This blog post was written by Jennifer Arnold, Rachel's close friend and sophomore year roommate. She is a Computer Science and History double major at Macalester and is currently studying abroad this Spring semester at University of Edinburgh in the UK.
I am currently on a plane going to visit South Korea and Hong Kong while also reuniting with Rachel after her semester abroad. I will also be going abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland this upcoming semester so we are treating this trip as a "hi/bye" kind of ordeal.
Rachel has assigned me a series of questions she would like me to answer which would also help me pass time on the plane since I get bored easily (is odd to say I got bored of sleeping?). I've divided them up and answered each one separately. Apologies for any odd phrases:
How do you feel about going to Asia for the first time?
To be very honest, I'm feeling a mix of emotions. In the forefront would be a twinge of sadness. I am missing Christmas, New Year, and my mother's birthday during this trip. Since I live away from home, I don't get the chance to visit my family, and it's odd to come back and see how much older my entire family is getting. I love Christmas (I'm one of those people who starts playing Christmas music before Halloween is over, much to the annoyance of Rachel) and it's kind of perplexing to imagine spending it without my family.
I feel unprepared of what is about to happen. I'm one of those individuals who feels secure after doing hours and hours of research before a trip. Unfortunately, due to finals, I wasn't able to prepare much at all. Since my flight departed from Chicago, I spent the eve of the trip frantically packing, checking out of my dorm, and enduring a six hours car ride by myself from campus to Waukegan, IL. Hence, I didn't start packing for this trip until four hours before my flight departed so I'm also just bit frazzled.
And this leads to my next emotion: denial. I'm in utter denial. I have barely registered that I am about to go to Asia for the first time to be honest. It's not to say that I haven't been counting down the days to this trip (mostly because Rachel had the honor of reminding me on Facebook and KakaoTalk); I have always been very excited. Even now, I catch myself smiling because it feels so surreal. But I'm expecting this excitement to go on full force sometime soon. While that occurs, I'm just sitting here on a very numb butt.
And finally I'm very hungry. Not just with food, but to learn. I'm about to explore and step into a completely unique culture; I will be interacting with it every single day. Throughout this trip, I’m hoping to be present in the moment. I know I will be lost majority of the time due to the language barriers I have already begun to encounter but I'm experiencing my own little existential crisis: as humans, we speaking hundreds of various languages and here is one where I have no idea how to speak or read (with the exception of milk, go figure) and this is just so cool.
Any thoughts about visiting Korea specifically?
I'm nervous. Within Asia and Korea specifically, I haven't gotten the chance to do much research before even though I am a History major. I only know of what others have shared and what is available online, which I'm aware is never 100% accurate. Yet, one thing I am aware of is how homogenous Korea can be. Growing up in a homogenous community myself, I became hyper aware of my background and identity whenever I leave Waukegan. This means I unconsciously survey the room whenever I am in a new space to see if I can find others who look like me. As a Honduran American, my background most definitely affects how others interact with me, and I've always been aware of it. I think I'm mostly nervous of being othered. Yes, I am a foreigner, but what does it mean to be a foreigner who is not the blonde, blue eyed American version most of the world believes to entail? How will this mindset affect my experience of how I view Korea. I am hyper aware of my thoughts on this matter and probably will be observant on how these views change or not.
How do you think it will be similar/different to Rachel's visit to Waukegan?
Do you have any expectations for Korea or Hong Kong?
Since this is a pre-trip blog, there is a huge chance Rachel and I will be consistently reflecting on our days over mealtime. And us sharing our thoughts here too. Until then...
college student. junior. international studies major. over-the-top foodie. travel and lifestyle student blogger?
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