Thursday, October 29, 2015

Sophomores Travel to South Korea

Michael Ecker | Staff Writer for THE MOUNT

Throughout the dorms one can hear different languages, smell different foods, and see different clothes. The seven-day boarders add a way to experience cultures that can’t be found anywhere else in Nebraska. Students from South Korea, China, Vietnam, Spain and Belgium, help expand the student bodies’ understanding of other cultures, languages and activities. Sophomores Jack Avilla, Riley Kruse, and Joey Recker got a rare chance to fully immerse in a different culture.

Joey Recker, Jack Avilla, and Riley Kruse
On May 22, the three freshmen, now sophomores, left Omaha to begin a two week long adventure. The flight took off early in the morning to Dallas/Fort Worth International. and their final flight arrivied at Incheon International Airport in Seoul, South Korea on May 23.

“It took over 24 hours of traveling,” Recker said, “the time differences gave me horrible headaches.”

The money for the trip didn’t come out of nowhere. The three negotiated with their parents to get the opportunity for this trip. The plane tickets cost around $1,000 one way. After that the sophomores were lucky enough to stay with sophomore Kyeongmin Kim and his family.

The three traveled around South Korea with Kim. One of the places they went to was the border between South and North Korea. there, they visited a Joint Security Area, also known as a Korean Demilitarized Zone, and saw first hand the tension between North and South Korea.

“Going to the Joint Security Area showed me a lot about there being a constant feeling of the possibility of war,” Avilla said.

Even with the tension, the sopho­mores agreed there is a side to the relationship between South Korea and North Korea that most Ameri­cans never hear about. They noticed that there is a lot of respect between the people of the two nations. Many people have family members or know people in the other country.

On May 25 the three experienced one of the most unique Korean cultural events, the celebration of Buddha’s birthday at Jogyesa Temple in Seoul. The temple is the center of Zen Buddhism in South Korea. During the celebration the people celebrate with songs, dances, and traditional clothing.

“I thought it was the most exotic, ancient, and beautiful of all the places we visited,” Recker said, “it was amazing to see the tradition and history at the temple.”

The group also experienced a wedding and a mass at Kim’s parish. Both were in Korean but the three enjoyed the uniqueness compared to the American counterparts.

Joey Recker, Riley Kruse & Jack Avilla Dressed as Korean Warriors
The three experienced another unique cultural activity. They dressed up in traditional South Korean clothes, those of warriors in Ancient Korea. They wore the clothes at one of the many palaces in South Korea.

Although they experienced a great deal of traditional culture, the boys also saw the modern side of South Korea. The country has developed a reputation of a culture centered around Korean pop, or “K-Pop”. “K-Pop” is known for its flashing lights, interesting fashion, and crazy music. But outside of the big cities there is a lack of “K-Pop” culture. 

“It seemed like only older people are still practicing traditional Korean,” Kruse said, “they are the only people not enveloped by ‘K-Pop’.”

One of the main things the three noticed was the work ethic. They got the chance to visit Kim’s father’s workplace, where they noticed how hard people worked and the quality of the work done. Workers sometimes also stay at officetel, which is a residential area in a workplace. This lets workers have the chance to work late and get up early to work without the transportation required to go home and back.

“People there aren’t lazy,” Recker explained, “everyone from the adults to the students have incredible work ethic and motivation.”

Another difference they noticed was a lot more respect to elders. This stems from an importance of family. Meals are also more important with more formal meals and less fast food.

Of course the sophomores, like most students know a favorite purchase on weekly outings to Walmart is Ra­men noodles, In South Korea the three students tried different foods. One of these foods was a liquid mix of herbs and medicine. The mixture was supposed to give you strength, but Recker just thought it was “funky”. Another dish is called tteokbokki, a dish with meat, rice cakes, and vegetables in a red sauce, which all three enjoyed.

“I was willing to try most foods,” Kruse said, “but there were some really spicy foods that I wouldn’t go anywhere near.”

Riley Kruse, Kyeongmin Kim, Joey Recker, & Jack Avilla 
There was one part of Korean culture that was familiar to the sophomores: gaming. Some international students spend hours and hours on their computers playing games. In Korea the gaming culture is even stronger. People spend so much time in PC Cafes that there is a law forbidding students to be in a PC Cafe after 10 pm on school nights.

“We as Americans are pretty bad with our overuse of computers,” Recker said, “but in Korea it’s scary how much people spend on their computers. We would walk by PC Cafes and it would be packed with gamers.”

The boys also enjoyed the public transportation system which allowed them to get around easily at just 60 cents a ride.

“The public transportation was great. Both the subways and buses were clean,” Avilla said, “we got everywhere we needed to on public transportation.”

The trip will be a lifelong memory for the three sophomores. . “Traveling is important,” Kruse said, “these experiences can be really cool and you can learn a ton.” No matter if you’re traveling to Iowa or South Korea traveling is fun and brings people together.