Traveler Madison McClain shares what it’s like to study abroad in South Korea


GenZ’ers, commonly referred to as Generation Z, had to navigate early adulthood amid a global pandemicwhich South Korean student abroad Madison McClain remembers in detail.

Her fascination with Asian culture, from anime to K-pop, led to the realization of a childhood dream: to study abroad in South Korea. Following this, Madison received her bachelor’s degree in East Asian Studies from Wesleyan University in May 2020.

“It was the perfect time to graduate – at the height of the pandemic!” Madison joked with Travel Noire. But she took it in stride and didn’t let anything dampen her passion for everything Korean, from food to language. She had immersed herself in the culture since the age of 13, and it kept her grounded during the difficult transition to adulthood.

“I wanted to learn the language and understand the culture better because I was struggling with my own identity as a black woman of Jewish descent in America,” Madison explained. “I felt lost and disconnected from both cultures because I felt like I didn’t really belong in either one. My concept of Blackness then was very specific and stereotypical, and didn’t exactly fit into it. made me feel isolated and deprived of a sense of community, and at that time in my life, I wanted to be anything but an outcast.

Photo by Madison McClain

In high school, Madison and her co-workers took free Korean lessons offered by a teacher from another school. Within two years, her vocabulary and grammar improved, and the teacher gave Madison a Korean name, Hyerin (혜린), which she still uses when interacting with the Korean community. Enrolling in Wesleyan allowed her to step up a gear in her Korean studies. She spent hours studying, kept journals using everything she knew in Korean, and watched TV shows and movies to better understand the tricky pronunciation.

“My Korean teacher at Wesleyan, kudos to Professor Back, was my favorite,” Madison said. “Not only did she teach us the language, but she invited us to eat homemade dishes to celebrate the end of the year. I was able to learn so much from his dedication to his students and his incredible teaching methods.

What attracts Madison to Korean culture? And how was it when she went to South Korea?

Photo by Markus Winkler

“Korean food is delicious and the history of the peninsula is much more complex than what we learn in school, so I just wanted to consume as much information as possible because it was interesting,” he said. she stated. “To be honest, I didn’t feel too much cultural change during my visit as I was already introduced to a lot of differences. I was very lucky to have an amazing Korean studies teacher who explained the social nuances in depth. From knowing how to use honorifics for elders to eating corn on pizza, I felt truly prepared for my travels thanks to her.

Yet in the months leading up to his arrival in Seoul, Madison had some concerns. Not only would it be her first time out of the country, but she wondered how she would be received as someone who read like an obvious foreigner.

“I was really worried about the discrimination, so I did some research on Google. Of course, when I arrived there were the stares in the street, which was quite intimidating. Other times, we were told “no foreigners allowed” when trying to enter some clubs and karaoke places but i had none Major problems, and I attribute that to the ability to speak the language. As a guest in their country, I wanted to make sure I spoke Korean all the time and didn’t come into a conversation hoping someone would welcome me. There were quite a few people talking to me in English, but responding in Korean definitely improved the overall atmosphere of the interaction.

Madison spent a semester of her junior year in South Korea and enrolled in Yonsei University. When she wasn’t taking intensive classes during the week, she was exploring with friends; applying his Korean to real life situations. They visited Gyeongbokgung, one of the grand palaces built in the Joseon Dynasty, went shopping in Hongdae, and took a ferry to Nami Island.

Photo by Daniel Bernard

Above all, Madison was the happiest among other K-pop fans, and she was able to meet many of them overseas.

“The Yonsei University Spring Festival brought together several artists: Twice, Red Velvet, IU, ZICO, and Beenzino. This lineup was something to behold and the liveliness of the crowd was insane. From performances to audience chants, it was something I had never experienced before. What I loved was that I was in a community of K-pop fans, Korean and non-Korean, having fun.

Progressive values ​​and transcendent cultural differences are important to people in Madison’s age range. Additionally, the prevalence of social media allows them to dive into the travel landscape with ease and confidence. Unlike Millennials, who struggled with dial-up access in the early days of the Internet, Gen Z is the “connected” generation; use Instagram, TikTok and other platforms to learn more about travel and other topics. That’s not to say their older cohorts can’t, but Gen Zers are the only ones so far who can’t remember life without social media.

“I think visibility and transparency through social media influences our travel decisions,” Madison said. “I don’t want to generalize our whole generation, because that’s something we do a lot these days. But I feel like there are quite a few of us who practice a more empathetic approach to travel. We listen more to the people we affect in our travel decisions because their voices are more readily available and it changes the way we plan travel. That’s not to say older generations aren’t empathic, but rather the influx of new technologies and our ability to use them in a variety of ways has allowed us to be more aware of how we affect others.

Follow Madison on Instagram @sketch.hers_.

Source link


Comments are closed.