Found in Daejeon

Experiencing Korean Culture at Daejeon International Center, South Korea
One week ago, I set out on my adventure to find a museum dedicated to the history of education in Korea. I had my map, the address, and I knew which metro trains to catch. I thought that I was well prepared -- until I got out of the metro station in the old part of town, which meant all the signs were in Korean and Chinese characters. I was lost.

Walking around cities in Korea, I quickly learned that there are streets with names and there are just as many streets with no names.  These "no name" streets are back alleys, and they are just as vibrant and active. And then there are underground passageways, busy with markets, vendors, and city life.

I was so turned around and lost, that when an elderly women smiled at me and waved to follow her, I instinctively did so.  She led me down the street, speaking quickly in Korean, and waved me to go into some building.  When I didn't move, she pointed to the sign: Daejeon International Center, 4th floor.  Everyone on the street was staring at us, so I moved forward and went into the foyer.  She waved goodbye and kept pointing.  I had no idea what to expect as I got into the tiny elevator and went to the 4th floor.

I saw the DIC sign and went inside. Before I knew it, a beautiful young Korean lady came up to me and asked, "Hi, how are you?  What can I do for you?" in perfect English, with sincere kindness and a warm smile.  I was so relieved that I wasn't going to be missing in South Korea without a trace.

I told her where I wanted to go and she and her colleagues explained that it was "a little complicated" to reach due to the winding streets and underground passageways.  (Her colleague drew an "old street" map for me and it helped a lot.)

The young lady's name is Han Hyeju and English-speaking people call her Claire.  I learned that she and her colleagues run Daejeon International Center, which offers free Korean classes and support services to foreigners living in South Korea.  Everyone was so kind and supportive, I didn't want to leave.  They were able to answer all of my questions about Korean life, culture, and language.
Claire and me at Daejeon International Center
Visiting DIC and meeting Claire and her colleagues was an amazing experience. Claire took time from her busy schedule, and helped me navigate the underground passageway to the right street.  While we were underground, everyone seemed to know her.

Thanks to DIC, my sense of being disoriented and isolated was transformed to that of vibrant discovery and cultural connection.