Episode 22 │ Bring the Hanbok (SOUTH KOREA)
Updated: May 4
"When you first step off the plane you have this feeling like, 'Wow, I'm in another country'. As an adventurer who wants to go out and explore other places, I wouldn't trade that feeling for anything. I love that feeling so much!" (Ande, Episode 22)
Ande Hubbard and I became acquainted through our high school's theatre program, and have kept in touch since then. But I was fortunate to get to know her even better this year, thanks to her hosting me and another friend at her home in Suwon, South Korea. Coincidentally the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics were going on at the same time, but we were primarily there to experience South Korea and spend time with Ande, of course! Ande first visited Korea as an undergraduate student at Central Michigan University. Since she'd been studying Mandarin Chinese, she'd planned to study abroad in China but by the time she went to sign up, all the programs were full. Her study abroad advisor suggested that Ande go to South Korea instead for a semester, and then try to get to China again the following semester. To her pleasant surprise, she wound up enjoying Korea so much that she stayed a whole year.
Arriving in the late winter/early spring of 2013, Ande spent that year studying Korean language and culture at the Sejong campus of Korea University. As an international relations major back home, she also took advantage of the opportunity to take electives in international politics and North Koreanology. Yes, you read that correctly. North Koreanology. She had the unique privilege of learning about North Korea's history, policy, society, and media in ways she likely would not have been able to in the States. Her favorite part was learning about North Korean styles and types of propaganda (the phrase "American bastards" comes up frequently, depending on the content), and she specifically mentioned a televised performance of a little girl singing her thanks to the "Great Leader" for providing potatoes to the people. Turns out I'd seen that video floating around online before. When not studying or in class, Ande spent time serving as a language partner to Korean students, participating in cultural activities and field trips, hanging out with her new friends, and traveling to Seoul and Thailand during summer break.
"No more excuses. It's done. We're going! We signed up, it's done."
Though her going to South Korea initially was the result of a setback, Ande has no regrets because the decision to give Korea a try has led her to where she is today. Whether China or South Korea, at the time it was most important for her to finally go abroad for the first time and not let any more excuses or concerns about timing hold her back. As she recalled, "I told myself that maybe there won't ever be a best time, [and] I didn't want to miss out on that opportunity to be able to go somewhere and experience something else. So I just decided, 'No more excuses. It's done. We're going! We signed up, it's done.'"
After returning home and graduating from CMU, at first Ande hadn't envisioned herself going back to South Korea so soon, and wasn't sure if she wanted to teach English. But eventually she figured that returning there would allow her to develop her Korean skills. And based on her past language exchange experiences, she thought she might actually enjoy teaching. So in 2014 she was accepted into EPIK (English Program in Korea), which placed her in a school on the southern island of Jeju. She taught there for a couple years before transferring to a different school through GEPIK (Gyeonggi English Program in Korea), which placed her in Suwon, just south of Seoul. She now lives with her husband (whom she met while studying in Sejong) and their dog in Suwon, and though she doesn't want to teach forever and her dream job would likely have her changing locales often (Malaysia and Singapore are the two places she'd like to try living in most), for now she is very much content and enjoying her life in Korea. Ande can be reached on Facebook (Ande Hubbard), or her blog (Journey to Korea 2013).
Be sure to listen to this episode, "Bring the Hanbok (SOUTH KOREA)" for more! And don't forget to check out the resource list below!
North Korea Potato Song (YouTube video)
Wear Hanbok and Visit Palaces (Seoul Tourism Organization)
Sandra Oh's mom in hanbok at the Emmys (article)
Royyal Dog (graffiti/wall mural artist)
Danielle G. is the creator, host, and producer of Young, Gifted and Abroad. You can find her other writings at DeelaSees.com.