My name is Zena Kesselman. I’m a senior at Princeton University, and I interned at the Yonsei University Library for two months thanks to the support of Princeton’s International Internship Program and the help of the Yonsei University Library staff. I’m writing to share my experience as a foreigner in this country, and as Yonsei library’s first (and hopefully not the last) foreign intern!
First, why Korea? I began studying Korean three years ago when I entered university. Korean culture has had a large impact on my hometown, Los Angeles, which hosts one of the largest Korean and Korean-American populations outside of this country. When I entered university and had to pick a language to study, I had fond memories to go along with Korean already, and it seemed interesting, fun, and more difficult to learn outside of a classroom.
Second, why the library? I am interested in how people interact with cultural information resources, including museums, universities, art centers, and libraries. At school, I’m a history major with a minor in computer science. I was hoping to spend the summer in Korea already, and I was very lucky to have a Korean professor at Princeton, a Yonsei graduate, who contacted the Yonsei library for me. I am also fortunate that the library administration was gracious enough to host an American student who they had never met before.
Third, what did I do here? As an intern at the library, most of my work has been focused on translating various library materials for English-speaking users. It has been a great way to study vocabulary. Yonsei is a very international campus, and I am glad to be able to help foreign students navigate its great resources. I’ve also been able to learn more about how the library works, through my wonderful coworkers, as well as tour parts of the old book room.
As a tourist, I traveled around Seoul and Korea, meeting people and eating so much good food. I’ve been to palaces, museums, markets, bars, the ocean, and islands. As always, I feel that I haven’t done nearly enough. I really love this city and this country. I know that I will never understand everything completely, but I like the feeling that there will always be more to see. And I have received so much kindness from the Korean people, from complete strangers. I hope that I can bring some of that kindness back home, to give to my friends, family, and maybe even Korean tourists in America.
I’m so grateful that I can come here, having already studied Korean for three years, by a plane in less than 24 hours. I am equally grateful that I can come here and be absolutely bewildered. I hope that I can come back to experience this again soon.
One last time, thank you so much to the Yonsei Library staff for being wonderful and kind hosts, and Princeton’s International Internship Program for providing support and funding for this amazing opportunity!