South Korea has always played an important part in my life. I was born in Seoul, South Korea in 1998, and was then adopted by a family in America at a young age. There were no concrete memories of the country that I was born in other than a few photos that my foster family gave to my family and I. My parents never let me forget the country that I came from, and promised me that I would see it again, but I thought it to be an empty promise. I remember my mom telling me when I was eight that I would be able to go to South Korea and see the place in which I was born. When I entered the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, I did not think that I would be given the opportunity to study abroad due to my major in nursing. When I received the news that I would be able to study abroad during the summer in South Korea I was absolutely elated. I have been beyond blessed to be able to come on this trip and I have been able to experience Korea in the best way possible.
In a way, it is also surreal to think that I am in South Korea, and even while writing this essay, I find it hard to believe. Through the Ulsan International Program, I have experienced Korea in ways that I never thought possible. I have met so many new people, and gained relationships with them. We have laughed and cried and learned more about one another than I could have thought possible in the span of a month.
While on this trip, the most memorable experience that I have had thus far is the Royal Tomb of King Munmu and the War Memorial of Korea. At the Royal Tomb of King Munmu, I was blown away with the beauty of the scenery that I was surrounded by. Being there made me realize just how small I am in the grand scheme of things, and I just felt overwhelming peace because I could feel the presence of God while looking out at the ocean. The War Memorial of Korea was also a place in which it reminded me of the importance of a country and its history. Whenever I was little, my dad always emphasized the importance of the Korean War and what it should mean to me knowing that I was born there. At the Korean War Memorial, I was able to see the important role that war played in forming South Korea today.
Overall, my experience in South Korea has been priceless and allowed me to understand the country from which I came from even more. The friendships that I have made with the people on this trip are ones that I will continue to treasure. Coming to South Korea has also helped me in finding goals for my future career. I am hoping to become fluent in the language and hopefully work in Korea as a travel nurse after I graduate. There is also another language program in Seoul next summer that I am hoping to apply for in order to study the language more vigorously.
Sydney Fitzgerald is majoring in Nursing. She spent the summer of 2018 studying abroad in Ulsan, South Korea through the Center for Global Education’s summer exchange program with the University of Ulsan. Sydney had the following to say about her time abroad, “Enjoy every single moment, and don’t take any of it for granted. The time will pass by a lot faster than you think, and it is nice to just take it all in sometimes. Push out of your comfort zone and make relationships with those that are around you while you study abroad; it can make it such a different experience. Don’t be afraid to get out there and try new things, regardless of how cliche that sounds, because you will never get to have another experience.”
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