Carlie is from Dallas, TX and participated in the 2017 Korea summer program.
For International Education Week I’ve decided to share one of my favorite experiences while studying in Seoul, South Korea over the summer.
Every Seoul summer NSLI-Yan is required to choose a culture club to participate in each Friday during the program. I chose Fan Dance (부채춤), a Korean performing art where a group of dancers utilizes hand fans to create elegant shapes and stories. Soon after making my choice, I received some performance fans (부채) to bring to each class. Following the first day, I remember returning home with my fans zipped safely in my backpack, readily awaiting me to show them to my host family. Unfortunately, when I punched in the apartment passcode and announced my return, I realized I hadn’t a clue how to tell them about my amazing experience at dance class. Defeated, I ate dinner silently at the table and returned to my room quickly. I consulted some friends about my fears, who helped me to realize there was no reason to be afraid. So I mustered up the courage to go out and show my family my new fan knowledge anyway, language skills or not.
To my surprise, all five members of my host family wanted to see the cool things I’d learned, and even try it out for themselves. I demonstrated the dance combinations I’d learned and remember feeling proud of myself when I saw my host family’s amazed expressions. My host father was insistent upon replicating my moves, though he consistently made us laugh instead by dropping them each time he tried. My host brother then challenged him, and ended up being way better than even me, the student! He made the motions seem effortless and the fans cracked beautifully each try, earning surprised gasps from us all.
Once I’d showed them everything, I remember turning to put my fans back in my room, but my sister stopped me. She patted the seat next to her, inviting me to sit with the family and watch TV for the rest of the night. It was an evening filled with laughter and fun, and easily earned the spot of my favorite host family bonding experience. It wasn’t exactly profound, though it brought me one of my most important intercultural epiphanies. Even with such a prevalent language barrier, I could still connect with my host family and have wonderful experiences like these. I could still develop strong relationships, create unbreakable bonds, and build relationships over mutual interests. Although all cultures have their distinct differences, we really aren’t so different. We all feel joy, excitement, nervousness, fear, and we all laugh at the little things.
Photo note: I’ve posted some photos of the cool things we did in fan dance class to respect my host family’s privacy as well as to encourage you all to try out 부채춤 if you find yourself in Seoul! Hope you enjoyed reading!