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My name is Asia. I live in Asia, South Korea to be specific. I am an Analyst from Atlanta, Georgia and I am here on a one-year tour to aid in the peace, surveillance and protection of South Korea.

True Story: Black, Beautiful, Educated + Living In South Korea

With this extraordinary mission comes much time for an extraordinary foreign experience. The eastern culture is very distinct from western culture: full of depth, color, peace, and nature.

Stepping foot off of the plane, after flying into the next day, felt like stepping onto the earth upside down. My experience has been heart fulfilling. I have learned so much about the world and myself that I will forever cherish and carry with me on my journey. My experience living in South Korea has also showed me the importance of preparation while traveling.

From a traveler to another, these tips can apply to any destination you choose to explore:

1. Get Into The Culture:

Every culture has customs and courtesies. As foreigners, we may find foreign customs unusual but these customs are apart of the historical values.

For example, when exchanging items between the people of Korea, it is proper to hand and receive items with two hands. It is also proper to bow when saying hello, good- bye, and thank you. This may seem odd at first but after some time it will become natural. Learning common conversational phrases will help you get around much easier and gain some points with the locals.As a visitor, it shows that you have respect for their culture and an interest in learning about the values of the country. It takes only a little time and some commitment.

I have learned to read Korean and I am still learning to understand it. It has been a mind opening experience, especially for someone who struggled to simply learn Spanish. It will be a reminder to you that regardless of where you are from, you are still human and all humans will always have a means of connecting with each other.

2. Research + Plan:

It may seem like a great idea to do things on a whim. However, if you are in a foreign country, it is always important to plan a route and an escape plan. I plan everywhere I go, with a plan B route to getting there and home if my initial route is cancelled for any reason.

If it is my first time visiting a new area, I always take a friend. Believe it or not, there are a number of countries that are safer than the United States, Korea being one, but you never want to sacrifice your experience to insecurities. When we think of dark alleys, the first word that comes to mind is danger. Well, in some countries this is just common.In the dark alleys of Korea, I have discovered some Karaoke Bars, upscale boutiques, and hidden restaurants. But of course, I discovered these places by the means of traveling with a trustworthy friend. NEVER travel alone and always have a plan B.

3. Meet New People + Stay Connected:

If it permits, meet new people when traveling. I work for the U.S. government so all of my foreign contacts have to be documented through some pretty hefty paperwork. Therefore, I limit my foreign contacts to acquaintances. Be sure to research the relationship between the country you’re visiting and your home country. It never hurts to meet up with people from your home country during your travels.

When I arrived to Korea, I assumed there would be no other African-Americans here outside of my job but I have come across some African/Black based meet-up groups coordinated just a few miles from where I live. Don’t assume that you are the only person of your kind having this experience. There will always be similar people who want to connect to share the same experience with you.

If you will be exploring the world for an extended amount of time, don’t forget to phone home. I struggled with this a bit. Between the +12 hour time difference, lack of reception, hobbies, traveling and other distractions, I missed a lot of moments with my family and friends back home. Being in a different region, especially regions recognized for being the complete opposite of your home, will make you feel like you’re on a different planet. Don’t forget to share the love and don’t forget those who love you.

4. Indulge in Information + Research:

I recommend a smart phone application at the minimum pertaining to your country of travel. If you are the traditional type, I recommend investing in a language book. The more recently published language books will include some cultural lessons that will help you better understand the country you’re visiting.

When you arrive to the country, if you receive a pamphlet, card, or brochure from anyone, keep it. You’ll never know when you’ll need it. Be sure to research for English friendly businesses, emergency services and transportation services prior to arriving to your destination.

5.Open up and Don’t be Afraid to Do Something Unusual:

Dried seaweed and rotten cabbage (kimchi) have become some of my favorite assets to my entrees. There are going to be entrees, places, and activities that scare you but many other people have experienced these amazing opportunities before you. Keep in mind that you are traveling to a new getaway to experience something different from your everyday life. Your goal is to lean into discomfort. If you try something different, and you don’t like it, then at least you know for sure. Keep an open mind about your experience.

When you’re in seemingly uncomfortable and new surroundings, how easy is it for you to lean into discomfort? Do tell…

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