Friday, June 15, 2012


For as long as I can remember I have loved travelling. When I was six I would read atlases and encyclopedias for fun. I would see places on TV and ask my parents about them. And when we would travel anywhere I loved every moment of it. My parents encouraged this desire for travel by showing me the national parks of California. When I was 12, I was lucky enough to travel to England with my Mom to visit our family friend in York. I loved the expierence, walking about the cities and just observing the multitude of differences in culture, even by examining things as simple as the foods in the super markets. It was an amazing trip and I loved every moment of it. Just three years later I was asked by one of my best friends to join him and his family in Greece to celebrate his brothers wedding. This was an amazing experience for me. Growing up as an American I have found that my cultural identity is ambiguous. America is a melting pot without one distinct culture. In Greece however they do have a very clear strong culture and everyone in Greece considers themselves Greek and are proud to be Greek. It was amazing to be surrounded by a family with deep roots in their land, familial connections throughout Greece and a much more expansive history. I was in Greece for a month and loved the country and the people.

Naturally my love of travel continued throughout high school, although I did not have a chance to pursue any more international travel. When I entered college I knew I wanted to study abroad, but I didn’t quite know where to study. I had no foreign language experience, which greatly limited my choices. If I hoped to speak English primarily my options were; England, Australia, South Africa, Denmark and Sweden. I knew I wanted to go to Europe so that ruled out Australia and South Africa. The program in Denmark is specific to very few majors which did not include Political Science. So I was left with England and Sweden. I decided on Sweden for a few reasons; I want to experience a new culture. I didn’t want to go to England because American culture has strong roots in British culture although they are different they share a similar framework. I also want to go somewhere with a radically different climate than the Bay Area, Sweden’s snow and lack of sunlight definitely fit the criteria of radically different weather. Lastly Sweden has incredibly interesting governmental policies and culture. They have a popular image of being a mystical winterland of progressive politics, equality, secularism, introversion, politeness, reindeer and beautiful blonde people. Obviously this is a glorified version of Sweden propagated by 17 year old computer geeks who have a love for ThePirateBay and Atheism. I want to observe the real culture of Sweden and compare it to American culture to understand both better.

I applied and got accepted into the exchange program that the California State University system has with Uppsala University. The application processes was simple, have a good GPA go to a few interviews, get a few letters of recommendation from professors and once you are accepted turn in a heap of forms. By April I thought I had my summer all mapped out, I had a prospective retail job lined up to make some money for Sweden and I was looking forward to a slow summer in Moraga working. School was winding down, I was primarily working on my research paper for my hardest class in college yet, POLS 302: Social Science Research Methods, which was focusing on how to analyze election survey data, to creating something useful out of raw data. I went into my professor's office to drop off the final homework assignment. After I turned it in my professor asked me simply if I wanted to go to Korea for a month during the summer to study in Jeju, an island dubbed the Hawaii of Korea, with all expenses paid. I was in complete shock. I just wanted to ask about how to format tables for my paper and now I was invited to study half way across the world for pretty much free. I told my professor I would have to get back to him once I sorted out my Swedish Residence Permit. My professor then answered my questions about the paper most of which in one ear and out the other as I was so excited and rattled about the drastic change my summer plans had just taken. I quickly figured out that I would be able to get my Swedish Residence Permit in time to go to Korea and that the timing worked out perfectly, so of course I happily accepted.

So that is the story of how I managed to be enrolled in two study abroad programs at opposite ends of the world weeks apart from each other. I will go into more detail about each location and program in later posts but the basic time frame is as follows:
Saturday June 23rd leave SFO for Seoul
Late Sunday June 24th arrive at Jeju from Seoul
Monday June 25th first classes starting at 9 AM, I have always found that I learn best the day after going through 15 time zones anyhow
Saturday July 14th return to home
July 14th - August 14th party it up Moraga style
August 14th leave for Uppsala

I leave for Korea in about a week but it has still not really hit me yet. I have been preparing stuff that I need to bring over and sort of thinking about packing. I did manage to borrow my brother Patrick’s suite for any formal dinners I will have to attend. Feels pretty cool to dress fly. In the next week I am sure the sense of nervousness and restless nights will set in but mostly I will just be excited. If you told me just six weeks ago that I would be going to Jeju National University in Korea for three weeks in the summer I would have asked you where Jeju was. I am excited and slightly scared  for this adventure into the unknown.  

I will post more specifics about Jeju and the program in the next few days.


  1. Congrats Joe! Look forward to reading about your adventures. I wonder if it is possible to acquire a taste for kimchee in a month? Let me know. Lol.

  2. It's going to be an Epic trip dude! Excellent move traveling abroad, it's going to be amazing. You basically look like James Bond in my suit. Very money. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on Korean culture and government. Take lots of pics!

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      The other passengers in the cabin would love me.