Study Abroad in South Korea for Fall 2014

Hello everyone! It has been some time since I last wrote a blog posting of any kind. To start things off I guess I should introduce myself. My name is Amanda Corkum and I am a senior at USF with two semesters left before I graduate (Woot woot!). I am majoring in English with a concentration in creative writing.

I will be spending this fall semester in South Korea. I have waited such a long time for this event to occur that it feels like a dream still even as I sit here in a diner in Houston, Texas writing this blog post. I am currently half way to South Korea and awaiting my connecting flight to Bejing, China and my second connecting flight from Bejing to Seoul, South Korea. Upon retrospection this may not have been the best idea; to write the blog after having spent most of the day beating the hustle and bustle of the airports (its extremely tiring) but I’ve already started and I’m not one to call it quits easily.

I decided to study abroad as a child and chose South Korea as my place of study for several reasons. I was introduced to South Korean culture firstly through Kpop and then my interest was peaked further after discovering Kdramas. Kpop and Kdramas aside, Korean culture is very inviting and interesting to me. I had the privilege of meeting and making friends with several Korean foreign exchange students and after meeting them I decided that South Korea was a country that I would like to study abroad in.

Shortly after making friends with South Korean students, I discovered that USF finally would offer Korean language classes on the Tampa campus. You could not believe the joy I felt at hearing that. I signed up right away of course and completed both Korean one and two over the course of two semesters. USF only offers up to Korean 2 which was very disappointing as I wanted to continue with my language journey and eventually become fluent in korean. Study abroad in South Korea suddenly became even more of a solid and approachable plan rather than just an idea or a hope. Studying abroad in South Korea offers me the chance to further my mastery of the Korean language, travel to South Korea for the first time, explore the society/culture/people, and also to further the completion of my major. Since there was an overwhelming amount of benefits as opposed to cons, I took the leap and made the commitment to study abroad.


一緒に日本に行こうよ!Let’s go to Japan Together!

はじめましてみな!私の名前はトーマスシェルビーともします!Hello everyone, my name is Shelby Thomas and I’m going to be a junior this year. This is the beginning of the adventure I will have during my 15 weeks in Japan! I hope that you will enjoy this journey alongside myself. Currently, I have taken four semesters of Japanese, and thus, as my major in International Business requires, will be participating in a study abroad program in the country. USF has a partnership with Kansai Gaidai, a rather international university located in Hirakata, Japan (Osaka area), where we actually pay USF tuition (cheaper) . Along with myself, three others were chosen to represent the university in the exchange program. I’m actually leaving tomorrow to head on over for early orientation and will be staying in one of the Seminar Houses (international dorms for students). Before my trip I made sure to sign up for the international programs offered through the university. So, I will be meeting with my speaking partner this weekend and participating in the home visit program, which allows me the chance to visit families in the area ever so often to supplement that homestay experience. I was rather surprised I was able to fit all of my stuff in only two suitcases, since it will be getting quite cold in the later months for a Floridian, I had to make sure I included enough cold protection. I look forward to my blogging experience! Write to you soon!


The packing mess days before Japan!

So this is my first post to document my study abroad journey across the world!

I feel very excited about it and at the same time incredibly nervous. I would like to give the most real feedback to my experience in order to help other people feel better or get more excited about taking a study abroad trip.

As I am less than four days away from getting on the plane that will take me to Japan, and I feel as if I am bound to forget something (Probably my tooth brush..which will be an unpleasant surprise to both me and everyone in the general region of my breath). Luckily I have gotten most of my paperwork done and printed out as well as have started packing. How to pack for four months? I don’t have the answer for this… I have started out with picking out clothes I would like to wear, deciding what would be appropriate for the country, and stuffing it into a bag. I also got things such as an adapter for electrical appliances, a phone that will work over there (T-mobile has a pretty good international plan), and a stock of toiletries since they can be quite expensive in Japan.

