Yufuin, Beppu, and Fukuoka

My Third Time Visiting Japan.

Japan is the very first country I went abroad when I was 4. I can only remember going up and down the stairs of an old house–I don’t even remember whose house it was. Next time when I visited Japan, I was in high school, traveling with my family. This time, I was in between undergraduate and graduate schools, traveling on my own.

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Mundane, yet beautiful and peaceful scenery.

The city felt magical in that it made me stop and gaze out into the scenery. It was hard to point out exactly what was so special about each store and street, but there was definitely something that made each of them distinctive and serene.

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Things were organized, neat, and modest. People were kind, polite, and affable. Even with my limited Japanese, I had no problem navigating around and conversing with them. Despite having a lot of tourists every day, their smiles were yet genial. As there were so many things to learn from their attitude and life style, I was so grateful that I had an opportunity to travel Japan at this transitioning phase of my life.

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Traveling reminds me of what it feels like to be isolated and baffled by new, unfamiliar environments. However, it also reminds me of victorious feelings of overcoming them.

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Climbing the academic ladder.

Moving from undergraduate to graduate school, from Republic of Korea to the United States, from where I am surrounded by my family and old friends to where I barely know anyone (yet) can be an overwhelming experience.

Hence, I often read essays on one’s experience in pursuing a PhD, put myself in her or his shoes, and imagine what it would be like, hoping to learn valuable lessons from their mistakes and not repeat them as well as to make myself prepared for the challenges and obstacles ahead. Last night, one sentence in this article struck me–probably because it’s something that has been scaring me the most: “I felt unsupported, isolated and adrift in uncertainty.”

In hindsight, I might have wanted to find answers to some of my myopic questions (such as how I can avoid having such feelings) through this trip. Instead, it taught me to keep my composure, relax, and focus on what is really important rather than being too tense and worried.

Stop worrying about what can go wrong, and get excited about what can go right. – Anonymous

To the next academic year with full of excitements, cheers!

– Yufuin, Beppu, and Fukuoka, Japan
July 24-29, 2017

KFAS Overseas Volunteers Program

My First Time Volunteering Abroad in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

No Electricity and No English. Though they doubled the number of teachers recently, there were only three teachers for more than a hundred students at Kulen Thmei Primary School, and hence, three classes. In each class, the range of their ages varied a lot; a teacher was babysitting one boy, and the oldest girl looked like she was about to reach puberty.

IMG_1909.JPGThis little girl was the one who clung to me the most, although I bet she did that to almost everyone in our group.

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I was astonished to see how superb they are at jumping rope.

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The bicycles were so much bigger than the kids. I was ashamed of myself for having complained about my bike in Denmark. They were the masters of biking!

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Mysterious chocolate-like candies or candy-like chocolates.

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They have brought good, positive energy into my life. The smiles I saw and gave to them brightened up everyday.

Beyond the volunteering activity itself, I learned a lot from other members who did their best in teaching, communicating, and making a genuine connection with the students. I would love to volunteer more in order to help those who are in need and to experience the world different with what I have been living in.

Some group photos:

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More photos available: https://goo.gl/photos/3bV8wenE9gpyg6EW8

Amsterdam, Again

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My second time in Amsterdam was more vivid, lively, and brighter than the first time. I started off the trip by walking around the city on Sunday night (which is one of the best things to do in Amsterdam). I was surprised that I could actually spot some of the places that I went two years ago. This stack of pancakes, however, I didn’t get an opportunity to have one at that time; it’s super yummy. You must try it!

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I was attending an international conference, and it was very nice of the program committee to hand out a free ticket of the canal cruise to all of its participants. Also, I sincerely thank all of the people I met at the conference. Besides inspiring keynotes and talks, I think the best part of attending a conference is to meet such awesome people face-to-face: no matter which positions they are at, such as professors, students, or people from industry, they are all willing to share their interests and opinions with their great sense of humor.

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This place has over 700 different kinds of beer as well as 30+ draft beer–AWESOME :) I had Blanche de Namur, and it was indeed a brilliant choice. For me, this night turned out to be the best time I had in Amsterdam thanks to these amazing people!

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On my last day in Amsterdam, I got a chance to go to A’DAM Lookout and there was the Europe’s highest swing called ‘Over the Edge’. Doesn’t it look so scary and thrilling?! I would definitely try it if I visit there again–would I? To be honest, I am not an eager tourist who plans to visit all the landmarks of a city, but there are some places that I want to (re)visit if I get to travel in Amsterdam again some day :) What a cool city!

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Overall, it was one of the most unique trips I’ve ever had; I went for a conference, presented my work, and discussed various interesting research topics, while having so much fun with other participants between and after the sessions. I really look forward to having many of this kind of moments in my life :) Cheers!

* More photos of Amsterdam: Google Photos

– Amsterdam, Netherlands
October 31-November 4, 2016