OneWorld Now was thrilled to learn that two of our alums, Chelsea Morales and Wendy Bui, each won a $1000 scholarship in a national essay contest. The contest, put on by the Student & Youth Travel Association, asked students from the Class of 2020 who had study abroad programs canceled to submit an essay focusing on what they feel would have been the benefits of that missed travel experience and why school travel is important to students today. While we are sad that Chelsea and Wendy (and so many other students!) were not able to study abroad in 2020, we look forward to the day when we can once again travel internationally. In the meantime, please enjoy Chelsea and Wendy’s essays below, as a reflection on what we are all missing.
It would’ve been about the busy and humid streets of Seoul beneath the afternoon sun. It would’ve been about the popping and sizzling sounds of popular street foods which scatter on the sidewalks. It would’ve been about the grand palaces and DMZ that have deep rooted history. It would’ve been about the Hanok architecture and the temples. It would’ve definitely been about Kpop and advanced Korean skincare.
There were many things I was looking forward to seeing, doing, and eating on my quick visit to South Korea along with a small group from the OneWorld Now! organization. For the past three years, I have been studying diligently and preparing myself about the Korean language, culture and history with the hopes to finally let it be of use. Studying abroad in South Korea would have further benefited my great interest in the International Studies program I wish to major in the near future.
Studying abroad is the most enriching learning experience for any student and frankly any person! It helps students learn about the world and cultures outside of their daily routine and close knit town. When students are immersed in a different culture they face all sorts of challenges, such as stepping outside of their comfort zone, understanding culture differences, complex problem solving, and most importantly patience. Studying abroad allows students to further develop themselves as they absorb new information from their foreign surroundings. The difference between studying abroad and visiting a place for a vacation are the activities the student partakes of. While studying abroad, most likely the student will stay with a host family, visit local schools and participate in any sort of cultural or traditional activity with locals. All while still having the opportunity to experience regular tourist attractions as well.
Diversity exposure is crucially important to further learn about different values, expressions, languages and history. This also allows students to create a unique connection and precious relationship to the culture they were exposed in. It quite literally is an unforgettable experience. During the time of the trip, students will learn a great deal about their culture of interest first hand better than any book or classroom setting could ever. I always highly encourage people, especially students, to create and grasp any opportunity available to study abroad, the hard work to raise money, the preparation process and finally experiencing the journey is the greatest accomplishment for a student.
Originally my plan for the summer of 2020 was to study abroad in South Korea with the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) program for eight weeks. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent shutdown, I was not able to go abroad for my language and culture studies. My goal while in South Korea was to improve my Korean through real-life skills application and learn more about Korean culture firsthand.
Despite being in a country as culturally diverse as the United States (US), I don’t think one would fully understand a foreign culture without experiencing and being immersed in it, which I learned from going abroad in the past. When you’re in a different country, you don’t have a choice but to experience the culture around you and learn about it as you go.
Cross-cultural navigation is very challenging but it offers insight that one wouldn’t be able to get otherwise. Going abroad for long periods of time only serves to emphasize the differences between my home culture and host culture but it gives me an even greater appreciation of them both.
Despite my interest in language and culture studies coming from a Vietnamese-American background and studying Mandarin Chinese, Korean, and Arabic for several years, I still find that I can become hyper-focused on the US, unconsciously ignoring other countries and perspectives.
It is easy to get tunnel vision and focus only on events happening in the US and only consider things from a US-centric perspective considering how much global influence this country has. That being said, I believe that it benefits more people to think from a global perspective because you can get a better sense of multifaceted issues and ways to approach them, being in an era where there is an increasing need for global collaboration.
At my high school, there is a high population of students from low-income backgrounds. As a result of that, I am one of very few students who have had the opportunity to study abroad. I hope that there are more opportunities in the future for other students, especially those from low-income backgrounds, to do the same. I feel that I have benefitted a lot from having those experiences visiting new places, meeting new people, and then connecting those experiences to subjects being taught in class.
One of the biggest advantages of school travel is the opportunity to learn from firsthand experience rather than from the experiences of others. From my own experience, being able to make connections independently made the educational experience more gratifying and helped me better understand the value of an education in all of its different shapes and forms.