Julia Placek ’20 and Joshua Oduro ’20 reflect on their time in South Korea with gratitude.
The sweet sound of the iPhone alarm woke us up at 4 AM this morning as we slept on large cushions (surprisingly comfortable) on our Temple Stay’s floor. Hwagyesa Temple, as we had already seen the night before, was beautiful and a source for cultural exploration as we were taught the daily routine of a Buddhist monk, which did indeed include waking up before sunrise.
Walking outside, we made our way to the third floor of the main temple where we were about to participate in a morning chant with the monks and nuns. It was very interesting to see people do something that I had never had any exposure to prior to this trip, it helped me to better understand where some of the Korean culture came from that denounced standing out and self-indulgence (evident in the way most Koreans only have a white, gray, or black car, so they do not stick out). As the monks engaged in their prostrations to the tune of the chanting, we all watched in awe because, together, we were in the presence of something so unfamiliar yet fascinating.
We then hiked the mountain behind the temple to a lookout tower to watch the sunrise and reflect on our trip. From the top, we had a view of all of Seoul, and it made me think of how lucky I am to be spending this time with new friends and relationships in a place so different than the “Deerfield Bubble”. The connections and memories made will last forever through the stories and pictures I have to show for this trip — the lessons I learned from the resilient North Korean refugees to the zesty music producer, Shinsadong Tiger. As the view overcame our minds we all looked silently at the skyline of Seoul. The temple stay was nothing like we had seen, and speaking for myself. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to be exposed to a culture so different than my own, because that is what sparks growth. The meditation practices I learned at the temple will definitely stay with me on my journey back to the Deerfield Bubble.
I am extremely grateful to have been able to travel with Deerfield to South Korea. It may seem that I am only saying this to follow a theme of gratitude established at Deerfield this past year, but I want to express true appreciation.
I am thankful for the food we were able to eat. We experienced new foods of all flavors. One of my favorites was Bulgogi, a preparation of beef which we ate twice. The first time we had some, I loved it and the second was even more superb. I am thankful for the people on the trip. Our faculty members, Ms. Wakeman, Dr. Otterson, and Ms. Schloat worked together with Rob, our interpreter, and Starry, an Envoys guide, to bring this trip together in a special way. They made travel efficient and fun and allowed for many fun activities. I am also glad to have been given the privilege of traveling with such an amazing group of peers. I was able to see everyone in a different light, and cultivate genuine friendships with students on the trip. From conversations at meals to leader-designed and student-lead exploration of Seoul, I believe we loved our time in Korea.
Of all our amazing times, three fun activities that will stick with me were the buffet we had at the “Gold Bar” building, going to Running Man, and watching the Twins versus Tigers baseball game. The buffet was in a beautiful building and their food was some of the best I’ve ever eaten. The meal lifted our spirits and I remember laughing so hard during conversation that I started tearing up. Going to Running Man was also very fun; it somewhat reminded me of a Chuckee Cheese’s, due to the large amount of children, but I enjoyed myself there. The baseball game was incredible. Everyone got rowdy and invested in the game. Although our team (The LG Twins) lost the game, it was a great time, and I really enjoyed it.
This trip was an experience that I will value for years to come. I have really gained an appreciation for Korea, and I hope to visit again someday.