Monday, October 11, 2010

decisions decisions..reflections reflections

In my experience studying and traveling abroad, I've found that I am able to adapt to very different circumstances. From adjusting to climatic differences to public transportation systems, new foods, or unfamiliar "bathrooms", from sleeping on a mat in the Sahara desert to a sleeping in tiny french dorm room, I've found it adventurous to adapt and interact with people of all different religious and cultural backgrounds.
I lived in France for seven months, the first two of which were with a host family where I lived with students from Sweden to Peru to Japan, attending an intensive language institute 40 hours a week. I spent a month traveling in Switzerland and Italy before moving to a new city for a semester intensive language study. I had to readjust to a new city, find my way around, make new friends etc. I met many international students (most of them Korean), and many french students as well. I got involved with the community and groups on campus to help me learn the language and be immersed in the culture.
The next semester I lived in Ghana, West Africa for five months. It seemed that absolutely everything was different there, but not in a bad way, just different. I decided that it was a new adventure to figure out how things work in Africa: how to get around in tro tro "busses", bartering at market, eating local foods and learning local languages. I volunteered teaching orphans in a neighboring village, learned african dance and drumming, and most importantly made friends with Ghanaian people rather than just staying with obronis (foreigners) the whole time and not getting to know the culture.
At the end of my semester in Ghana, I gave away everything that couldn't fit on my back and backpacked through West Africa, going through northern Ghana, Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, Mauritania, and Morocco. I met so many different people and experienced first hand the different lifestyles and customs in each country, all along the way learning rudimentary Twi, Ewe, Bambara, Wolof, and Arabic, as I spent time in markets and with local people. My living conditions ranged from living in a tent, sleeping on rooftops, on a mat in the Sahara desert, in a Berber village in the Atlas Mountains, and sometimes on a couch in someone's home.
I got used taking bucket showers and forgot that proper toilets existed. In all of these situations I learned above all things how to be adaptable and optimistic. Rather than choosing to be annoyed or frustrated, I learned to laugh and find the adventure in the journey.
After living in a village in Ghana or making my way through the Sahara desert, adapting to another kind of living arrangement will be another adventure that will just take minor adjustments in every day living. It won't be a piece of cake to adjust, but because I enjoy the adventure of learning new things and habituating myself to different ways of life, learning to live in South Korea will be a wonderful part of the adventure of acclimating to a new culture.