Being a Korean American, I have never stepped foot in South Korea until this month. Recently, I went to South Korea with my friends over fall break because I am studying abroad in Shanghai, and I can say that it is a completely foreign yet comfortable feeling. Especially, as a young adult, visiting your home country for the first time, it was definitely a new experience that I would never forget.
All these years, I have stayed with the States because there was never any time for me or my family as a whole to travel to South Korea. However, because I am abroad in Shanghai, and South Korea is right there, I cannot miss the opportunity to visit at least once. So here, I took the chance and went to Seoul and I can say that is was definitely worth it. Being a Korean American, I was surrounded by hints of Asian culture back in California, but not a full and complete experience of immersion. I got to see a whole other culture I have only heard of or seen on television, ate traditional dishes, and saw many national sights. As a Korean American, it was definitely both a weird yet comforting feeling.
As I walked through the streets of Seoul, I definitely felt out of place and many people could tell that I was not from Korea. From the way I dressed to the way I talked and acted was very different from those who live in Korea. Yet, I was familiar with the language and culture, as I watched many Korean shows and learned about Korean culture as a young kid. I felt both out of place but at home when visiting South Korea, a feeling that is indescribable. However, one of the main things that I learned and got out of visiting my home country for the first time was the regret of never visiting as a younger child. I think that it would have been completely different, maybe even better experience if I went when I was younger with my family and got to experience the glimpse of childhood life in Korea.
Although I have this feeling of regret, I am still extremely glad and appreciative that I had the chance to go as a young adult. I learned many things about myself, one being that I became more proud of being a Korean American. Being able to experience and feel comfortable in two completely different cultures and understanding the language and culture of another country is definitely a huge privilege. What this visit has taught me as a young adult is to never forget my roots and where I came from.
A lot of the times, I forget what it is like to live in another country as a different person. I am caught up in what is happening so much in where I grew up, the States, that I forget that my home culture and origin is from another country that I have never been before. However, just because you've never visited doesn't mean that a part of your home culture is gone. I learned to be proud of where I came from and never forget.