As part of my “really don’t want to leave” series, I’ve been thinking a lot about the things I didn’t get to do or was not confident enough to pursue them or otherwise too stubborn. There’s this thing about having a set time stamp on a trip like this that make you want to do everything, but then the realization that you don’t become a new person overnight makes that difficult. For that reason, there are some things I regret not doing while in Korea.
Join a Club on Campus
I’m notorious for getting excited about clubs, and then ignoring the club fair and subsequently not joining any clubs. I can count on one hand how many meetings at Drexel I’ve been to despite being on 5 different listservs and talking to people about going to their clubs. As it is at any campus, you make the best friends in clubs. Korea is no exception, and while I did make some friends in my classes, I feel like I could have made more meaningful friendships had I put myself a little more out there in the beginning.
Talk to My Neighbors
I didn’t realize just how much I enjoyed my neighborhood until I moved to Sinchon. I was so focused on the annoyance or inconvenience of my roommates that I didn’t think about my neighbors who lived in the same building. I saw many of these people every day or close to every day, and even when I first arrived, saying hello to them first gave a big impression. Months after I greeted a 할머니 she remembered that I did that and gave me a similar greeting when we met on the elevator. There are things like this that make me really wish I had more time in Korea because I’ve never had that sense of belonging in my neighborhood before. Even though I can talk to my neighbors at home, there’s this huge age gap and I really hate the social obligation of small talk.
Day Trips Outside of Seoul
As huge as Seoul is, I missed out on a lot of opportunities to leave the city. Group plans fell through, and my Korean friends became too busy to make plans to show me around their cities. Despite that, I had at least a day a week where I could have easily taken a Seoul subway or a bus at Goseok Terminal to a neighboring city. Hell, just leaving the same 3 neighborhoods I frequented would have been nice too. But since I’m the type to get tired quickly and not want to do anything but lay in the bed, I guess asking for weekly trips was a bit unrealistic.
Go to a Language Meet-up
If there was any central place in Korea for language exchanges, it’s Seoul. There are at least 3 active groups that meet at least once a week (one even meets every day), and I probably could have made some decent friends while I had the chance. I didn’t take advantage of the opportunity out of fear of the unknown, and I didn’t have any friends to go with me, so I let it fall by the wayside.
Commit to a Korean Class
SNU’s language class was already a steep cost when considering the amount of money I had to pay to be there and live. Despite the sketchiness of my low-cost Korean class with a community center that ended up being run by a church (therefore reading bible stories made for kids every week), I still learned a lot in the couple of weeks I managed to go. Out of laziness and weariness, I didn’t continue to go to that class, and instead of finding a different class, I just decided to “study on my own.” Don’t get me wrong, I really did study, but it wasn’t as frequent as I’d like it to have been, and I would have benefitted with some hardcore Korean immersion for a couple of hours a week where I would be forced to listen, comprehend, and speak (and maybe even take the TOPIK!).
It’s a shame that there is still a number of things I haven’t even talked about that I regret not doing, but if I’ve learned anything in life, it’s that everything is a lesson. Korea will always be there when I get around to going back. Until then, I’ll continue to use my experiences to build my character and encourage others to do the same.