Previously on A Sad Ending for Jaxs & Friends: *besties arrive in Korea* “Please get us out of Jeussy (Jeju)” *cafe, another cafe, no sleep, another cafe* *quite literally NO sleep* “I can’t believe I’m actually leaving” *sad goodbyes* “I’m gonna croak”
Everyone welcome back your favorite host, as she has arrived back to the States… JACQUELINE HIBBARD!!!! *camera pans hard right*
What’s up everyone! I am back and – maybe not better than ever – but in the United States. Manny and I have been back for about a week now. We spent a few days together in Oxford until his parents came to get him, and then I was alone for a while, which finally got me to unpack… partially… ANYWAYS. As this is my last blog post – go ahead cry, it’s okay – I wanted to give kind a reflection on my trip and talk about reverse culture shock because even though for me there weren’t big things there were many small ones.
Let’s start with the reverse culture shocks. I honestly did not know this was a real thing until I arrived in Korea and a friend of mine was telling me about how her study abroad advisor had told her it can be just as or even worse than the shock you get when you arrive in a new country. My first small shock occurred after we had landed in Detroit for a layover. I went to a little convenience store to get a water and snack. Of course there was a lady working in there, and as I was walking around checking out everything they had, we ended up making eye contact. Well the first thing my mind says is to say “안녕하세요 (Hello)” and do a partial bow. But as I was about to do it I realized that this woman most definitely did not speak Korean and I was back in the States. So amid my
panic crisis I just nodded and scurried away. The other thing that was a slight shock, were the number of people around me who weren’t Korean… this may make no sense, but when you’ve been in Korea long enough seeing people of non-Asian decent stops being expected and sometimes even comes as a surprise. It wasn’t that big of a shock but it was enough for me to notice. Another random one, was being able to text people over regular messages instead of a chatting app. I texted my parents on Whatsapp up until the time I saw them at the airport, even though my phone started working as soon as we were over the States. It was even a slight epiphany sitting in the airport and realizing I wouldn’t have to use Kakao everyday… though I kind of still do.
Some funny moments that occurred: Manny and I were driving to Taco Bell and we had to use a map to get there – embarrassing I know. As I opened my phone to open a maps app and Manny watched over the console, he looked at me and says “Why did I think you were going to open Naver maps (Korea’s equivalent of Google maps)?” To which I responded to him, “Tell me why I had to think about what app I needed to open?” So that’s a fun little tidbit. Yesterday, I went to make food, and as I went to look at the instructions on the packaging, I put it down thinking I won’t be able to read it anyway. I often did this in Korea as I usually couldn’t read all of, or even find, the instructions on packaging. But then I realized I was back home and the packaging was in English… I laughed at myself on that one. And the final fun one… I flinch every time I turn on the sink faucet in my bathroom… Every. Time. Thankfully, I have stopped, but this is what being attacked multiple times by your shower will do to you (In case you all don’t remember, our shower heads and sinks were connected, so every once in a while you would get a fun little bath…).
Those are the only real culture shocks I can think of that I really noticed. I’m sure there are more I can’t remember or just didn’t register. To give a quick understanding of how I’ve been since return, I’ve been alright. I think there was a cold going around Korea right before I left as another friend of mine got it when she got back, as well as me, and another friend who is still in Korea. Though it is not Covid as we all have tested multiple times since being sick/cruddy. I’m feeling better now though, as I really only got a sinus infection type thing. I also got hit by jet lag pretty bad, much worse than what I received when I first arrived in Korea. Since I’ve returned I have spent most of my time sleeping, with Manny, or visiting my friends at the boba shop, but mostly sleeping.
Okay… time for the sappy stuff. Think back to my first few posts with me… I really was not happy to be in Korea, the place I had been dreaming to visit. Everything seemed like it was really going to be terrible. Looking at it again, I can’t believe I ever felt that way. I don’t know if I’m gonna be one of those people who is constantly saying, “My study abroad was the best thing that ever happened to me,” but I do believe that I will cherish the experience forever. Because even though I also kept saying I was ready to be back home, I was ready to go back almost immediately. I don’t know if it’s because I felt/feel that there were some left opportunities or if I really loved it that much, but I was within 24-hours – and still am – ready to book my flight back. Hayley told me she thought for almost 2-3 weeks I would book a ticket home any time, and she would have the room to herself. I can’t even imagine that anymore. But honestly I really do think I just got very lucky…
Have you ever met someone or multiple people, and it feels like you’ve known each other your whole lives? Where it feels so natural that you talk about anything and everything, even things you’ve never spoken to your closest friends about? Well I am happy to say I have. I truly met a great group of people. People that honestly it’s hard to imagine my life without now. How am I supposed to go without seeing them EVERYDAY? Texting them about EVERYTHING and nothing.
To start, I would not have survived without Manny. I truly have him to thank for introducing me to so many of the great people I met. He was my slice of home. My understanding voice. My best friend. Then there is Hayley. I could have not gotten luckier with a roommate. We were so similar but so different. And to think she was not excited to meet me after seeing me in our Ewha group chat before arrival… Now she can’t live without me hehe. Just joking but we really did spend almost all our time together it was crazy. The perfect pairing honestly. Even when we were tired of everyone else, we could come back to the room and be fine just together. But Hayley also came with a girl special in both of our hearts, Alisa. Honestly, the kid was as much of our roommate as anyone at one point. Alisa never ceased to amaze me. She made our little group complete, and we could always count on her to be a source of joy. Thinking back in the beginning I was always happiest when it was the three of us in our room just eating and watching Disney movies, and I hope she knows her presence always made me a little happier.