I have also started to talk to my speaking partner over there as well as some of the other students who are studying at the same university. ^^ I figure it’s a good idea to get a head start on making friends to help out once I get there and have no idea where I’m going.

I do not know what else to share at this time since things are just starting to get going, but I can’t wait to share more of my experience with everyone!


One World

As I’ve been reflecting on my Summer voyage with Semester at sea, one way to possibly recap what I experienced is the statement ” We are One World.” The problems that we face at home, are similar to those faced in developed, developing and highly developed countries. If not now, they were faced at another time and overcame, and so we have much to learn, especially from countries such as those in Scandanavia. For example, in Stockholm I joined a large group of my friends to walk in the Stockholm Pride parade, one of the largest of its kind in the world, what an eye opening experience. People from all over, proud to be who they are, next too people from other nations excited to have the chance to say who they are free of persecution. As families both homosexual and heterosexual joined in with babies and grandparents, an entire city came together to celebrate one of it’s populations. Learning more about their rights in Sweden as compared to other nations was fascinating! It’s hard to really out into words what I’ve experienced on this adventure, but that’s a small part of one of the many


An impactful stay in Poland

It’s hard to believe that just outside the beautiful city of Gdansk Poland, lies a beautiful field, grass grown through sweat, and tears, the wooden walls of the buildings erected there holding the stories of strife, despair, and hope. The Stutthoff concentration camp, is a partially original labor/death camp designed by the Nazi regime after invading Poland post Westerplatte invasion (of which our ship is docked next to the monument). We began our tour walking through “deaths gate” in which we were told that those that walked through the gate like us, would leave through the chimneys, as our attention was drawn to the small hut and large chimney located a football field away from the gate. Looking into the first couple barracks, one Can not help but to state in shock, goosebumps entrapped my body as I saw just a small pile of the shoes worn by victims as they arrived to the camp. As we proceeded we saw the night barracks for prisoners, their dining halls, wash rooms, etc all sharing the common theme of inhumanity. Rough, wooden, non insulated and insect laden shells remind us that this was a time were humanity was threatened. As we continued, we made a stop at the gut wrenching crematorium. I thought the pictures I’ve seen in history movies would prepare me, but the gut wrenching site of these large ovens made me shake, as I stared at the flowers surrounding the openings, and the cases of ash. The gas chamber, an unassuming store room, put me at a loss for words. I go into detail on this experience, because it’s important to share the reality of what happened. I alaways knew If I were to travel to this region of the world I would want to visit a camp, as a Jewish American, I feel it’s important to reflect on where our world has been, so we can decide what kind of future we want to create.


Reflections and the Ride Back

Well, today is officially my last full day in Ireland. Now that I look back, the experience flew by so quickly! But when I think of each day I spent here, whether it was in Dublin, Killarney, or Galway, the days seemed to go so slowly. I wish I could stay here longer. I’ve made so many friends with the people traveling with me, and I’m going to miss spending time with them once we depart ways at the Tampa International Airport. We’ll keep in touch, however.

Anyway, on to my experiences in Galway. This place has the Irish weather that my instructor promised: sunny one minute, and overcast and rainy the next. Then, in about ten or fifteen minutes, the sun comes back out. When our group visited Coole Park, this same exact thing happened. Fortunately, I was with a friend whom I could joke about the experience with. When the sun came back out, everything looked so beautiful: the streams, the little yellow flowers, and the footprints left behind by our peers when they scrambled to find cover when the sky opened up.

While I was here in Galway, I learned about the story of the Claddagh Ring. It’s a special ring that, when worn a certain way, shows the relationship status of a woman. I bought one for myself, and I’m enjoying it so much. It seems that most of the girls in this study group bought one as well. It’s understandable, however–these rings are both fun and beautiful.

When we went to Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands, the ferry ride made me pretty seasick. I didn’t get to see much of the sites on the island, but I still had fun walking around town with one of the instructors. At this point, I must say: I deeply appreciate everything that our instructors have done for us over the course of this trip. When I got seasick, they stayed by my side, and when I needed to find some medicine, they did everything in their power to make sure I found what I needed. In addition, the friend of our instructors has also been a big help.

