February 29, 2024

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Student ambassadors travel to Eugene sister city

6 min read
Maren Widmer: "In Korea, it felt like the city of Jinju was excited for us to be there. It was so welcoming and special to feel cared for by so many people. They put our names up in their city hall and pictures of us were in their newspaper also."

Youth ambassadors report on their visit to Eugene’s sister city, Jinju, South Korea. At the City Council Dec. 11:

Allyson Kim Hazlehurst: We’re here tonight to represent one of Eugene’s sister cities, and so our committee has worked very hard to communicate and schedule a youth ambassador exchange. And so tonight, we’d like to have two of our youth ambassadors read the essays. This is referring to their experience in Jinju, South Korea this last summer.

[00:00:27] We did not have our exchange program take place in the past few years since 2019 because of the pandemic, so we resumed the travel program. There were nine students involved, two chaperones and these three kids (there’s a third student that isn’t here tonight). And they were visiting for two weeks and then all of the kids came back to Eugene and they experienced cultural and historic visits to our area, and so we’re really proud of our students and we’re happy to work with the Eugene sister city program.

[00:01:02] And so the first presenter is Callyn Widmer and she is a senior at Willamette High School.

[00:01:08] Callyn Widmer: Hello, my name is Callyn Widmer and that’s my sister, Maren. We were two of the three students who traveled to Korea in July, where we were the representation of our home in our city while we visited.

While there, I learned a lot about the world and also myself, and I’d like to read some of that to you tonight. Being in South Korea and getting to experience life and the culture there I witnessed many new values, ways of thinking and opinions that were a lot different than what I’m accustomed to here in America.

[00:01:44] An example of this is that most schools there are separated by gender (actually, all schools) and boys and girls don’t generally get to interact with each other together the way we do here until they reach adulthood. This was something that really stood out to me while I was there and something that made me think about the different ways that my host sisters and I had grown up.

[00:02:02] There were actually also quite a few similarities between our cultures as well that we found, some being: the curiosity to learn about others and the emphasis both cultures put on school. Although we do it in different ways, both feel that education is very vital for their children.

[00:02:17] Getting to see these among other similarities between our seemingly very distinct cultures has helped emphasize to me how important I think experiencing unknown things is to individual growth and world connectedness and has given me a sense of what I want to do with my life: Something that will benefit people all over the world, regardless of differences, and that will continue to educate and better myself.

[00:02:39] This experience has shown me that I am capable of being independent and self-sufficient as there were many instances where I was responsible for not only myself and my well-being, but also my younger sisters and the other student that we traveled with.

[00:02:51] In addition to representing my country for Jinju and my host families, I felt like going somewhere so new, being able to ensure safety and happiness, assured me that I could handle life well on my own.

[00:03:02] I feel more confident thinking about college life in the future beyond that now as well and as well as being a more poised woman going to find a career and a path in life. I feel that I cannot yet know how fully this has impacted me, but I am excited to find out and I have learned that while I may not know what will come of it, taking risks can result in huge enrichments in my life.

[00:03:23] I’m excited to continue to see the world and look forward to discovering what new things life will bring me next.

[00:03:28] Maren Widmer: Hi, my name is Maren Widmer, her little sister, and I wanted to go to Korea on this exchange because it sounded like a positive new experience that I would never get to have again, and that’s exactly what it was.

[00:03:39] While we were in Seoul, I got to meet new people, see a huge city, and try delicious food I’ve never had before.

[00:03:45] When we got to Jinju, it was all those things, but even better because we were with our host families… taking such good care of my sister and I. I felt safe and cared for when I was with them.

[00:03:54] I had an amazing time doing the activities the committee prepared for us, from the woodcraft to the palaces to the boat ride at night. It was a great way to see their city and try new things.

[00:04:03] I also love the places our host families took us on the weekend. We went to Masan and saw the ocean. We went to Beautiful Temple and played in the water and all of us girls went to a drawing cafe and out to dinner together.

[00:04:16] In Korea, it felt like the city of Jinju was excited for us to be there. It was so welcoming and special to feel cared for by so many people. They put our names up in their city hall and pictures of us were in their newspaper also.

[00:04:27] I feel like the Jinju community did a wonderful job showing us both historical sites and fun teenage activities. Korea is so rich in history, we could have spent a whole trip in museums, palaces, and temples, which would have been really amazing.

[00:04:40] All the historical sites we went to were very gorgeous, but their committee balanced history with age-related fun activities also. As a group, we went to the movies, the mall and a video game place called D World and a gondola ride to an aquarium. These things were super fun and it felt like we were experiencing what our host siblings got to do every day.

[00:05:01] I feel that I couldn’t have had a better trip to Korea, and I hope the Korean kids felt the same about their trip here. I had so much fun taking my new friends around to do the things I had been doing my whole life that they had never gotten to do before.

[00:05:13] I think I have changed as a person since going to Korea. I see myself at home with my family, and at school and class. When I am at home, it occurs to me more often what I have that others don’t. When we were in Korea, they had apartments in the city, which was a very different type of beauty than I was used to. I am so much more conscious now that I am lucky to have a beautiful backyard, my own place to be outside, which I love having access to.

[00:05:34] At school I see the change in me especially during human geography class. In that class, we learn about world geography, how people interact with the environment and cultures.

[00:05:42] I think this is a very amazing program. It provides great opportunities to kids. I was so lucky to do it with my sister and our friend.

[00:05:49] John Q: Student ambassadors report from their trip to Eugene’s sister city, Jujin, South Korea. Learn more about the program and Eugene’s other sister cities, including Kakegawa, Japan and Katmandu, at the city website.

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