Wow. What an incredible experience I just underwent over the past two weeks visiting a jump-started foreign country full of unique cultural and technological attributes throughout society and life. Having had some time to process, it is time for me to share my personal thoughts on various aspects of South Korea and the trip that I perceived and underwent.
Studying computer engineering myself, there were a great multitude of niche products sprinkled across daily life and while many were interesting and even amazing, some are capable of upbringing an ethical debate on their application. For example, security cameras and CCTV are very prevalent in almost any elevator, hallway, alley or building. Possibly contributing to the incredibly low crime rate and great safety in South Korea, others may argue that the use of such technology is invasive and controlling. As a future computer engineer, I may very well find myself working on a project that ignites a similar debate among the public, and it is very easy to find yourself in an ethical gray-areas in modern society. Another clear example that pertains to me is the presence of internet censorship in South Korea. With most computer advancements, there are both great good and harm that can arise depending on usage, and South Korean government has decided that limiting the possible harm is worth the reduction of freedom. Seeing the different angles to advancements in my field has helped me grow as a professional with a better understanding of the complexity of outcomes that need to be considered whenever designing a product for the modern world. Despite a seemingly good-hearted intention, technology is powerful and can often be abused or misinterpreted. This trip has helped me see that there are multiple sides to each issue, not just the side that the U.S. has (intentionally or not) ended up choosing.
Visiting South Korea has also helped me develop as a student by expanding my range of study and providing me with insight and knowledge outside of simply math and science. While those are both essential to my career path, I learned things over the past two weeks that would be extremely challenging to teach in a classroom setting — things that need to be experienced first-hand to understand. The most prominent example of this would be culture. Everyday interactions and lifestyles of hundreds, even thousands of people are easily observed while exploring the cities of South Korea, and I do not think I could have understood the realness and underlying truths behind the things we researched before departing, such as “Bali Bali” (Hurry hurry) and the praised work ethic of Korean workers across industries. Almost every company we visited would reference the great work their employees consistently provide and the work-heavy lifestyle many Korean’s live. I have learned of many different lifestyles that people across the world live that differ from even the diverse range found in the United States.
In addition to increasing my academic breadth, Plus3 has shown me new possibilities and ways to continue learning outside of and even past graduating. Spending time outside of the U.S. forced me to adapt to new situations and standards, learn to communicate through a language barrier, travel by subway, bus, and taxi in a language I do not speak, and embrace the difference in culture. Without any classrooms, I can continue to learn valuable lessons such as those from this trip by simply exploring what is out there. After meeting and hearing from multiple non-Koreans who found themselves living in Korea due to work, marriage, or any circumstance, I think that I would definitely embrace a potential career that could land me in a foreign country for prolonged periods of time, as the possibilities to learn and grow are enormous and can leave you in a position to try eating live octopus.
All the company visits also really helped me understand many work-life environments. Companies like Hyundai and BNCT offered a way to see more standard hierarchies and workplaces common in the States. NAVER boasts incredible worker benefits and while touring their office space we encountered countless niceties nonexistent in American corporations. For example, they had a free doctors office, post office, convenience store, heavily cost-reduced meals, and quiet relaxing areas for all workers. I got to see some of the traits I might want to look for in a potential employer as well as different work cultures I could pursue in my professional future.
Lastly, I gained experience working on an interdisciplinary team for the final presentation. With both different engineers and business-related majors on the same team of six, we had to blend our knowledge and background to create a feasible and desirable product and presentation to back it. We learned to capitalize on our own personal strengths and allow others to fill in the gaps they are most qualified and comfortable to. For example, our original ideas were far too great of an engineering feat to be reasonable, but after we were able to hone into a feasible invention, we let the others capitalize on our work and create the intended market and surrounding business platform. This was professionally valuable for me as I am certain I will be involved in similar teams in my career and will once again have to combine forces with other’s areas of expertise create a project of the utmost quality.
Ultimately, Plus3 Korea has proved such a unique opportunity for me to grow individually and professionally. I have enhanced both my current education and future career understanding by fully embracing all that was offered across some of the greatest 14 days of my life.