Bridging MoHome to Seoul

Lauren Wilkens

The ahjumma and I at 고쌈 (go-sam), the bibimbap restaurant.

Lawren Wilkins '16

Major: Asian Studies

Study Abroad: Ewha Womans University, Edae, Seoul, South Korea

I chose to major in East Asian Studies because I fell in love with the Korean language and culture. As a firstie, I was already dreaming of studying abroad at Ewha Womans University. I imagined walking across a bridge from one historic women's college to another, both established in a location that meant something to me.

In Fall 2014, I spent 4 months in Edae, Seoul, South Korea — at Ewha. My classes there were more focused on my minor, Educational Studies, as my goal is to teach English in South Korea after I graduate. However, most of my joy in South Korea was not spent in the classroom at Ewha but in the city of Seoul — specifically in the districts of Edae, Sinchon, and Hongdae.

I really enjoyed teaching Koreans about the English language and culture at a Language Cafe I went to on Monday nights in Hongdae. Although this was fun and a great preparation for my future career, it stuck me in an English bubble. You see, I'd also become close with a certain ahjumma (an older woman) that worked at a bibimbap restaurant that I frequented in Sinchon. She, however, couldn't speak English, and my Korean wasn't perfect, yet we still managed to become friends.

Before I left, I gave her a letter I'd written in Korean (since I'm better at writing than speaking in Korean) that told her how much I cared for her and that I'd miss her most. After reading it, she told me "saranghaeyo" (I love you) and agreed to take a photo with me. It is because of her that I want to perfect my Korean and become better at speaking it. I love that she and I were able to befriend each other even though there was a language barrier, but my goal is to be able to visit her again when I go to teach English, and be able to speak to her in her language with confidence.