As I approached the windows my eyes became fixated on the endless, illuminating lights of the city. These lights paved the roads, enhanced the beauty of the city’s architecture, and illuminated the life below. It was at that moment, standing on the 96th floor of the Hancock Tower, 1,000 feet above the city of Chicago, when I realized that there was more to see in life. Through traveling I come to understand life by exposing myself to new cultures. The most efficient way to experience new cultures is to develop relationships with individuals around the world, and I may do so by utilizing my passion for teaching.
Prior to my departure and following my arrival to South Korea, people would ask why. Friends and family members continue to ask me where my desire to teach and live overseas derive from. My answer is quite clear and after living in South Korea for two weeks, my surroundings and experiences support my claim and desire to leave the United States.
According to Dr. James P. Comer, founder and chairman of the School Development Program at Yale University, “no significant learning can occur without a significant relationship.” A great aspect about building these relationships is that it can be done while learning. Students and new friends are able to disclose information about their lives, beliefs, and interests. Individuals are able to build relationships when they disclose mutual or different experiences about their lives. Through deliberation, learning is not a linear process; instead everyone learns from one another, which is the foundation for my passion for teaching.
I was raised in rural Nebraska with a low population of Caucasian farmers. As a result, I experienced little diversity and only knew one way of life. As a teenager, I wanted to leave Nebraska and see the world. I desired to experience a new way of life, customs, and scripts of a new group of people. It is not until one fully immerses him or herself into another individual’s “raw” culture that he or she can truly understand, empathize, and appreciate another person’s way of life. The most intriguing part of a culture is to understand how it was developed and understand the mannerisms of its people. By doing so, one needs to understand the culture’s history. Korea has a much richer and broader culture because it has a much longer history compared to the fledging United States.
Korea offers ample opportunities for me to learn and experience a new culture. It is my aspiration to experience the South Korean culture through my passion for teaching. My philosophy of teaching through deliberation will assist with my desire to learn more about the culture. As stated, through deliberation individuals, including the teacher, share interests, values, and experiences about their way of life with one another. If I am immersed in the South Korean culture, not only will I have the opportunity to make a difference in South Korea, but South Korea can make a difference in my life by helping me grow and become more culturally competent.
Since my new life in South Korea began, I have had the opportunity to complete my first mountain hike. My day at Gyeryongsan National Park was spent hiking 9.8 kilometers (6.1 miles) up two peaks. The first peak, Gwaneumbong Peak, was 816 meters (2,677 feet) above sea level. After my first summit, I made it to the second peak, Sambulbong, at 775 meters (2,543 feet). While descending the mountain I came across a Buddhist temple that filled the mountain side with soothing music. This hike reassured me that my decision to leave the United States is what I need for this new chapter in my life. After reaching the first summit, I sat on the precipice of the mountain, 2,677 feet above Daejeon City…my new home. As the valleys and mountains intersected one another, I experienced the same emotion that the view from the Hancock Tower elicited. I am exactly where I am meant to be. Observing how the mountains fade off in the distance, I admired this enticing sight. This is only the outer layer of South Korea. Its “cover” has captured attention. I am now ready to turn the pages and penetrate deeper into what makes this culture beautiful.
To truly understand life, one cannot simply expose him or herself to the outer beauty of a culture. Instead, it is necessary for one to delve deeper into the culture’s history and mannerisms. As I stood on the 96th floor of the Hancock Tower, I had never been exposed to so much beauty. I found this entrancing and life changing not because of the view, but because everything around me was new. My new view in Korea has drastically changed from illuminating lights to a city surrounded by rolling mountains. I am now being exposed to a new way of life…a new culture.