Today, we ride back to the Dublin airport by motorcoach. It’s such a shame that this experience had to end so soon, but at least I get to spend the remainder of it with the amazing people I’ve befriended.


The Great Search

Walter and I

Embarking on this journey seemed like forever…. “When will it end?” I wondered. What gave me the drive to persevere was the thirst for the answers to my questions. Despite the bull I met right in the middle of the bush path that scared me to the bones, I couldn’t be stopped.

After walking for a long while, finally Rebecca and I got to Walter’s house. Walter is a 15 year old boy with nodding syndrome, small for age, stunted, weak and barely talks. After a warm handshake, all he said was “Food, food, food is in the house”. I was amazed when he walked back into the house with an urge to give me food. What a kind heart!

Leaving Walter’s house, we went to see Kenneth who we met sitting down alone in front of his house and maintained that posture almost throughout our stay there. He was so weak that he could barely walk and every time, he attempted to walk he staggered. I was opportune to speak with his father who told me that the Care Center is about 3 hours, walking from their house and the sick child cannot walk this incredible long distance back and forth to the health care facility and if they have to take him there that means they won’t be able to do garden work throughout the whole day to earn a living. This is a major challenge that the Odek community faces on a daily basis, especially for parents who desire to seek healthcare for their children.

Another huge challenge is that the Hope for Humans Comprehensive Care Center is not big enough to accommodate other very sick children living with nodding syndrome in the Odek community. This center is the only one that offers comprehensive health care to children living with nodding syndrome in the whole of Uganda! There is a great need for expansion of this center to accommodate many more sick children for rehabilitation, replication of this type of comprehensive approach throughout Uganda and provision of transportation for sick children living with nodding syndrome in the villages to access healthcare.

I’m very tired now, after such a long and tiring walk…  Hmm I need some rest…

Follow me here  as my adventure continues!!!

Watch the video here!!!


My Last Florentine Day

Hello to all my fellow travelers!

I regret to inform you that our journey will soon end, for today is my last full day here in Florence.

I still cannot fathom of where this summer has gone. All I remember is that it is May 17, I am sitting in the airplane, heading toward Italy. Now, fast forward three months, I am packing again (which, by the way, proves to be one of the harder tasks) and printing out my boarding pass for my flight out, tomorrow. Sometimes I truly wonder and ask myself, what has happened to the concept of time? Why does it feel as if this summer has never existed? The days here, in Florence, seem to be cut short, the time seems to go by faster than I have ever experienced, and I feel as if I am just a bystander, observing how the days blur together, with no begin and no end.

But, before tears begin to form and roll down my cheeks, let me recount one of my last trips I participated in, here in Italy: the school-run trip to Lake Garda, Verona, and Mantua (or Mantova as the Italians say). I participated in this trip last weekend, and I must say, this trip proved to be the absolute pinnacle of the trips I have taken so far. It was the best way to end such a wonderful, dreamlike, and beautiful experience in Italy.

Our first stop was Lake Garda. Lago di Garda, as it is known in Italian, is and always will be my favorite, number one location in Italy. I have visited Lago di Garda before this trip several times as well, and I must admit, I fall in love with this giant of a lake every time I set foot upon its surrounding soil, and gaze upon its beautiful, still waters, the surrounding cities and towns built into the mountain side, and finally, allowing my gaze to drift over the rugged and jagged mountains that protrude from the ground, almost seeming to protect Lago di Garda with their brute height and strength.

The next stop proved to be Verona, the city of love, Romeo, and Juliet. There, we stayed at a hotel and ate dinner. First off, allow me to say the hotel proved to be the best accommodation I have stayed overnight while on my three month journey. It absolutely exceeded all expectations. Second, the complimentary dinner we, students, received as also beyond all conceivable expectations. What an incredible way to end such a journey!

