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Crystal Durachko

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Bio Summary
Cohort Year: 
2017
Home Institution: 
Thiel College
Heinz Programming Area: 
Arts & Culture
Study Abroad Country: 
South Korea
International Experience

While Studying abroad in South Korea at Korea University Crystal Durachko worked towards understanding Korean language by taking a 6 week language course. Crystal choose the Arts and Culture programming area which lead her to explore body image, social media and politics.  Exploring the city as well as meeting with Korean friends who had studied previously at Thiel College, her home campus. Crystal quickly adapted to the speed of daily city life exploring before and after class and studying in the evening as necessary for quizzes and exams. Some of the most exciting but challenging tests for the Crystal’s language skills came at the beginning and the end of her study abroad experience. When she visited Jeju Island with her friend Suhyeon’s family, who spoke limited Korean at the beginning and when she stayed a few days with Seyeon’s family at their home before she left at the end. Both experiences pushed her to use as much of her Korean as she could to communicate effectively and also drove home the importance of continuing to study the language while back in the United States.
Crystal really grew to understand differences in fashion, food and free time by allowing her Korean friends to make the decisions on what they did and where they ate after class. This often forced Crystal to try new things, hone her skills and also communicate with strangers in areas she alone may not have visited. From spicy kimchi stew to sweet patbingsu Crystal got to taste the flavors of South Korea. Although the food was delicious, the best parts of her after class adventures where the moments of serious discussion, and exploration at museums and local markets with friends, and locals. While exploring Bukchon (a historical Korean Village) Crystal had the extreme privilege to talk with a talented artist; Sung Hwan at his gallery and studio. After purchasing a painting she and her friend sat for a caricature. During this time Crystal and her friend talked with the artist for a few hours about everything from Korean and American stereotypes, to food, the anniversary of the Korean war (which was on the day of the gallery visit), and their mutual love of cats. This certainly wasn’t the only experience like this, but it was the first experience she had in the country speaking with local people. Speaking with the artist was one of the most memorable moments for her.
Throughout her entire experience Crystal realized the importance of politics through listening to the average person’s opinion. South Korea recently impeached a president and having come to study abroad after massive protest and immediate change within the country. As a result Crystal saw a renewed optimism in her friends and many other people who voted for their new president Moon Jae-in. Crystal avoided American politics as much as possible while in South Korea. Partially for the ability to immerse herself more readily in the culture and also as a sort of escapism from the stress of the last election back home in the United States. Through her view into South Korea that had a new leader and a sense of optimism Crystal saw how incredibly important politics was to individuals and their happiness and outlook on life, even those who dislike politics. Crystal hopes to use her new global perspective to discuss the importance of being active politically, while also maintaining persistence in a cause one feels strongly for.

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