I started writing this post on the plane ride back from Korea back in late-August, but never ended up finishing and posting it. So here goes! (Also I know some CLS prospective students will be searching for CLS blogs and creeping around my site).
At the end of the CLS program we had a 졸업식 graduation where students received certificates and performed Korean culture activities in front of our language partners, teachers and host families.
(Majority of the photo credits go to 세정쌤).
Instead of having class that morning we all wrote cards to our classmates and teachers. Cards of fun summer memories — the food, hikes, taekwondo, studying, exploring — and of thanks for the support. There are definitely major pros and cons in regards to studying abroad with a cohort of American students. Studying abroad is at times stressful, draining, and not the fun-filled adventures it might appear to be in photos. Other American students on program can relate to such struggles and can offer advice and support when needed. Some of the closest friends I have to date are ones I made while abroad together.
After writing the cards we all went to the graduation ceremony.
CLS participants had the opportunity to perform or give a speech at graduation. The year before, when I was on NSLI-Y, I entered a high-school speech contest in Seoul and spent weeks perfecting a speech in Korean about my personal childhood experiences as half-Korean in the U.S. and then coming to live in South Korea. I was incredibly proud of that speech, but was not selected to come participate at the competition. (I’m not sure the selection process, but students who want to participate must submit their speech to a panel who then reviews and chooses a select number to come to the competition.)
Anyways, this CLS graduation seemed like a perfect opportunity to do my speech and I had an audience. In NH there aren’t many people I can talk to about being biracial, but at Brown I started to open up more and more about it. In Korea, however, I sometimes feel that there is a lack of dialogue regarding mixed-race backgrounds and so I was excited to share my story and perspective. Being mixed race in Korea – especially with one half being Korean – is at times difficult but is also very enlightening and made me proud of my heritage.
Then after my speech a few other classes and groups performed. My taekwondo group performed the 2nd belt sequence and Paula and Caitlin performed this cool black belt sequence.
My host family came to the ceremony and brought me flowers, a very sweet gesture. I think my host sisters got a kick from seeing so many 외국인s (foreigners) at one time in one setting.
So that is the graduation ceremony blog! My time in Korea this summer was action packed — I think I slept in only a few days over the two months. I learned a lot about myself, made amazing friends, tried a ton of new things outside my comfort zone, travelled, visited family, ate intriguing foods, and most of all learned a ton of Korean.
I am not sure when I will return back to this amazing country, but I hope to soon.