A Semester Abroad at the Republic of Korea Naval Academy
POSTED ON: Tuesday, January 7, 2020 11:27 AM by MIDN 2/C Jung Kim
South Korea was no foreign land to MIDN 2/C Kim. He was born and grew up there until he was 3 years old. He would visit there almost every year as everyone but his immediate family lived in Korea. Therefore, he had already been accustomed to the culture, but the Republic of Korea was a whole different story. First of all, the location was at the far opposite end of Seoul, where he stayed at whenever he visited Korea. Different Korean dialects could be heard, and it was surprising to him as had not interacted much with non-Seoul personnel.
There were so many rules and traditions that were different compared to the US Naval Academy. As soon as I got there, every midshipmen was using formal tones to their upper-class, basically using the equivalent of sir’s and ma’am’s every sentence. In addition, I would be saluted to by my underclass. It felt awkward as he had never had had to return a salute before. At first, the underclasses were scared to approach him. They had all have heard that the US Naval Academy was comprised of elite students all over America and had forgotten that he was in fact, also a human. As soon as they got more comfortable, they bombarded him with questions, regarding lifestyle and the differences between the academies. Professors and Officers also asked him how things were ran at the US Naval Academy, and it seemed like that they wanted to do things very similar to USNA.
MIDN KIM at the ROK Army Academy for a Basketball game
MIDN Kim was also not only able to meet Korean Midshipmen, but also Midshipmen that were on a 4-year exchange program to Korea. There were students from the Philippines, Peru, Vietnam, Turkmenistan, and many more. He was impressed by their fluency in Korean; you could easily mistake them as Koreans if you did not see what they looked like. Like the international students at USNA, these Midshipmen will return to their home country and do their service there. He is planning on visiting Peru next winter break to meet his friend.
MIDN Kim was able to participate in all the activities with the ROK Midshipmen. Every week, he would run the emergency 5km rifle run and go hiking alongside his classmates. He also had to join for their marches to class and their morning ceremonies to honor General Yi Sun Shin. Although they were more lenient on inspections for him, he was still expected to maintain the standards as he was representing the United States. Most surprisingly, he also had to submerge himself in the Okpo Bay with his classmates, as a sign that they would accept their punishment and cleanse themselves. Throughout these moments, he was able to develop many new friendships with his peers and relationships with his underclass. Many of them have are planning to visit him during the breaks, 3 midshipmen already coming for the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. He also happened to be in the same company as the next 4-year exchange midshipmen to the US Naval Academy.
MIDN KIM with his company
In addition, he was able to meet with his extended family on the weekends. His parents were able to visit him while he was in Korea and was able to spend Korean Thanksgiving with his grandparents. This was a very rare experience as this was almost never possible due to the school year. It was a precious time for his family to come together during a special holiday. They had delicious traditional food, and went to the hills to honor his ancestors.
MIDN KIM with the Brigade Staff
The memories he created in Korea during his semester abroad are definitely not to be forgotten. He has said that it was his best decision yet to apply for this program and to go abroad. He was able to find new mentors, a sponsor, and lifelong friends thanks to this event. He is looking forward to being able to visit Korea again to meet again with these Midshipmen, and share happiness and laughter through these precious events.