Guest Blogger: Kobie Gordon
Name: Kobie Gordon
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
College: William & Mary
Dental School: University of Southern California
Residency: Harvard School of Dental Medicine
Current City: Boston, Massachusetts
Spoken Languages: English
Study Abroad Experience: Seoul, South Korea
Countries traveled: Jamaica, United Kingdom, Canada, Greece, Italy, Vatican City, France, Bahamas, Nicaragua, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea, Philippines, China, Peru, Belize, Mexico, Brazil, Taiwan, Germany, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, India, Lebanon, Turkey, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Colombia, Ecuador, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Spain, Romania, Ukraine, Iceland, Panama, Honduras, Ireland, Portugal, Morocco, Tunisia, Monaco, Andorra, Malta, Switzerland, Serbia, Albania, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Moldova, Armenia, Georgia, Paraguay, Bolivia, Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Haiti, Barbados, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, Liechtenstein, San Marino, Cyprus, Azerbaijan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania
Bucket List Travel Destination: Iran
Media Inspiration: All the episodes of Netflix’s “Chef’s Table”
To be honest, my two biggest fears were that I wouldn’t understand the language at all and would get a lot of stares and racist remarks for being an African-American in one of the world’s most homogenous countries. To my surprise, I picked up the language quite quickly during my adventures around the city with my new Korean friends (who all spoke excellent English as well). Furthermore, I was bit of a celebrity around town since many thought I was a famous basketball player. South Koreans are hands down some of the friendliest, most hospitable, and fun-loving people I know. Anytime I ventured around town alone, people would approach me to ask if I was lost or to tell me some background history about where we were standing. Older Korean women (adjummas) would slap my back and laugh out loud in appreciation when I tried to order dishes in Korean.
Studying abroad helped me to learn more things about myself than I could ever imagine.
I was challenged in so many ways by my incredible peers from Korea and all over the world, many of whom I still continue to keep in touch with seven years later. I tried many new things including rock climbing up a mountain for the first time. I returned to the United States a changed man ready to take on my last year of college with newfound energy and confidence. It wasn’t easy to bring me back home though, I begged my parents over Skype from my dorm room if I could stay one more semester.
Study abroad in South Korea opened up the world even more to me. My thirst for getting to know other cultures of the world was through the roof. Seven months after South Korea, I went to Cusco, Peru to teach English. Studying abroad made it so much easier to deal with uncomfortable situations in new countries, easier to get outside of my comfort zone to try new things, easier to negotiate, easier to navigate new cities, and easier to make new friends.
And it doesn’t have to be in other countries, studying abroad can give you a toolkit of skills you can utilize right in your backyard wherever you may be in the United States.
Another thing that study abroad really helped me out with in the long run was the ability to move to new countries on my own and adapt quickly to new lifestyles. I lived in Manila, Philippines during my year off from dental school. I have no doubt in mind that study abroad gave me the confidence and resilience that comes with overcoming all the new obstacles that came my way with living in a new country. It wasn’t long before I made many new friends, spoke a handful of Tagalog, and not get taken advantage of by the taxi drivers.
Studying abroad also cultivated a lifelong passion for giving back to underserved communities in developing countries. It made me much more willing to just sit and listen to others. Everyone you meet has a story to tell. And boy, will some stories just hit you at your inner core and stay with you with the rest of your life. I can certainly say that studying abroad during college has really molded the dentist that I am today. It inspired me to choose a unique route in the dental field that emphasizes community oral health for those with lack of access to the services that they need. Studying abroad gave me the confidence to overcome the many challenges I faced in providing quality care to people in Fiji, Mexico, Thailand, Cambodia, Nicaragua, Haiti, and Sri Lanka (above). I will be forever thankful for the life-changing semester I spent in South Korea.
My biggest study abroad advice is: Be yourself and have the best time of your life, for you will look back on it fondly for many years to come. The good and the bad, because you will grow immensely in so many ways you wouldn’t have known was possible.