아래 글은 UC San Diego 부설 어학원에서 Conversation 수업을 가르치고 있는 Ms. Stacy Statler 선생님의 한국 방문 소감입니다. 수 년전부터 많은 한국 학생들을 가르쳐왔고 많은 학생들과 연락을 하고 지내는 중 지난 9월에 관광 겸 여름휴가로 한국을 방문했었습니다. 아틀라스 직원과도 만나서 한국식 스파와 마사지를 경험했는데요, 최근 한국 방문 소감을 메일로 보내왔습니다. 한국의 정서와 문화에 반한 소감들이 흠뻑 젖어있는 편지, 함께 보시죠!^^

Hi there,

I usually write more than just one email about my time abroad, but my former students and work for UCSD kept me quite busy this time around. Now that I am back in San Diego, back to reality and new classes, maybe I can tell you some hi-lights and experiences I had in Seoul this Fall.

First of all, my trip would not have been the same without the generosity, help and care of my beloved students. They went out of their ways to make sure I saw new sights, tasted special food, and experienced Korea with them as their guest and teacher. But honestly, they were the teachers in Korea- not me!

And while there, I learned a lot. Like not to go shopping Mon and Tues (might be closed); not to be without a cell phone (you can rent one at the airport); not to assume just because the Koreans took a bite, I could too (I swear their mouths are of steel) and I learned not to forget old students and friends (some of the people were students from 2005 and 2006!).

I also learned not to forget how beautiful the California blue sky is (the Koreans always said they missed it). They also missed “In ‘n Out” hamburgers and the freedom to dress how they like without society frowning and judging them. I had no idea the girls felt such pressure to be “pretty, pretty and perfect” 24/7. UGHHH. STRESS.

While in Korea, I got mixed reactions from strangers. One time a girl screamed, covered her ears then laughed in my face when I asked for help on the subway; but then there were the many shop keepers who would try to use every little word they knew to try to help me and make me feel welcomed. One day, I was so taken back by the kindness of one shop girl who spoke NO English but was determined to go through the whole soap store with me smelling each item one at a time announcing the scent: “le-mon, “che-rry”, “o-ran-gee”. I loved her determination and her effort. Wanted to give her a big hug to say, “thanks for not screaming in my face”…

Some very special people I met were my host family. No hotel this year- a host family like back in college. A Korean UCSD student was trying to save me some money when she said her friend’s mother liked to host foreigners in her home. I thought it could be a great way to experience the culture, so prior to leaving, I emailed the mom and was relieved to receive emails in English. I was excited to stay with her! Ironically, her son lives only 15 minutes away from my parents in San Francisco so I figured we had lots in common. Her daughter and daughter’s family live in Korea and one night we did a true “girl’s night”- manicures and pedicures even with little baby Juwon with us.

But I think the most memorable “service” was at the spa an hour away from the city. When I say “spa”, I mean public co-ed pool with separate private hot tubs for men and women. And while there, I did what all the Japanese girls recommended: a KOREAN SCRUB. Like being naked with a bunch of Korean women wasn’t uncomfortable enough, imagine getting on a wet massage table and having some old lady in nothing but her bikini bottoms scrub wash you down like a vegetable she is going to put in a stew. I felt so out of place but my friend at the next table told the old lady to be gentle with me. The lady was as gentle as she could be being that her job was to exfoliate every dead cell off of my body. After which, a fresh yogurt treatment was poured all over my body and cool cucumbers covered my face. By the end, my skin was super-soft and my shyness being nude with strangers got better. I just found it ironic that the Korean ladies had no problem being in the ladies’ spa nude but wore thin shirts and shorts over their swimming suits when they stepped out into the co-ed pools. Maybe American girls don’t walk around in front of strangers naked so much, but we rarely wear clothes over our suits. Guess we are less extreme… So now my skin is softer, redder (kidding!) and healthier. Want to try it next time???? 😉

All in all, the trip was great. For work, I was able to meet with some serious prospective students and their parents about UCSD at the student fair. I was able to visit and train some agents so that they can sell our programs best and most accurately. And finally, I was able to represent a school program that gives me a chance to travel promoting them around the world. The best way to promote the classes was when I would turn and say, “And this is Sung Won… She was my student for two quarters at UCSD and decided to come to SD after she visited the same agency I did last summer.” She accompanied me to offer her help and answer any questions the Koreans had (in Korean), and it was her plus my other former students who really made this year in Korea special. Hope to be able to go again one day…

Thanks for reading about my latest adventure in Seoul, Korea. Have pictures to show but rather share them in person… Come on over. 😉


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