(This question took me a while to answer…) Sorry it took me so long to answer. It’s a very thought provoking question and I didn’t want to give a crap answer…hopefully this won’t be a crap answer.
Well, I want to first off recount something a former friend in Korea once said to me: “It’s difficult to notice how you’re changing when you’re abroad because the people you’re around are sharing a similar experiences to you and are changing alongside you. You won’t notice the changes until you return home, and back to your friends and family.” I’ve mulled over this a lot since I’ve been here, and I think it’s true.
So, while I’d love to make a list of the many ways Korea has changed me…I cannot. Honestly, I don’t feel very changed. I’ve had experiences that I would have never had in the states, and I’m sure they’ve changed me somehow, but I cannot identify these changes. A lot of it has just been validation of who I thought I was and what I thought I was capable of doing…not really a change.
Also, some of the changes I’m sure just come with time and aging…not necessarily Korea; and some of these changes may only be while I’m in Korea–I may not take retain it after I leave. I don’t know if these are changes, but here are some things that I’ve noticed about me:
- I’ve learned more Korean and I’ve learned to distinguish Korean faces from Japanese and Chinese and SouthEast Asian…I can usually ballpark an ethnicity (but I’m not even 90% accurate).
- I learned how to use chopsticks.
- I’ve eaten a lot of foods I would have never come near in the states. I’m finally eating healthier (more fruits in my diet), but I’m still far from perfect. I’ve realized how much I love food variety in the states and I’m more wiling to cook for myself.
- I’m more willing to go out to bars or clubs to hang out with people. I now rely heavily on facebook and my blog to keep in touch with people.
- I put a little more effort into my appearance (sometimes): I wear skirts/dresses more often and light make-up.
- I’ve learned how to live without taking a bath to de-stress…although I seriously miss baths and have taken one pretty much any chance I get (which has been about 4 times since I moved abroad).
- Korea has made me acutely aware of my age and I feel a lot older than what I am…my life experiences are more than other Koreans my age and then I have to add two years to my age every year for my Korean age (although about 2 months it’s only a 1 year difference).
- I don’t mind walking 15 minutes to a grocery store and carrying my purchases back with me…I’ve even turned down car rides.
- I’m more aware of how curvy my body is, and that while I can fit into most of Korean clothes–most are not meant for my body type…it’s also been an impetus to eat healthier and exercise more.
- I guess a huge thing for me that I’ve learned is to rely more on others…because I have to. At times it’s very frustrating because I feel like I should be able to do almost anything on my own and I know I’m capable of it…but language and accepted behaviors are different.
I’m sure when I visit my family in the states, they’ll see more changes in me and I’ll be more aware of my changes…but I honestly don’t feel much like a different person. Most of those things just feel like things I’ve learned…not how I’ve changed. (On a side note…One comment from my aunt during a skype video chat was how expressive I am with my eyebrows…but I don’t know if that’s from the last time I saw her–almost 10 years ago–or from being in Korea.)