But without the rest of our group, I don’t think the experience would have been quite as memorable. The day Manny introduced me to Tram and Michelle, I was so excited to be meeting new people because honestly, I was afraid my study abroad would be similar to my freshman year and I wouldn’t make any friends, spending most of my time alone. But soon they became part of my everyday. Another fun side story, they didn’t know if I actually liked them when we met… maybe I should work on that. Tram is always such a light. When she smiled, I smiled. She would hold my hand and loop our arms when we walked, and it always made me feel comfortable. And I never told her, but she was the only person who called me Jaxs and it made me so happy. Tram is also absolutely hilarious, and Hayley and I often joked how she isn’t from Earth, just being her own little entity. But Tram can’t be mentioned without her partner in crime, Michelle. Michelle is equally as hilarious. She was a slice of the South that honestly embodied the “Southern hospitality” she was always spouting at me and Manny. I’ve never met someone who was so good at checking up on people and making sure everyone was okay (even in a crowded club, keeping up with 9 people). Whenever we would walk somewhere she always asked how I was adjusting, almost holding little therapy sessions. Matter-of-fact she is still checking in, texting us all to see how we are doing back home. Michelle will always be there for us now it seems and I love that about her, even if it is just for “Connections!!!” as she would often mention every time she met a random person and followed them on Instagram.
Along with Tram and Michelle soon came Pema. Maybe one of the most street smart people I have ever met. Another person who always amazed me. Pema was and is AMAZING at finding information about places and things to do, as well as directions. She many times was the backbone to our trips or excursions, and I was always so thankful for it, as I hate planning. She was another piece to our puzzle of a group, and even though she wasn’t with us all the time her presence was always there in some form or fashion. That was her impact. Another gem of a human Tram brought along with her was Ja’Nia. I’m serious when I say I’ve never opened up to someone so quickly. She was the absolute sweetest when we met for the first time, and still is the sweetest person ever. We didn’t get to meet too many times, as she attended a different school, but I’m so happy we did meet. Ja’Nia and I just both understood each other it seemed and often felt the same way, both slightly more ready to go home than everyone else. I hope we can meet again one day, as I feel like we ran out of time.
Now for the unexpected friends… if I thought I wouldn’t make any friends, I most definitely did not think I would make any friends that were actually from Korea. But somehow I got lucky and met two. One you all know very well, as she became an integral part in my daily life, Bioh. I truly do not know what my time at Ewha would have been like if she had not been Manny’s Hangul Assi Buddy and I didn’t meet her one night when he brought her along to karaoke. I do not know how we became so close, but we did and I’m so thankful for that. She fit into our little group perfectly, and fit in even more perfectly as mine and Hayley’s other third roommate… just kidding, but at one point she was rivaling Alisa for amount of time spent in our room, and she didn’t even live in the dorms. But Bioh really is one of the best people I could have met, with a 10000 watt smile and a small repeating machine installed in her little body (think of those toy parrots we all had as kids). And if I’m being honest, one of the reasons leaving Korea began to be a hard thing to even think about. She knows I will be back – can’t leave her for too long ;). Another absolutely amazing friend who came out of nowhere, who you all may not know as well, Juyoon. We met after our first Korean Language and Culture class. The funny thing is, she only talked to me because she felt me starring at her… and she usually doesn’t talk to new people, but for some reason she felt compelled to speak to me. So as we walked out of the building, she came over to me and asked a question about school IDs. Who would have guessed that would lead to a rather strong friendship. Honestly, we didn’t hang out much or even talk too often, but when we did, we spent hours on hours together, completely loosing track of time. We just clicked in a way that neither of us expected. Juyoon is so sweet and absolutely hilarious. She even surprised me with a going away gift. We soon knew just about everything about one another, as once again, we talked about everything with each other, even things I don’t talk about my friends from the States about. I’m really sad that we didn’t have more time to spend together, but we are still texting and will most definitely meet again one day! I mean how can you never meet someone with whom you spent a whole 24 hours together on only your fourth time meeting (stupid school project, would have been more fun without it).
Wow. Isn’t it crazy how my whole recap is just me talking about my friends… To me they were the main part of my experience, and I hope they know that. They were the best part to me. Korea was great, Ewha was great, no matter how bad it seemed at first, but they were the stand out. Without them, I would have been miserable. I honestly don’t know how I’m going to live without them. If any of y’all read this just know I love you guys. God, that was so gross and sappy… but true.
Anyway, that’s it for me everyone. South Korea was amazing. Ewha was amazing – even though school was my least favorite part of the whole trip. I am already planning on going back – probably much sooner than my parents expect…oops. In the end I am so happy I got to have this opportunity, and share it all with you.
Next in Jacqueline’s Life: Honestly who knows, and sadly I won’t be sharing it with you all as this is my last blog. BUT I am going to the Dreamcatcher concert this Sunday in Kentucky, and will be returning there in over a month to see Loona as well. So I’m sure you can gage my excitement. Okay, that’s all!!! Peace out!!!
If you would like to keep up with me in the future, follow me on Instagram – if you don’t already :))) @jaxshibb