Tobi is from Houston, Texas and participated in the 2017 Korean Summer Program in South Korea. She is also a member of the IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity and Equality Abroad) Committee.
After my time in Seoul two years ago, I made it a goal to keep in touch with my host family. They cheered me on throughout junior year and celebrated with me when I got accepted into Yale as well. I received many cute pictures of my younger host siblings. We would constantly send messages and pictures back and forth of important events in our lives. This summer I had the opportunity to live with them again, and it made me so grateful for my host family.
As I wheeled my suitcase into my host family’s home, a wave of nostalgia hit me. I recalled all the memories that I had made just two years ago. I saw my host sisters peek over the wall. This time they did not run away. Instead, they smiled pulling me towards their stack of toys. At dinner, conversation flowed between me and my host parents. My host dad suddenly asked me if my time during NSLI-Y was difficult. During NSLI-Y, it was hard for me to describe to my host family what it was like living as a black woman in Korea. Now, due to my years of continued Korean study, I could explain to them what my experience was like.
I described how it was strange being the only Black person in many spaces. I described the difficulty in expressing my identity as a Nigerian-American to many Koreans around me. I talked about the stares, the hardships, and the unfamiliarity of it all. My host parents listened to my every word. Sighing, I felt relieved to finally express to them what my hardships were in Korea two years ago…
My host family’s response to me sharing my hardships was comforting. Two years ago, despite our linguistic and cultural barrier, they understood how hard it was for me. My host parents told me how they would try to think of ways to make my time in Korea better. Honestly, looking back at my time in Korea. I recalled the times they would try to make me feel more comfortable. They would ask my questions about my Nigeria-American identity. They always declared (and still do) to their friends with pride that I am their daughter.
I am forever grateful to have my host family in my life. Their unwavering support and love made my time in Korea this summer and two summers ago some of the best times of my life. I like to think that I have two families. One in Houston, Texas. One in Seoul, South Korea.