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The Journey begun at 5 pm on the 10th of July. Being my first journey by air to a far off continent, albeit to a country I had long longed to visit, it was a dream come true. I was thrilled. After 14 hours of air travel, I arrived at Incheon International Airport on Tuesday evening where I was met by a team from Duksung University. Shortly afterwards, we departed for Duksung University.

On the 12th of July, we had two educational trips to Korea’s National Assembly and Seoul National University’s Kyujanggak Institute for Korean studies which had an archive for the documented heritage of Joseon dynasty. Being a Korean history fanatic, I quickly understood the explanations given by the guide. It felt like the Korean Drama series I usually watch come to life. Later on, we proceeded to the National Institute for International Education, Korea (NIIED) center to spend the night.

The 3rd day was particularly exciting for me because we got round to practice and experience Taekwondo. It happened at Arirang Taekwondo centre for the greater part of our morning. My friends and I learnt some self-defense moves and then Kyukpa, the art of wood breaking. Afterwards we set off to the National Museum of Korea and Chandeokgung palace. The places made Korean culture and history come to life. As we travelled from place to place I interacted with other Korean Government Invitation program (KGIP) participants, allowing me to learn different cultures the world over.

Over the weekend, we watched a thrilling Nanta performance. Nanta is a famous Korean non-verbal comedy show that incorporates traditional salmunori rhythm. I really loved the combination of live music and comedy drama in this particular performance. At some point, I felt like leaving my seat to go join them.

Later on my friend and I ventured the Kyeongbok palace that was only a walking distance from where the Nanta was being staged. It was drizzling but that could not stop us. From Kyeongbok’kung, we then left for the popular Namsan Seoul Tower. Absorbing the length of this lush and tall structure, then glancing down at Seoul from this high point was too much fun.

The next day, we had a 3 hour road trip to Naksan in Gangwon-do province where we visited the Unification Observatory. There, we were able to see the border between North and South Korea from an elevated position by use of binoculars. Despite the presence of heavy military personnel everything looked calm. As I looked over the area, there were so many posters and sculptures preaching peace. Deep in my heart, I could not help but pray to God for the prevalence of peace, and that war would never break out again between the North and South.

Later on we went to Naksan temple. I did not participate in some of the Buddhist activities due to my strong Christian faith but then I got to discover that the religion had significantly impacted Korea’s history. I also enjoyed the breathtaking view of the ocean, beach and the different sceneries in this area.

The following day we travelled from Gangwon-Do to Suwon, then set off for Samsung Digital City. The city is where Samsung develops and tests the first designs of its electronic products. The guides were able to take us through Samsung’s evolution over the years from a mere rice shop to a world leading electronic brand. We got to see most of Samsung’s first electronic gadgets dating back to the 80’s to their latest models of mobile phones, tablets, laptops, fridges, curved UHD,LCD and LED screens just to mention but a few.

The following day my friends and I had the chance to prepare Bulgogi and Kimbap, Korea’s popular dishes. With the ingredients prepared beforehand and with a chef to help us, the process got on well.

On the second last day of our program, we travelled to Incheon Port located  at the mid-western coast of the Korean Peninsula. It is the third largest port in the world. At Incheon, we particularly visited the Incheon Free Economic Zone and Songdo International City. I learned the key details on Songdo’s efforts and progress towards becoming a global business hub. Later on we made our way to Lotte World Tower, the 5th tallest building in the world, and Lotte World (amusement park) where we visited various facilities.

We spent our final day in a hand craft activity, guided on how to create our own compact containers from hanji paper. Later on in the day, we donned the traditional Korean attire, the Hanbok.

Sharing the last moments and parting was really difficult. The strangers I knew had turned into friends and now we were family. While sharing our experiences, those final moments proved emotional. But we promised each other to work hard and possibly meet again in future. The Korean Government Invitation Program was really a great experience. I made many friends and together we made unforgettable memories. As an individual I developed a sense of accomplishment, improved my communication skills both in Korean and English and became more confident to face the world. At the end of it all I was grateful to God and everyone else who had made the program possible.

Story By Marvin Ji Won


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