What I Have Learned Studying History Abroad

Gabriela Bueno is a student at the Flagler College and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Seoul, South Korea.

When you study history in your home country, you learn it from your own country’s perspective. This is not necessarily a negative thing because these historical moments that happen in your country help shape many of the country’s cultural views and its norms. When I was in high school and having never left my home country, I thought that the world viewed history the same way I did however little did I know how wrong I was.

I was born and raised in Brazil and I am attending college in Florida. During my college education, I have studied abroad in England, Japan and now South Korea. However, it wasn’t until I came to South Korea with ISA that I realized the importance of historical perspective. I have learned about World War II through the American perspective, the Japanese perspective, and now I am seeing it through the eyes of the Koreans. Many might know that there is a great antagonism among the Koreans when it comes to the Japanese and I never truly understood why. It wasn’t until I got the opportunity to visit the Seodaemun Prison History Museum or the Korean War Museum in the excursions offered by ISA, and had Korean history classes here in Korea that I noticed a pattern of attitude towards Japan. When I was in Japan, I learned why Japan wanted to colonize Korea and why the country used the Peninsula for its interest. I understood more of what the Japanese were going through, their collective mentality and reasons within their actions. Now a month later attending Korea University with ISA, one of the best schools in South Korea, my perspective unknowingly changes.

Studying Korean history through the Korean perspective highlighted a lot about Japan that I did not know and or my Japanese university neglected to shed light on such as the atrocities committed during the war. South Korea on another hand, gave me the missing details. Not because they had a deep hatred towards Japan, no, that is most not the reason. It was studying abroad here that I have come to a realize that these details told me a lot about Korea that Japan brushed off and contained more constructive meaning to Korea’s culture than Japan’s.

When studying abroad, learning history in a host country you learn things that your home country did not teach you. This is not because your country did not care, but rather because those details were of higher importance to the host’s country makeup of their collective memory and culture than yours. Korea was a Japanese colony from 1910 to 1945. For Japan, Korea was a colony used for labor force and economic means, but for Korea that was 35 years of exploitation, having their culture ridiculed, their people wounded, both  physically and mentally.

Studying abroad and attending history classes of my host country made me change my perspective about how culture is constructed and how different each country views history. I had come to learn that the past is a more influential part of the present than ever before. The fact that in the past, our country went through something that formed how we see ourselves and others. Thus, when learning history, keep in mind that what you are learning has many sides, many views, and the best way to learn about them is studying abroad and experiencing those sides yourselves.

The world awaits…discover it.

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