Over the summer, sophomores Akela Inskeep, Abraham Marsh, Lienne Tung, and Mia Umeda, accompanied by English teacher Amy Conners, traveled to Gong-ju, Seoul, Gyeong-ju, and Busan in South Korea. The trip was arranged by the PESS (Physical, Emotional, Spiritual, and Service) organization, and aimed to establish relationships among people from different schools and countries.
Over the course of two and a half weeks, the students visited seven different Korean schools, and stayed at three different dormitories. “What struck me most [was] how super clean the dorms were. No dust, no rust, no stains. No rubbish or clutter,” said Marsh. The Hawaii students’ rooms were nearby a group of Mongolian students, who were also visiting with PESS. In those dormitories, the students spent lots of time together. “One night we went down to the gym and played basketball for four hours with the Korean students,” said Marsh. The Kaiser students found that it was easier than expected to overcome cultural divides, especially with students from Mongolia. “Bonding with the Mongolian students felt natural,” Umeda said. “Most of them spoke English, so there wasn’t any language barrier. Overall, they were all very kind to us.”
While visiting the different schools, students also participated in many unique activities, one of which being the Climate Change Summit hosted by Do-gae High School. In this activity, students from all three nations collaborated to create and present posters on various aspects of climate change. They talked about climate change across language barriers, but also found time to talk about life in their home countries. According to Marsh, the Korean students’ lifestyles are “Very different from ours. For instance, their focus on school is intense… The school days are from 7:00 A.M. to 4:30 P.M.
Overall, the students found that the trip to Korea was a valuable experience that truly fulfilled each aspect of PESS: not only were they able to confront global issues like climate change, but they were also able to form close bonds with the students from Mongolia and South Korea that they’ll remember for years to come.