Conquer the Unknown
According to the U.S. State Department, roughly 30% of Americans have been issued passports allowing them to lawfully travel abroad. Of that number, many stay close to home in either the geographical sense (experiencing Canada or Mexico) or in the cultural sense (Western Europe/Caribbean). Asia, however, stays far from the radar for many Americans. That being the case, travelling to Asia invokes a real sense of exploration. How many fellow law students have you met who have actually travelled to Asia? Now, how many can say they lived in Korea for almost one month?
My point is simple—having the courage to make the leap to Asia can be said to be rare. Many folks would rather travel elsewhere, preferring instead to avoid travel to the Far East (there is a reason Malaria medication was recommended, after all). I cannot lie—getting off the first plane in Tokyo was a bit (okay, very) unnerving. I lived in Greece for part of a summer while an undergrad, and, although I’m not sure why, Asia was just “different.” I can’t put my finger on it, but travelling to abroad to Asia is a completely different experience. There were times when it really did feel like the “unknown.” Although the language and culture are obvious barriers, there are times when I would look around and think “that is so different than the way X does it.” Although it may sound cliché, I have to greatly admire everyone in the MC Law group for so quickly and confidently adjusting to a completely different and sometimes challenging environment.
Meet Interesting Classmates
Professor “Thor” Bowman (the name was his choice, not ours) boldly signed on to take eleven first year law students (technically second year, but still) across the world. Until we arrived in country, I did not give much thought as to who the other students on the trip were. With the exception of a few who were close friends before the trip, most everyone else met or “actually met” on the trip (I think most people had a sort of “yes, I know of that person, but I don’t really ‘know’ that person” mantra). This, of course, happens when the first year class size approaches 200 students.
I think everyone was greatly surprised at the wealth of backgrounds and experience possessed by the other students. For example, I knew Juan Delgado spoke English as a second language. I did not know, however, that he had such a large business background in both Mexico and the U.S.—in fact, Juan had a story or input (in a good way, not the “gunner” way) for almost every class session in both International Business Transactions and Global Issues. Likewise, I had no idea Karen had a Haitian background or that Cici was actually from France. I guess my point with this is that taking this trip really opens your eyes not only to Korea or the Far East, but also to those back home in Mississippi—the trip certainly provides motivation to get to know my classmates/future colleague better.
The Inevitable Clash of Coursework with Practicality
One of my favorite encounters from the trip was with a man named Edward Kim, whom a few of us met one evening in Seoul. As it turns out, Ed is actually a practitioner of international trade with his textile manufacturing firm (his firm is called “HYOSUNG,” and has offices in Korea, the U.S., and China). Ed spoke a great deal of English and we quickly began a conversation that would last most of the night. He spoke of his great affinity for certain parts of the American trade system, and at other times would hold nothing (read: absolutely nothing!) back regarding how he loathed other aspects. In just a few short hours I learned a great deal about the very subject I had ventured so far to study. More importantly, though, we got the version of the subject that has an actual face; Ed’s work in international trade is personal—his family depends on his competency in the subject for livelihood. Having that conversation portrayed the “real-life,” “this-area-of-the-law-makes-
Beg, borrow, or steal your way to Seoul for the summer of 2010. This is a trip you will not regret. The culture is welcoming and hospitable, and, although huge, the city is easy to navigate and you will soon feel at home. I learned plenty on this trip about the coursework we came to study, but also plenty about myself, the profession I hope to enter in only a few short years, and my classmates who made the trip such an enjoyable experience. I promise—you will too.