by Cameron Macedonio
TSA. Passports. Packing. Currency exchange. Traveling internationally is often for pleasure or fun, but it doesn’t come without these stressful or even anxiety-inducing moments.
I felt this all, especially at the young age of 15.
I had never traveled outside of the country before; although I am a first generation American, I had never been outside of my comfortable American bubble. Always attended American schools, surrounded by English in public, and I always had a family member with me to guide me.
That all changed the Spring of 2018.
Luckily enough, I had been chosen to go to South Korea for a week with three other students, Buena Park’s then-Mayor, as well as the City Manager, Chief of Police, as well as some other chaperones. I had no clue what to expect, and I had felt somewhat alone.
I had never really stayed away from my family; nevermind halfway across the world. So, naturally, this was extremely scary. However, the process was extremely easy thanks to Buena Park’s Sister City Program.
The Sister City Program, spearheaded by Carlos Franco as well as other community members, made it plain and simple for me, a low income, low worldly knowledge, student navigate the world. They helped me get my passport, and assisted with all the necessary fees and bookings.
I was extremely thankful. Actually, no. I still am extremely thankful.
Once the logistics were out of the way, passport acquired, currency exchanged, and tickets booked, we were able to take off, literally, into a whole new world.
The three other students and I had never had to be on a plane for 13 hours. It was definitely a first. And although flights make me nervous, I was extremely excited the whole time. I couldn’t sleep, not even a wink.
Upon landing, we were able to go into the city of Seoul, specifically their Seongbuk-Gu area. Our first meal was Korean fried chicken, a different kind of KFC than we are used to. This quickly became a favorite of mine.
Getting to the hotel was very nice. The hotel was clean, comfortable, and had nice air conditioning (a very important factor for me.) Although I was not particularly close to the other students on my trip, we quickly grew close and were able to laugh and have fun together.
The rest of the trip lives on in my memory forever.
We were able to attend school for a little bit, which was a great opportunity for us to socialize with locals that were our age. There I made some friends that I still am able to contact today. They were more than welcoming; way more hospitable than any American school likely would’ve been.
School was nice and fun, considering it was a completely different curriculum. Math was taught in a completely different way, literary works analyzed differently, and philosophy was a mandatory class for all students.
However, school is still school at the end of the day. It was fun and interesting, but the best events took place after we were finished with class. Walking through the city, shopping at their stores, and being able to immerse ourselves in the culture definitely was the highlight of the entire trip.
My favorite part, however, was the Korean Furniture Museum. It was absolutely gorgeous. You walk through a traditional Korean house, and you see how the interiors of the houses changed throughout the centuries. The Korean culture is absolutely beautiful, with each piece of furniture meaning something, as well as being perfectly handcrafted with absolute love.
The museum overlooked Seoul. It was one of my favorite views on the trip. Being able to view the city from above, while also turning around and being transported to ancient Korea was hands down my favorite part.
Ultimately, the experience I was lucky enough to have is easily one I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I am extremely grateful for Buena Park Sister City being generous enough to carry me on this wild ride. Although this was four years ago, it lives on everyday in my memory, and will continue to for many years to come.