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Caroline – South Korea

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Caroline Smyth


South Korea

Hometown: Worthington
School: Thomas Worthington High School
Sponsor Club: Worthington AM, Ohio
Host District: 3750
Host Club: The Rotary Club of ________

My Bio

안녕하세요. Hello! My name is Caroline Smyth. I am from Worthington, Ohio. I will be spending the year after high school as an outbound student in South Korea. I will be taking senior courses at TaeKwang High School in Pyeongtaek, on the western coast about an hour south of Seoul. I’m working really hard on studying my Korean so I can hopefully be able to understand a Korean History course. I’m very interested to learn more about the history of the region and to find out my host families’ views, as well as my classmates’. My goal in going on a Rotary Youth Exchange is to experience a place that is like nowhere else I’ve ever been and that is outside my native western comfort zone. I was drawn to the program by my love of languages and international travel. At Thomas Worthington High School, I took lots of Latin and French courses. My other favorite subject was AP European History. I plan to combine those interests into an international studies major in college. I also love music. I play violin, guitar and piano. I was in the school Orchestra, the TWHS String Quartet and was a student fellow in Chamber Music Connection. I am hoping to continue my violin in Korea, so I have one class where the material is familiar. I’m so grateful to District 6690 for this amazing opportunity. I’m looking forward to everything I’m going to gain from this exchange!

Letters to the Worthington Rotary club (my sponsor club!)

January 1:

Since Christmas isn’t a big holiday in Korea, I was worried that my Christmas this year was going to be an uneventful day for sulking and being homesick.

Turns out it was anything but!
Before I begin I just want everyone to be aware of the fact that I’m really never 100% clear on what’s going on around me or where I’m being taken, so I hadn’t expected any of the events on this day. So.
I woke up around 10:00 and started getting ready for church at 12:00. Since my current host mom works at the church, she had to be there much earlier, but not before I gave her my present and wished her a Merry Christmas.

At 11:55 me and my two new host brothers (the first one year older, the other one year younger) departed for church, which is conveniently neighbooring our apartment complex. Walking into the service I saw all my friends from church and the high school pastor. I was handed a little device and headphones for listening to the service in English. The focus of the sermon was the importance of apology and forgiveness, which I think is a good message for anyone regardless of relgion. At the end of the service, we were given apples to give to someone we wanted to apologize to, which is a Korean play on words. The word 사과 (sagwa) means ‘apple’, and 사과하다 (sagwahada) is the verb meaning ‘to apologize’.

 After that, me and my friends from my church class had to attend something signifgantly less cheerful: a funeral. The grandfather of one of the girls in our class had passed away that morning, and so we all attended the first day of a three day Korean mourning process. The funeral home was a large building with 5 or 6 floors, each floor housing a different memorial serivce. Walking up to the funeral, I felt really embarassed to be dressed in festive red and green colors while everyone else was in black, especially since my friend explained to me that to Koreans specifically didn’t wear red to funerals because it resembles blood. My teacher assured me that it was okay, and they would rather I went in red and green then not attend at all.
The service was held in a small room without chairs or any decoration besides a picture of the deceased and a lavish bouquet. We of course had to remove our shoes, and sit crossed legged in silence throughout the whle ceremony. Afterwards, we sat around and ate tradtional Korean dishes and I was introduced to the head priest of my new church.