Wowww. I really can’t believe I’m going to be leaving IN A DAY. I’ve been anticipating this trip for such a long time and now it’s predeparture time after months of college and papers and finals, I’ve made it through. I’m going to Korea!
Just as a small summary: DukeEngage-South Korea is a service program that tackles issues of migration and education in the capital city Seoul. We’ll be working mostly with young migrant children and North Korean refugees. The objective is to teach them English language skills and (hopefully!) improve their proficiency. We actually took a class focused on migration and human rights in South Korea for a semester before going to on trip, and I gained a great deal of new knowledge on these issues that I never even thought about before. The dynamics of the North and South Korean divide, the politics of reunification, the way migrants are perceived and treated, the complexities of ethnicity and race in Asia; these are just a handful of topics covered. Of course, I’m no expert by any means, but hopefully this academia contributes context to the things I’ll see!
This Summer: Pre-departure Thoughts
As for now, I’m a prospective economics major at Duke who is still searching for her path. I don’t know what career I want to pursue even though it seems so many people around me do, so I want to explore as much as I can before I start to focus on a specialized area. This summer, I really wanted to do something that I probably wouldn’t have the chance to do later, something that I would enjoy and learn from. There will most likely be plenty of business internships and office work in my later years. I can wait just a little more.
So why this specific program? Well…
I absolutely adore kids! They’re the cutest, floofiest beings with squishy cheeks and tiny hands and o(^▽^)o ! At Duke, I participate in the Kenan Institute’s Refugee Project where I am assigned a small, little child who I accompany for 3 hours every Tuesday evening. Supposedly, I’m helping her do her homework and teaching her educational things, but lemme tell you, it’s not easy if don’t they actually sit down and listen. She’s a bubble of energy, that’s for sure! I really enjoy this experience, so working with migrants and refugees in South Korea gives an amazingly different perspective on the ever-growing migrant question. The ways that South Korea and the United States perceive and legally deal with refugees and migrants have fascinating points of comparison and dissimilarity. It’s really interesting to be able to see this develop firsthand.
I also want to expand my boundaries. In school, you learn numbers, facts, statistics, but in real life, you learn people. For me, it’s important to keep these two things tied together. Economics deals with abstractions, plotting graphs and predicting inflationary rises while advising policies to impact the country’s finances. However, the changes that are made greatly affect real people with very real lives. I strive to always keep this in mind.
Honestly my main concern is connecting with the children. More than my desire to be able to impart with them at least some new knowledge about the English language, I want to be a mentor, a friend. Unfortunately, with our time in Korea being relatively short, we can’t provide them the stability and longevity that they need. I know DukeEngage stresses the fact that more often than not, the person who will change the most is me, but I’m an idealist, I suppose. I really really want to help them. Children are so precious, and I hate when they go through rough patches in their life simply because of matters that are completely out of their control. I hope to be able to give them some happiness….
I also think about our impact, what we’re going to do, how we’re going to change both them and ourselves. After all, most of us probably aren’t really qualified to even teach. We don’t have degrees, we’ve taken minimal English teaching classes, or even basic education classes themselves. How will our lesson plans go? Will they even be efficient? How about building bonds with the children? I hope they’ll be receptive to our presence. There’s really not too much that we know at this stage, but I suppose that’s the beauty of the unknown: we can learn. I’m excited to embark on this process of growth with my DESK buddies though, so please anticipate our journey!
Pre-Travel Thought Vomit
-I’ve never traveled alone before. If my flight gets drastically delayed or the TSA pulls over…it’s over for me.
-Korean culture and music! I knew very few Koreans growing up, so it’s all very new and exciting to learn!
-Food. That’s all I need to say.
-I LOVE KIDS so I really hope they like me back ｡ﾟ･（>﹏<）･ﾟ｡ (what if they don’t omg, I’d seriously cry)!
-I can’t speak or understand a lick of Korean, so that’ll be fun. Fortunately our group includes quite a few Korean speakers, so I ask for their forgiveness in advance because I will fully utilize those skills
-maybe I can make it a goal to learn more Korean?? I’ve begun to watch some Korean reality shows, so hopefully I’ll improve a little.
Packed and readyyyy!