Grand Prize Winner

Patrick Niceforo, class of 2015 at University of Maryland.

Busan, South Korea

Busan, South Korea


As I strolled along Haeundae Beach in Busan, my birth city, a volleyball rolled over my foot. I tossed it back to the group of Americans, all of whom bowed to me and said in a Western accent, “kamsahapnida!” which is Korean for “thank you.” Such is the life of a Korean adoptee in South Korea.
When I studied abroad in Seoul last year, I noticed that many people, both Korean and foreign, mistook me for a native Korean, which led to plenty of miscommunications.
Even after explaining my situation, many people did not seem to understand that English was my first language.
During my travels, I learned to overcome this barrier as I saw it as a chance to educate others rather than explain myself. People from different cultures can learn a lot from each other if they just take the time to talk and observe. As places like Busan and Seoul diversify, they become a hub of international exchange.
South Korea has a tremendous amount of culture and I look forward to returning this June in order to hone my Korean language proficiency, reclaim my heritage and, if I am lucky, meet my birth family.