Of course, the cities of Verona and Mantova were also very interesting. In Verona, we received a wonderful tour from a very knowledgeable tour guide, who really stimulated our group to learn and participate while she was explaining the various details and facts regarding the historical significance of Verona, the city of love. Mantova also proved to be a very rustic, old, and beautiful hidden jewel in the heart of Lago di Garda. Again, this two-day weekend trip gave me the opportunity to learn, experience, and see so many new things- things I will never forget for the rest of my life.

Ultimately, as my journey ends, I would like to say a big thank you to the whole of the study abroad staff, the University of South Florida professors who have travelled to Florence, Italy to teach us, students, and to the tour guides and organizers of the incredible trips we all had the wonderful opportunity to experience while studying abroad.

Mille Grazie e Arrivederci!!




From Dublin to Killarney

My group and I arrived safely in Killarney yesterday afternoon, and I couldn’t be more excited to be here. Killarney is much smaller than Dublin, with less people walking in crowds on the sidewalks and with more little businesses packed together along the streets. I’m staying in a cozy little hotel with my older sister and a new friend I made during the trip, and the three of us are super excited to have wi-fi that works really well. I miss the familiarity of Trinity College back in Dublin, however. I really felt like I had walked around the city and the campus so much that finding certain places was as easy as breathing. Now I’m in a new city ready to start new adventures and knowing that the same exact thing will happen by the time I leave Killarney.

Today was a long and busy day. My tour group and I visited such breathtaking sites as Ladies’ View, Moll’s Gap, and Killarney National Park, where we took tons of photos. While on the bus, I took one look at the green hills around me and I kept thinking, “I’m definitely not in Florida anymore!” As we rode the motorcoach throughout Killarney, a friend of one of our teachers explained the sites and the stories behind them. I loved learning about the mythology behind some of these landmarks–I especially got a kick out of the story of the Paps of Danu in County Kerry. At Ladies’ View, where Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting visited in 1861, we took a traditional “jumping photo” of the whole group.

On the topic of our group–I can’t get over the great chemistry all 27 of us have. I’ve made several new friends on this trip, and we now have countless jokes among ourselves. I’m looking forward to exploring more places with this amazing, enthusiastic group of people.


Sports and Recreation Time !

Getting ready for the tug of war game

On a bright Saturday morning, looking out of the window, I saw the children far off on the field, dressed up in sport wears of different colors. Immediately, I dressed up as fast as I could , eager to participate in whatever activities they were going to engage in , even though I had no idea of what they were going to do.

It was an exciting time! We engaged in various sport activities such as relay race, skipping, football e.t.c. The most interesting activity for me was the tug of war, where the children displayed their strength and prowess at the blow of the referee’s whistle. After sports, it was time to dance! The kids love dancing and as usual, they were on top of the game!!!

At the Hope for Humans Care Center, besides recreation, singing and dancing, the center also provides some education, regular anti-seizure medications and nutritious foods for these children. However, the children who are privileged to participate in the center’s comprehensive program and are responding positively are very few, only 40 children out of hundreds of children affected with nodding syndrome in the community.

Right now, I’m going on a search for some of the kids with nodding syndrome in the community. Are they as healthy as these kids being managed at the center? What are the challenges faced by this community in accessing healthcare? Come with me as I embark on a 2 hour journey, walking to find these out. It’s going to be a long walk. Let’s go!!!

Follow me here !!!

Check the video Sports and Recreation Time!





Getting ready for the tug of war game

Getting ready for the tug of war game

Getting ready for the tug of war

Getting ready for the tug of war

Applauding the winners

Applauding the winners

Vicky Apio dancing

Dancing with Apio Vicky

Apio Irene on the dancing floor

Apio Vicky on the dancing floor

playing football

Playing football

Blada game

Blada game

Learning in class

Learning in class

Spending some time with the children in class

Spending time with the children in class