Goodbye South Korea

Throughout my time in Korea, my outlook on my future has changed. Before I left, I thought that this trip would merely let me see something new and try different things. However, I’ve discovered that this was just a taste of a future I want to have. I want to go out into the world and work in places previously unknown to me. I don’t want my life to be behind a computer all day in the same state until I retire. I want to go out and try all the world has to offer. Going to South Korea allowed me to see what is possible after Pitt. This is just a first step in a life long journey in learning all I can.

One of my favorite parts of the Korea trip was how busy we constantly were. Between traveling around the country and meeting new people, there was always something new and exciting to do. The company visits opened my eyes to new markets and technologies as well as possible opportunities for the future. There’s a chance I could do a study abroad in Korea or even just attend a summer program at a university there. It’s possible that I could work with or for one of the companies that I was introduced to. This constant business is a large part of Korean culture that I can see myself fitting into. In Korea, there is a phrase “빨리 빨리” that means “hurry, hurry”. That rush to be working and improving oneself is an integral part of Korea. That mindset also helped them rise to become a global power in just a few decades. I want to insert some of that mindset into my own work habits and become better for it.

The first week, we explored as much of Seoul as one could possibly fit in 6 days. Aside from the company visits, we saw many street markets selling everything from counterfeit luxury brands to socks in every character and color imaginable. Places like Namdaemun, Myeongdong, and Hongdae were completely different to anything in America. There are no strip malls, instead its tiny shops open to the air with vendors sitting outside imploring you to try their wares. That style of shopping was so much more comfortable and interesting. I wish that America could implement it because it makes for a more dynamic experience and could probably make people want to go shopping more often. An interesting part of Seoul is how clean it is. Even in these extremely busy shopping areas, there’s very little trash on the ground. What makes that fact even more amazing is that Seoul has no public trash cans. If people have waste, they have to keep it until they make it to their destination. The final presentation my group did actually as about this problem. We created an idea for a crowd-sourced trash can location app so that tourists and residents can easily find a trash can for their garbage. One of the most anticipated visits in South Korea was the trip to the DMZ. That entire region is a strange sight to behold. It’s both a tourist destination and the place where the world’s longest ceasefire is concentrated at. There’s an amusement park next to a museum for separated families.

An interesting part of the South Korea trip was how the dynamics between the business and engineering students changed throughout the trip. We constantly talked about how the differences between us as well as the odd similarity. When I worked on the final presentation with my group, those differences really helped us work together to create a good product. Even though the product is sort of a joke, I could really tell how the perspectives really helped with making the final presentation. Just engineers or business students could not have come up with such an interesting idea and actually make think it through. In the future, this ability to work within groups that have people with different backgrounds will be extremely useful. There isn’t a field in the professional world today that doesn’t force you to work with different people whether they specialize in marketing, accounting, or other engineers. This is especially true as companies become more global and interdisciplinary. Everyone must always be ready to adapt to new environments.

After traveling through Seoul, we drove all the way to the other side of the country to see Gyeongju, Ulsan, and Busan. Gyeongju was beautiful and so different from any historical city I’ve been to. There’s a deep respect for the sites which could be seen by how well maintained everything was. I think this also reflects the Confucian principles that Korea is based on. That respect for elders translated to their ancestors and their lives. We only stayed in Ulsan for one day, so I wasn’t able to get a real feel for the city. However, I got a sense of continued innovation and growth. It’s a small city but it has its feet in huge industries like Hyundai. This city is on the rise with a huge potential. Busan was another industrial powerhouse. It’s not as well known as Seoul, but it’s the second largest city in South Korea. From its location on the coast, Busan is positioned to be a major shipping city. If the Koreas are ever unified, then Busan will be one of the first and last stops for good traveling throughout the world.

South Korea has the potential to be a major global power in the upcoming decades. The world should keep an eye on Korea as the Korean wave resonates in every direction. I for one am excited to see what Korea has in store for the rest of the world.

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