An Uncommon Adventure
An Uncommon Adventure
  • Adam Matula / Exchange Student
  • 승인 2012.05.02 19:57
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The number one most common question I was asked before leaving the United States was “why Korea?” To put this question in context, it is important to know a little bit about how study abroad is treated in my country.  In the US, students consider study abroad options in their second or third year of college and typical destinations include Europe and South America.  Usually, students choose locations where they can practice their language skills and as my second language is Spanish, people were especially confused when I announced my choice of Korea over Spain or another Spanish-speaking country.  However, I wasn’t looking to repeat the experiences of the average student and my friends were already going for the traditional European study abroad programs; I knew I was not looking to go to Europe so I looked elsewhere. 
After a significant search through my home school’s study abroad database I settled on Pohang because it seemed to offer the most of what I was looking for.  Having never left the United States before, I freely admit I was not sure what to expect.  I was more than a little nervous during my lengthy flight and bus ride to POSTECH.  Fortunately, every step of the way a friendly stranger went out of his or her way to help me.  When I was confused at the airport looking for the right bus to catch, a helpful Korean teenager helped me buy my ticket and directed me to the right stop.  When I arrived at the bus depot and needed to hail a taxi, a child acted as a translator to make sure I would get where I needed to go.  In each case, I would have been lost and on my own without help, but a stranger stepped up and volunteered assistance unsolicited.  I have been here a while now and I have discovered some constants (math, science, music) and a few downsides (I’ve never been much for seafood) but most importantly, I have experienced something I am confident I would not find almost anywhere else in the world. 
The people I have met here are courteous, the classroom atmosphere has been accommodating but far more importantly I’ve been exposed to the cultural experience I had been looking for all along.  In my short time here so far I have met people from many different countries around the world, all of whom are interested in learning about other cultures while sharing a piece of their own.  I have participated in my fair share of programs where the goal is to learn about other people and their cultures but never before have I been a part of a voluntary cultural exchange program that had the impact of DICE.  DICE has sponsored some incredible sight-seeing trips that I have been given an opportunity to take part in, but it is not these events that will have the longest impact on my memories of this great country.  Rather, I will remember the people, their individual cultures and histories, and the impact they have had on me as a person.  My experience with the people of DICE mirrors what I experienced on my way to POSTECH; the acts of kindness I was exposed to on my trip is exactly the same type of active selflessness engendered by DICE.
In Korea I have taken classes, seen the sights, and met people I will remember for the rest of my life.  But I still have not answered the question I began this article with: why did I choose Korea?  All I know is that my experience would pale in comparison anywhere else.