Some years ago a chance came knocking at my door. I was at a library, and I saw a book; I liked the title. I read the back cover, and I decided to buy it. I did not imagine that book was going to be the one that would bring me thousands of kilometers away from home to a remote land surrounded by ocean and covered by mountains. The book was 'The Private Lives of Plants' by Lee Seung-U; since the moment I read it, I have become an assiduous reader of Korean literature. After falling in love with the novels, poems and folktales, I decided to devote my academic life to the literature of this amazing country.
It was through Korean literature that I had my first encounter with the Asian peninsula. Through novels and poems I became friends with the loving 어머니, lived the sadness of the war between brothers and shared the joy of family meals with the 법 of every day. However, I did all of these through translations from Korean to English and to Spanish, so I knew I was missing one of the most important aspects of the Korean culture: the language.
I came to Korea seven months ago and from the first encounter with the Korean language I have realized two things: that the learning of this language would be terribly difficult and at the same time terribly fascinating. The difficulty for me lies in the abysmal difference between Spanish and Korean. However, it is this very difference that brings so much joy and satisfaction to me when I can understand a little more each day of this language, when I can read a word correctly in less than three seconds or when I can strike up a small conversation with the lady who serves me my 김치찌개 on Wednesdays.
One of the things that I learned about Korean that differs from Spanish is the use of the possessive 우리. 우리 is translated in Spanish and in English as “ours.” In English and in Spanish we say my dad, my school, my country. Instead, in Korean, we say our father, our school, our country. This detail made me smile because saying “my mother” is very different from saying “our mother”; there is an element of inclusion that is missing in Spanish and English. Language is the reflection of humankind because it is through it that we understand and relate to the world and society. An example of this is the use of 우리 in Korean.
Speaking from my experience, when I arrived in Korea, I was a complete stranger. I was not related in any way to this country ? I was not part of that 우리, of that ours. However, with time, my enthusiasm and interest and the warmth that Koreans have always shown me, I managed to belong to an institution, to a 풍물놀이 club and to a new family called Seoulmate. Now I can say with pride, gratitude and affection that this is 우리 school, 우리 Seoulmate family and 우리 club 얼씨구.
Alejandra Macias Exchange Student
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