The powerful trip to South Korea

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The powerful trip to South Korea

Shelby Cambell, The Eagle Editor

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When we landed in the Republic of Korea, otherwise known as South Korea, we knew that there was going to be a group that would meet us at the airport that would be with us throughout the entire trip. These people included Lyee Sun (Sunny), Hyemin, J.T, Jaesung, Sin Jeong and Tae Yong. They made up the YES group. The EIL group consisted of Mecca, Stuart, Rose, Oliver, Eileen, Roberto (Tico), Teresa (T-La), Amber and me (Shelby). Our first eight days in Korea was the orientation week in Seoul and we stayed in a really nice hostel in Hongdae.

The first day we got settled into our hostel and then went to the YES Center for some introductory activities and ice-breaking.

The next day (June 27th) was spent doing more ice-breaker activities and then after lunch we were split into several different groups with Korean college students and one or two YES volunteers for a scavenger hunt. My group ended up going to Yonsei University for the expedition. At the end of the day Ashley took us to a sticker-photo booth which was a lot of fun.

The third day (June 28th) we did ice-breakers again and then after lunch we were split into four different groups to explore more of Seoul. Using the subway system my group traveled to Gyeongbokgung Palace. It was a beautiful place to visit and afterwards we walked more into the city towards a famous man-made stream at which the groups happened to meet up.

The 29th was the day we watched a movie that symbolized the relationship between North and South Korea; it was called Taegukgi. I found that the movie was very powerful and moving as a symbol for how the war between North and South has created tensions shown in the film. This was also the day when we found out that our community service project was to assist North Korean Student Defectors with the apartment that they had acquired. However, that day we made fundraising signs and boxes and went into different groups to go around the city to help raise money for them. On the 30th,our group was able to hear a lecture from a professor about the causes of the war between North Korea and South Korea. We also had the privilege of meeting three North Korean Defectors who told us their stories.

The first of July was another activity which involved trading a paper fan for something more valuable with people we met on the street. I was paired with a woman named Danghi and we ended up only trading the fan for a necklace. After we traded for a few hours we went back to the center to hold an auction. Our necklace raised seventeen thousand won. The money raised from our auction was given to the student defectors that we were to help the next day.

On the second, our group went to the apartment that the defectors had acquired to help them prepare it enough for them to move in. Some people painted and some people cleaned.

The last day we were in Hongdae, we went to the Demilitarized Zone “DMZ” between North and South Korea. Seeing and standing where soldiers had once fought and died was very powerful and I was completely awestruck during the whole trip. Afterwards, our group went back to Hongdae and ate at a grill for our farewell feast from Hongdae.


For our ninth day in Korea, our group traveled two and a half hours into the mountains to a Buddhist Temple where we would stay for three days. Every morning we woke up at four in the morning for morning prayer and then would either stay awake until breakfast which was at six or go back to sleep until breakfast. Our first day there we were given a tour of the grounds and the buildings. At the end of the day we had a tea ceremony where we talked to the monk who was attending to us during our three days.

The next day which was the fifth we woke up for prayer, ate breakfast at six, and made prayer beads. The beads on the necklace represent the 108 afflictions in the Buddhist religion and for each one we had to bow in order for it to be placed on our necklace. We also made lotus flower lamps and wrote down the names of our loved ones on paper to hang on the lamps as a prayer for them. At the end of the day, we had another tea ceremony which Rose had proctored.

On the sixth, we went to a place to make rice cake that was coated in red bean powder. It was really delicious and the woman that was with us from the Temple said that I was really good at cutting it into pieces. We then went to a sort of beach and we got to see the ocean which was really amazing; you could even smell the salt in the air. We then went to see a movie in 4D about migratory birds which was really delightful. We then went back to the same beach as before where Ashley treated us with Starbucks coffees as there was no coffee at the Temple. When we were back at the Temple we had a tea ceremony; however the Senior Monk and a Nun joined us and afterwards led us in meditation.

The 7th was the day we went to meet our host families at a recreation center. My host family was the Cheong’s. I had two little sisters, Eun Ah (14), and Eunji (12). A lot of the families had trouble communicating with the kids they were hosting however my host mother spoke Spanish and I knew enough that we could talk a little bit so I had an easier time with the family. Not only that, but both Eun Ah and Eunji could speak English pretty well so communication wasn’t very much of an issue.

The ten days we were there, we learned traditional Korean drumming, dancing, and art. I learned a drum called the Book (pronounced bŭk). At the end of the ten days we performed the music that we had learned.

My mother had taken me to a lot of places. She took me to an amusement park with Eun Ah and Oliver’s host family. We went to shopping centers; one of them had a place called Disco Pang Pang which was a type of ride that spun and bounced in time with music and was controlled by a DJ. It was really fun!

I even went to Eun Ah’s school for a few hours. The students were very welcoming and also very curious about me. I was almost like a celebrity there.

After the ten days was up and tear filled goodbyes with the families, our group got on another bus to and went to an all-girls boarding school. While we were there, we learned about the mud flats and its delicate ecosystem including clams, small crabs, and also microorganisms. Not only did we learn about it, we also participated in the mud festival in Boryeong. After the few days spent in the boarding school, we headed further into mountains for water rafting and ATV-ing for two days.

At the end of those two days we finally made our way back to Hongdae. The YES group threw us a farewell party and also a birthday party for T-La.

The trip to Korea was an amazing adventure. I had the privilege of meeting some of the most amazing people and seeing the most spectacular things and am forever grateful to those who made it happen.

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