I am now 6 weeks and 5 days in my International Internship in Ulsan, South Korea. During weeks 2 – 5 we had international students from all over the globe visit and take part in the annual Ulsan International Program (UIP) during the Summer at the University of Ulsan. My job is to help English speaking students become accustomed to life in South Korea, keep a point of contact between students and professors, and plan excursions and trips with other Korean staff in the international offices. I was incredibly fortunate to participate in UIP with these students. We had so many laughs, made incredible memories and most importantly had fun! I think my most memorable experience was probably the very last day of the program, our celebration ceremony.
I had the privilege of having previously studied abroad in Mosbach, Germany at DHBW University last Fall and I had already experienced a “celebration ceremony” from that program with a vastly different group of students. At both of these programs, I felt the same wave of emotions, thoughts, and feelings towards the students and experiences. Most celebration ceremonies are filled with sadness and joy, because the purpose of a celebration ceremony is to reflect on the time you have spent, remember the good times that were had, and celebrate the final day you have altogether. This program was no exception nor did it lack in any of these three things. I would like to explain my thoughts and opinions of the celebration ceremonies that I have experienced.
Each Celebration Ceremony has invoked two types of behaviors in people. There are people who cry because they thought they didn’t have enough time to get to know people or they may feel like they were just starting to get close with people and now they have to be torn apart and thrown back into the reality of their everyday lives. Others don’t cry to show humbleness and respect towards their peers, usually accompanied by giving a speech about why they came here, things they enjoyed, or try and repeat an infamous quote that attempts to explain simply the emotions that go on when people are forced to separate. I am more like the latter because very seldom do I break down and show my emotions in these situations and I don’t have any problems speaking publicly in front of people (especially people I would consider my close friends like the people in both of these groups) but, during these ceremonies I always get the same sort of feeling in my body that is unlike any other.
It is very difficult to describe this feeling but, before these two celebration ceremonies, I have only ever experienced it once in my life; the day my childhood dog was put to rest, the last time I played fetch with her, fed her, pet her, and the last time I saw that wagging tail and smiling dog face. It’s the feeling you get when you know those moments are the last time things will ever be like that in your life. You are incredibly glad that you got to spend the time that you did but, are also in a state of mental numbness knowing that it will never be the same after that day. Sadness doesn’t usually hit me until after the event has happened and it has been this way in all three instances. I will never forget these three days of my life, I feel they are the most important to understanding my greater self and they are most important to remember when even greater divisions happen in my life.
When I returned home from Germany I felt completely drained and empty. I didn’t feel connected with any of my old friends, I was close to finishing my studies at Oregon State University yet still didn’t have a plan for after I graduate, I didn’t feel like I spent enough time traveling and exploring, I didn’t have any real credible skills or hobbies that could take my mind off of the memories and I just felt sad that I would never be able to experience all of my friends from Germany in one place again. That is the reason I joined Ulsan University International Internship and that is the reason the celebration ceremonies are my favorite and most memorable moments. It gave me something to look forward to again during the Summer program and it will give me something to look forward to at the end of December with the Fall exchange students. I think my passions in life revolve around traveling, meeting new people, experiencing new cultures and chasing this feeling of loving people so much and knowing that it will never be the same after that day. If you know life will never be the same after that day that means you know you made the best use of your time. Isn’t that is all anybody ever wants in life? To make the best use of their time?