Throughout this trip, we have focused a lot on learning how Korea does the business of agriculture education. I think in my own mind, I have come to this learning experience from the vantage point that I was going to be seeing things that were very different from what we know at home, not only with Ag Ed, but culturally as well. It is very easy to focus on all the things that are different from our own experiences. There's a few things that are different here than home, that I've found it a little challenging to adjust to:
-Napkins that are the size of what we would call "cocktail napkins" as your only napkin during a meal, if any. I am used to having one that folds out and is placed in my lap, so eating without getting food on myself has been a real challenge!
-Very small cups of water with a meal, but usually only consumed at the end of a meal. I like to drink water throughout a meal, especially when the meal is spicy, but this is considered "bad for digestion" in Korea.
-Minimal trash cans. There are hardly any of these in this country! The streets are usually very clean, so I am not quite sure where people throw away their trash, but there isn't a lot to be seen. Just tonight, we had ice cream in a Baskin Robbins (yes like the chain from the US), and when we went to throw away our cups, there were absolutely no trash cans in sight...turns out the staff behind the counter will gladly take them off your hands.
There are tons of other things we could go on to list that are different between Korea and the United States, but what I've come to see increasingly clearly, are the things that are the same between our two cultures.
Both Korean and American college students preparing to be teachers share similar reasons for why they wanted to be a teacher:
-"I've known since I was 6 years old that I wanted to be a teacher. This is my dream!"
-"I had a great homeroom teacher in 6th grade that was my favorite teacher of all time. I want to be a teacher because of him. I hope I can be that kind of teacher too."
-"I had a wonderful experience through my agriculture education program in high school, and I wanted to provide the same opportunity for other students."
-"I had the opportunity to help teach a class, and I loved it! That inspired me to become a teacher."
Looking at the responses above, I'll be you couldn't identify which statements were from Korean students and which are from American students!
Korean Ag Education Graduate Students. The student closest to me wants to be a landscaping teacher!
It's not only the outlook on education, but who we are as people. Walking around the streets of Seoul, you will see A LOT of people. You become very aware that you don't look like most of these people if you are not of Asian descent. But as you peer a little closer, you start to notice the similarities:
-Old and young couples hand in hand, many times wearing coordinating outfits.
-Young children squealing in delight over playing in the water fountain.
-Parents scurrying after their child who just escaped their grasp.
-Groups of old women cackling together.
-Friendly Samaritans, who stop to help us find our way in the subway system.
-Giggling adolescent girls, just getting their first taste of independence and "fashionable" clothing, makeup, and perfume.
-Happy, content children, eager to see their teachers or principals.
-The high school cliques: jocks, nerds, quiet kids, popular girls..the list goes on.
Families walking along the street in Insa-Dong
I could keep listing these things but this blog post would keep on going!
Today I had the opportunity to share a delicious meal with Robin, one of the teachers we met at Suwon, and Kelli. Robin brought her 2 year old daughter along with her, and the four of us had a lovely lunch together. We come from very different parts of the globe, but ultimately we all came together and spent time together, not necessarily to learn more about the other's culture, but to share each other's company as people.
Because really, despite the differences in culture, history, food, location on the globe, we really are all people. We are all connected as members of the human race, and even though we are halfway around the world from each other, we really aren't all that far away. We all share this Earth together and want to see our families and friends learn, grow, and love.
There are lots of barriers to international relations between countries. I think the first step in getting over our differences is to realize that we are all in this together. As humans. On this one place we call home, Earth.