Kiln it in Korea

"Through pushing herself both creatively and personally in going to Korea by herself, Janet grew more than she could have ever anticipated."

Bethany Gerlach - 7 March 2019

Janet Fan, a Business student, recently took part in a summer program in Seoul to participate in a ceramics class. She had wanted to go abroad in order to have first-hand experience living on her own, so she could know if it was something she could be capable of in the future. After spending a month in a completely different continent, Janet feels that she has proven to herself that she is an independent person.

"I knew studying abroad would be a life-changing experience for me," she says, "but I didn't realize the to what extent it would impact me." Throughout her time in Korea, she grew to be more independent, more creative, and made new friends she otherwise would not have met.

When preparing to go to Korea, Janet had worries about the language barrier, as her knowledge of Korean was limited. She had worried that she'd get lost or would be unable to experience Korea at its fullest without the language. A self-described introvert, she also worried that the language barrier would restrict her ability to make friends.

However, all these worries turned out to not be problems at all. The people she met in Korea went out of their way to communicate with her, even if they didn't have a solid grasp of English-they would use google translate or hand gestures, to make sure that Janet knew she was listened to. "Never once did anyone make me feel that my lack of knowledge in the Korean language was a problem," she reflects.

Her concern about making friends also proved itself to be untrue. "Everyone I encountered was very friendly, and I was able to step out of my comfort zone and meet new people," she explains. Janet made one especially close friend in Korea, and she is already making plans to visit them in the summer.

The friends that she made aren't the only thing that made Janet close to Korea. The ceramics class made for a unique experience for Janet, because it was an opportunity for her to connect to her culture in a way she couldn't in Canada. As an accounting major, she is constantly dealing with numbers, so she found it a welcome opportunity to make room for creative expression.

"The professor created a great environment that challenged us to think beyond making things we saw on the internet," she says. "He constantly encouraged us to express ourselves through the pieces we made."

In her class, not only did she get hands-on experience making the ceramics, but the course also enabled Janet to learn about the history and traditions behind Korean ceramics. She got to learn about South Korea's culture and history from a unique perspective, and in a fun and interactive way.

Another way Janet was able to interact with Korean culture was through traditional foods.
"Food has always played a very large role in my life, as eating is my favourite way to interact with others," she explains. She had opportunities to try traditional temple food, as well as unique dishes like yukhoe (raw beef) and sannakji (raw octopus). One of her most treasured memories of her time in Korea was coming out of a concert late in the evening, and eating Korean street food with other locals.

Most importantly, Janet believes that going abroad to South Korea helped her to grow and come into her own.

By going to Korea, Janet says that it has awakened a desire to learn more about other cultures and to explore the world, a change in her personality that she is grateful for. She is already thinking of where she can go next.