Landing for the second time at ICN, I carried with me memories of my previous summer, expectations for the coming 5 months, and two giant suitcases. As I wandered out from customs, I was bewildered again by my surroundings. All of my senses were bombarded at once, so much that I didn’t even notice the face of my friend who had taken time out of his busy schedule to surprise me. Having a friend with me immediately removed my stress of having to navigate my way to the guesthouse alone. Instead, I could enjoy the taxi ride and take in the sights of Seoul.
My next few days in Seoul, I saw the city through new eyes. What had before seemed hectic and crowded was now a beautifully orchestrated performance –each person had a role to fill and a place to go. But what was my role? Where did I fit in? These are questions that many foreigners ask ourselves as we try to find our place in Korean society. The former Joseon ‘hermit nation,’ which has become increasingly friendly to Western foreigners, is a precarious place to reside. As foreigners—waygookin—we may never succeed to become ‘Korean,’-but- nor will we be held to the same standards as Koreans. Many western foreigners residing in Korea find freedom in this. I am beginning to navigate my way through the language and culture and hope to learn many new things during my time here.