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How To: Make Friends in Korea

Have you seen my last article? You can check it out here. As always, a large portion of your questions can be answered by going to my list of resources page here, or the contact page here. There are article-specific resources at the bottom of the page.

I love and advocate for solo travel, especially by millennials when at all possible, though one does have to recognize the unique barriers to entry that millennials, however, the hardest part of traveling alone is building a support system and a life that has meaningful relationships in it. Once the excitement wears off, being in Korea can be really tough if you don't make friends. Luckily for you, through trial error, I've learned some (almost) foolproof ways to make new friends while you are in Korea. While a few of these tips are generalizable, some of them are Korea-specific. Just remember if you're feeling really lonely, reach out to someone! You'll be surprised how compassionate people are, especially in your time …

Why I'm not learning Korean Even Though I am... Going to Korea

If you haven't seen my last post, you can check that out here and the Ultimate List of Resources here.

   Other than the disappointment flung at me whenever I tell folks about my study abroad trip, the second most common thing said is "Oh, I didn't know you speak Korean!" to which I have to reply a true yet wavering "I don't." I don't know Korean, and I'm not at all worried about it! The first thing you should consider when you decide to travel internationally is "why do you want to go?" There are so many good reasons to travel abroad and even to study abroad including cultural immersion, the country's economic focuses, or language acquisition, however, those are not the reasons I made the effort to travel to Busan. As I very poorly discussed in my very first article on Sleepy in Busan, the reason I am going to Busan is for a (very expensive and dramatic) change of pace. I was  am in a depressed rut, and so I am changing up my routine in order to, not necessarily cure it, but to get some new perspectives. I'm going into the experience without expecting anything except a guaranteed change of scenery. I do not know if the classes I need to graduate on time will be offered to me, I do not know if I will be accepted into larger society, but I do know that this experience, just like every experience, will either be a blessing or a lesson. Maybe both.

   It is also important for me to acknowledge the privileges I hold in going to Busan and not really having to learn the language. Firstly, the expectation of most individuals globally is for foreigners, especially Americans, not being able to speak Korean. I say especially Americans because our ethnocentricism runs rampant, only inflated by our monopoly in media. This is not to say that I should give into the notion, ideally, I would be able to prove them wrong, however, my deep brown skin will ensure that I am not mistaken for a native Korean, and so I am not likely to be approached by natives who initially speak Korean.

   In most other countries being monolingual is unacceptable, or rather, it is not the norm. In schools all around the world, most students know or are actively studying or know at least one additional language outside of the one they grew up speaking at home, and because of the United State's "world power' standing, many countries have English as an option for a second language to try and give students a leg up in the economic and political arenas. Here in the states, my experiences with school-sanctioned second language programs haven't been as conducive to learning. While I can only speak to the schools I was personally enrolled in, learning a second language in elementary and high school was always treated as an extracurricular activity- not at all a part of the everyday practices of academia. It wasn't until I began studying Latin in high school, when, because I admired my Latin teacher, I took my language study seriously. This translated to a lot of self-study and getting to school too early to study with my teacher when instead, I should've been encouraged to learn in class. Learning a second language, and the work it requires, should as much of a priority as a math or natural science class, because for middle and high schoolers in the states, both skills will be equally as useful (take that as you may).



   In South Korea, just like everywhere around the world, there is more diversity in major cities. When exploring how much overt racism I would encounter in South Korea, most of the positive stories from blacks in South Korea came from Seoul, South Korea's largest city. This isn't a coincidence! Major cities provide the backdrop for racial and cultural melting pots, exposure, and discovery. In turn, major cities tend to foster an open-mindedness that doesn't exist in rural cities. Busan stands as Korea's second largest city. It is also a port city, and so, in this way, I am very lucky. Granted, Korean is still the dominant language, but even an occasional misshapen English phrase will increase my access to Korean culture and in turn, the language.

   The biggest reason I am not learning Korean before I leave for Korea is that I don't have the time! I have a full-time job and a part-time research position,  several side jobs, and of course this website you're reading right now. I am so incredibly grateful for all the opportunities I have been able to take advantage of these last couple of months, but I don't have time to put in the studying it takes to really learn a language. Of course, I am doing daily practice exercises on Duolingo, but Duolingo isn't enough to learn a language in just a couple of months.

Please don't get me wrong, I absolutely plan on learning Korean while abroad, but it's not most of the reason why I'm going, however, because I am making this trip at the right time in my life where I am open to making mistakes and being humiliated, I am in a place where I have thick skin and unprecedented resiliency. I am able to learn swiftly because all I've known is school, and so while not knowing Korean is another obstacle getting in the way of fully enjoying Korea, I welcome the challenge. I value the languages and cultures of others, however, I am going to Korea just to exist somewhere different. If I come back and I'm fluent in Korean, loving K-pop and kimchi? Wonderful, fantastic, I do not dispute that Korean is one of the most useful languages to learn. If I don't come back fluent, only knowing hello, goodbye, and let's face it, some not-so-nice words? That's quite alright too.

We'll See.
Myaia

Thumbnail Photo by Steve Roe on Unsplash

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