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Student view: Interning in South Korea

August 8, 2022 - Carl Austin Miller Grondin

Carl Austin Miller Grondin (He/Him/His) is a social relations and policy major in James Madison College and a philosophy major in the College of Arts and Letters. Miller Grondin has minors in peace and justice studies, Jewish studies and leadership of organizations. He is the student body vice president within the Associated Students of Michigan State University (ASMSU).

Carl Austin Grondin standing in a street in Korea

This summer, I have been an intern with the start-up company Globaleur in Seoul, South Korea. We focus on using AI-based technology to create the perfect vacation plan for people interested in traveling the world.

Before I arrived, I would have said marketing was one of my least desirable areas of interest. However, I am eternally grateful that I was given this position because I made lifelong friends who I know I can reach out to at a moment's notice. Also, I am proud of myself for not allowing my preconceived ideas about the marketing world deter me from making the most of this opportunity.

My main tasks were to research tourist attractions within cities assigned to me and write summaries about each place that offer its history and reasons why someone ought to visit. All of this had to be achieved within five to six sentences. 

The work culture I experienced at Globaleur was similar to what I’d expect to experience in the U.S. as the company is very westernized. Our office space is located in the Samil Building, which is one of the first high-rise buildings in Korea.

Due to the pandemic, we worked remotely twice a week and in-person the other three days. On the days I was in the office, I took the Metro, which was hectic to say the least, but made my days that much more fun.

People sitting inside letters spelling out name of city Seoul
Carl Austin Miller Grondin sits inside the letter "O" with some of his friends in Seoul, Korea.

The biggest challenge I encountered was juggling all there is to do. One of my favorite memories was walking around the Hongdae District and visiting all the little vintage stores, shopping at the local markets and conversing with the locals, spending too much money at the arcades and karaoke clubs, and getting my cartilage pierced and two tattoos completely out of the blue at a little boutique because they were having a sale.

I loved experiencing the Gyeongbokgung Palace in person after seeing it on television so much; the views from the Seoul Tower were breathtaking. Another favorite activity of mine was visiting the shrines across the city.

The shrines in Seoul are a little slice of history surrounded by skyscrapers and urbanization. The shrine that I felt a deep connection with I visited weekly; it is surrounded by skyscrapers on all four sides. To get to this specific shrine, I had to walk through three very narrow and rundown alleys, in-between high-rise living complexes, dodging water droplets from people's laundry set outside to dry. The sun never shined on this specific shrine, yet the grass was always green and well kept, which added to the mystery of this space.

To completely immerse yourself in a new environment is a brave thing to do, but what I’ve realized is that bravery comes with so much privilege; I did not understand the language or the culture of Seoul when I first arrived; however, when I was ignorant, everyone around, all the locals, went out of their way to help, speaking English the best they could, and assisting me in any way.

Because of their acceptance and assistance, I now can understand conversational Korean; I have learned to embrace my intersectional identities as LGBT, Jewish and neurodivergent; and I am confident exploring grad schools in the East. I hope to be granted a work visa to live and work abroad one day.