The first couple days of orientation have flown by! We had our photo session (of course it poured rain) and finally got to meet the entire group of scholars. Here's the whole gang bowling at Chelsea Piers:
Then, we heard from Burma experts Maureen Aung-Thwin of the Burma Project and David Steinberg of Georgetown University about our focus country of Burma/Myanmar. It's shocking to hear that Burma went from being a star of Southeast Asia, with a highly advanced medical school and many other opportunities, to an impoverished country facing plenty of challenges. Now, the country has the opportunity to learn from the modernization processes of surrounding countries, and take advantage of its untapped labor force, natural resources, and tourism, at least. I'm really excited for our wrap up meeting next July, where we will travel there for several weeks.
Korea got a shoutout too during the orientation to Northeast Asia, presented by Evans Revere and Orville Schell, which I found fascinating (not just because I'm going to Korea). They guided us through the current power dynamics between China, Japan, Korea (north and south), and Taiwan, as well as showing us the historical roots. I'm grateful for the history lessons as a science major!
Turns out Benadryl does help you sleep. I crashed on Monday after the red-eye from San Diego, so my sleep schedule is all messed up. Maybe I should just go nocturnal and I'll arrive in Seoul ready to go...
When I do arrive, I'll be staying in Hanok Guest House and studying language at Seoul Korean Language Academy. Lucky - my sister is working at Arirang and living in Gangnam for the summer, so I'll have some help getting around.
Thursday night was a highlight of the week so far: the scholars spent the evening on Bryant Park rooftop garden meeting past Luce Scholars and hearing their incredible enthusiasm for the program and the work that the Foundation does. David Kennedy spent his Luce year in Seoul working at the Social Welfare Center at Chung Ang University, and talking to him was a blast!
Meeting Craig Cornelius was a funny string of shared experiences. He grew up in San Diego, went to our rival high school, Torrey Pines, then studied history of mechanical engineering at Princeton! He's worked for NASA in solar power development after spending his Luce year in Thailand working on satellite technology development. Afterwards, the scholars went out for Korean food, where I managed to convince people that I speak Korean with the few phrases I've learned so far... 안녕하세요. 감사합니다!
Friday morning, we heard about how we will get tapeworms and end up puking them up through our noses when we get dengue at the same time... so we put together a betting pool for the first person to get dengue! In the afternoon, we had a really neat tour of the Met's Asian art collection given by the director of Asian art. Lots of Buddhas. I had my last meetup with family in the states on Friday night, at my aunt and uncle's house in NYC. My grandpa was in town as well, up from Washington DC.
Saturday was a brunch cruise around Manhattan in the morning (boats are always good!), passing through the connection from the East River to the Hudson. It was fun seeing the big Columbia C painted on the rocks, and the rotating railway bridge there at the top. Beautiful boat too, all wood and brightwork. Probably a ton of work to keep up... We had Vietnamese/French colonial food for dinner, then I trekked uptown to say goodbye to some college friends.
Off to San Francisco now for a few days, then Seoul!!