My name is Clayton Hines and I am from Seattle, Washington U.S.A. I am currently a sophomore at Northwest University, which is located near Seattle, and I am studying to be a high school math teacher. In high school I wanted to do a study abroad program, but my high school didn't have any programs in place and I didn't have the finances to fund a full year in a foreign country. When I got to college I began to research different exchange programs that I could participate in. Again, I was limited by the amount of money I had and could not participate in any of the programs. After a year and a half, Northwest University made a connection with Gachon University and offered a great exchange program with the opportunity to get a scholarship to aid the financial issues. I applied immediately after they opened spots for applicants. I worked hard on completing the applications, and writing essays. I was very excited to be able to come to Korea and experience the culture.
Language. I want to take the next few paragraphs and talk about my experience with the language barrier. Obviously I speak English; unfortunately I only speak English. When I applied for the exchange program, the exchange description failed to mention a required 4 hour Korean language class five days a week. You can imagine the shock I underwent upon receiving this information after committing to participate in the exchange program. Before coming to Korea I had never explored the idea of studying a different language. In high school I studied Chinese for two years, however, I wasn't dedicated to learning it and was only taking it to fulfill the requirement for graduation: two years of a foreign language. After high school I didn't want to study a foreign language, little did I know I would end up in Korea, studying Korean.
The first few weeks were very difficult; I didn't know anyone and I couldn't speak the language. Everything seemed so awkward and people would always stare at me. I had never felt so "out-of-place" before. There were many times I could tell people were talking about me in Korean, however, I couldn't understand them. I would be pointed at, stared, or laughed at. I didn't feel comfortable to go out to the store on my own because I didn't know how things work in Korea. The culture was completely different than anything I was accustomed to, so I became very fearful to offend anyone or do anything wrong. It didn't help that I couldn't ask questions either, because only a few people understood what I was asking.
After I started my Korean class I began to feel more comfortable and confident with doing tasks on my own. Korean, however, is a very difficult language and has been a challenge to learn. I have been pushing myself every day to learn it, though; there is only so much a person can learn in three months. There is definitely still a huge language barrier for me, but learning about the culture has helped me feel more confident about taking on everyday tasks such as, ordering food, buying clothes or groceries, and greeting people. However, there is still a vast amount of learning to be done about Korea and its' culture. The transition to Korean life wasn't and still isn't easy, but I have enjoyed the challenge and growth that has come from my time in Korea.
-Clayton Hines < Copyright © The Gachon Herald All rights reserved >