I took my first international flight on July 13, 2010, with a round-trip ticket to Seoul, South Korea in my hand. I had been accepted into the Camp Fulbright Junior Internship Program, held in Goesan, South Korea. Camp Fulbright is an English-immersion camp for Korean students, ages 10-17, and a cultural immersion experience for a select group of 16 Junior Interns, referred to as "JC's."
I've been raised on a small farm all my life, and coming to Asia seemed to me like I had taken a rocketship, not a plane, and flown across the galaxy. I stepped onto the streets of Korea with burning curiosity. From the airport, I took a 3 hour bus ride to the outskirts of the small city of Goesan, to Jungwon University. It was dark when I arrived and the following morning brought with it a sense of utter astoundment as I woke to view the ageless beauty of the Korean countryside, clouded with mist. The marble structure of Jungwon itself, was so striking, it seemed to be carved right out of the landscape. I never felt so lucky in my life.
â–º Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
When the campers finally arrived, we were split into teams. Each team consisted of 1 Instructor, 1 Korean Counselor, 1 Junior Intern, and 12 Korean Campers. The Korean campers ranged in age from 4th to 10th grade and English proficiency levels varied. I was a member of Team 9, consisting of Matt (Instructor), Pureum (Counselor), and campers, ì¸ê·œ (In Gyu), ê´‘í˜„ (Kwang Hyun), ì„±ì€ (Seong Eun), ì†Œë¯¼ (So Min), ì†Œì • (So Jung), ì§€ì„ (Ji Seon), ì§€ë¯¼ (Ji Min), ì–‘ê·¼ (Yang Geun), íœ¸ì§€ (Hyun Ji), and ì¤€ê¸° (Jun Ki). Throughout camp, teams often competed against eachother through games and activities, tracking "points" on a giant poster. Not only did Camp Fulbright allow Junior Interns to interact with Korean youth, it gave us the opportunity to take Korean language classes and participate in Korean cultural workshops. Additionally, when camp ended, Junior Interns embarked on an exciting and fun-filled trip to Seoul for our last two days in Korea before packing up and flying home.
My experience with CFJIP was more than eye-opening, perspective shifting, and stereotype breaking; it was LIFE-CHANGING. Camp Fulbright has given me direction as I now intend to major in International Relations with an emphasis on Southeastern Asian Cultures and Languages.
It is funny to me, how much of an impact flying halfway across the world has had in the discovery and building of my character- the finding of myself. The hours were long, the work difficult, and the day exhausting, but I would do camp again in a heartbeat. The lifelong friendships, lessons, and connections have extended my residence from a single nation to involved global citizenship.
Camp Fulbright gave me the chance to shatter all previous misconceptions and stereotypes. It has given me a new persepective, and thus a new "place" in this world and has taught me the true meaning of friendship. For "Nothing makes the earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance; they make the latitudes and longitudes." – Henry David Thoreau. While it can be so painful to be away from those I have grown to care for through Camp Fulbright, I have taken to heart the fact that it is better to say goodbye than to have never said hello.
…Also, Korean washers and dryers look EXACTLY the same; always double check that you are indeed placing your clothes in the dryer and not washing them again in another washer!
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