Gilda is from Mastic, NY and participated in the 2018 Korean summer program in South Korea.

Having the opportunity to study abroad is a real blessing for anyone who loves to learn foreign languages and cultures. I studied in China as an exchange student when I was in elementary school, and the experience was so positive that I wanted to study abroad again. I found out about the NSLI-Y program when I was 13 and was immediately attracted to the idea of a program offering full immersion. NSLI-Y was a long awaited adventure for me. Once I turned fifteen and fulfilled the minimum age requirement for applying for the scholarship, I jumped at the chance of seizing this amazing opportunity.

image of gilda sitting with her host family indoors

That very summer in 2018, with group of young language scholars, I ventured halfway around the globe to South Korea to learn my seventh language. My host family warmly welcomed me into their home. My anxieties surrounding the massive language barrier I was trapped behind dissolved with a delicious homemade dinner that night. From that moment on, we developed a close bond and I was treated as a member of their own family. Our nightly dinner conversations ranged from the details of inter-cultural schooling to Korea’s National Pepero Snack Holiday. My host sisters were intrigued by my discussions of Latin and Ancient Greek, as I was enthralled by the details of their elaborate familial traditions. We both learned a lot about each other’s cultures and grew to reach a higher understanding of the complexities of our societies.

The group of NSLI-Y students I studied with in Korea was a conglomeration of American diversity, representing many states, nationalities, backgrounds and identities across the nation. We became a very tight knit family through this academic and cultural adventure. We studied together, took field trips together, and explored Korean gastronomy together. We supported one another through grueling study hours, and offered words of encouragement to each other in the face of a myriad of challenges. Together, we developed a new form of patriotism: taking responsibility as citizen ambassadors, representing America in our own way to show ourselves to our host families, to our school community, and to all the local individuals whom we interacted with.

nsli-y students walking through the city in korea

This incredible journey significantly widened my perspectives of the world, as well as bolstering my self-confidence, as I proved to myself that there was no reason for me to be afraid of immersing myself into new situations.

cooking a traditional korean dinner in korea

Looking back at my experiences abroad, I realized that I did not just learn new languages and cultures, or meet new people. I also reached a deeper understanding of myself. I enjoy the challenge of interacting with people from all different backgrounds. I value the varied nature of other people’s perspectives. I like to learn about the way other people think, and finding their reasoning behind their beliefs in order to reach common ground. I strive to construct positive and meaningful relationships with people from all walks of life. I am certain that I will use this ability I have to create and to serve a community where all members are treated with equal respect, and esteemed for what they each can uniquely contribute.