheese,” she said. “I was not afraid to try new foods and because I never got sick from anything,”

Martinez said she suffered from homesickness and dealt with it by keeping herself busy and traveling to various places each day. Determined to ensure she made the most out of her visit Martinez would walk almost 10 miles everyday, exploring Seoul.

 

I travelled a lot around Seoul, but one of my favorite cities was Busan, three hours south of Seoul,” she said. “It’s along the coast, there was always something to do for every hour of the day. I explored different beaches with friends, we visited Gamcheon village a very colorful neighborhood that was a refugee region during the Korean War, and continued exploring until 3 a.m.”

Reflecting on her study abroad experience, Martinez said she gained a great deal of confidence in herself as well as empathy and appreciation for the Korean culture.

“This was built from everything I accomplished on my way to study abroad: my acceptance letter to Korea University, my parents eventually approving of my trip, receiving a scholarship — I felt like I could accomplish more after every achievement. I heavily stared at on the train and bus so that helped me overcome intimidation from people that unfortunately judged me for me being different.

 

“I was able to empathize with Korean culture and other cultures from other international students. I think it’s really important to listen to other people’s perspectives on their own culture because it challenges our generalized perceptions of a specific culture,”

 

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