On June 20, I got up very early in the morning and got a ride from my first host family to Incheon, a city near Seoul. In this city, the major feature is Incheon International Airport, which was where I got on the plane and finished my year abroad.
Upon my return to the United States, I realize that there is still quite a lot of things to still experience as a result of the exchange, but I have already learned and experienced so much from the year.
From my year, I learned quite a few skills that I will be taking with me. The first and most obvious of these being some knowledge of the Korean language. I am certainly not fluent (I would probably need another whole year in Korea at least to be fluent), but I definitely made quite a bit of progress. I will be certain to continue my studies of Korean, because it is such a unique and interesting language.
I also brought back some skills from the culture classes that I took. The first of these was learning Korean calligraphy, to paint out the letters in the traditional style. I really enjoy doing painting, and the skills that I picked up from this art will certainly be useful. I also was able to bring back the materials so that I can continue with the calligraphy that I learned.
The other thing that I learned was through my Samulnori class, where I learned how to play the chang-gu. Although I wasn't able to bring back one of these instruments, I am hoping that I will be able to find a way to continue learning how to play this instrument here.
I also was able to see many new things in Korea and experience many parts of the different culture. One visit that really stands out in my mind was my visit to the DMZ (demilitarized zone) between North and South Korea, which really brought the conflict between the two countries into perspective for me. In my mention of cultural experiences, the main experience that helped me in learning about Korean culture was getting to live with my three wonderful host families. Getting to experience cultural things firsthand as part of the family.
With my experiences in Korea in mind, this summer, I will be working as a lifeguard at Sup Sogui Hosu, a Korean camp in Bemidji, Minn. that is part of the Concordia Language Villages program. I had gone to this camp for a short time before my year abroad, so it will be interesting to go back and see just how much I truly improved in my understanding of the language and culture. Then, in the fall, I will be going to Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis. I am still undecided on my major though, but I am certain that the skills I gained from learning Korean and living in a foreign culture will be vital tools for any field that I choose.
I am very thankful for Houghton Rotary for providing me with the opportunity to spend this year abroad and for the people in Korea who made it a fantastic experience. It was a difficult year, but I have definitely learned very much from it, some of which I may never fully realize.
Editor's note: P.J.?Sproule is a Rotary Youth Exchange student from the Houghton Rotary Club living near Seocheon, South Korea, for a year.