Critical Language Scholarship Program | Laura Viera
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Laura Viera

Lau­ra Viera Gon­za­lez is an alum­na of the 2015 CLS Kore­an pro­gram in Gwangju, South Korea. She was born and raised in Puer­to Rico, and Span­ish is her first lan­guage. She recent­ly grad­u­at­ed from Uni­ver­si­dad del Este with a B.S. in Culi­nary Man­age­ment; she loves cook­ing for peo­ple and trav­el­ing, and once spent an exchange semes­ter in Fin­land where she vol­un­teered at a veg­an restaurant.

Why Kore­an?

Where I live in Puer­to Rico, there are no Kore­an lan­guage class­es avail­able and the cul­ture is scarce­ly known. I applied to the CLS Kore­an pro­gram because I want­ed to bet­ter under­stand the Kore­an lan­guage and cul­ture. The knowl­edge of anoth­er lan­guage opens doors to job oppor­tu­ni­ties! My goals are to estab­lish my own food and bev­er­age busi­ness in the hos­pi­tal­i­ty and tourism indus­try. I want to edu­cate peo­ple through food by serv­ing healthy food alter­na­tives and using inter­na­tion­al ingre­di­ents as inspiration.

Learn­ing more than language

I gained a num­ber of dif­fer­ent skills dur­ing the CLS pro­gram, includ­ing time man­age­ment, inter­per­son­al rela­tion­ships, and cul­tur­al com­pe­tence, all of which have con­tributed to mak­ing me a bet­ter per­son and pro­fes­sion­al. This expe­ri­ence gave me a new per­spec­tive on my coun­try and the host coun­try, and it made me appre­ci­ate my cul­ture even more. I even found many sim­i­lar­i­ties between the two cul­tures – espe­cial­ly the impor­tant role of rice in cook­ing, and the respect towards the elder­ly in the families.

Nour­ish­ing relationships

I am a veg­e­tar­i­an. In South Korea, the idea of veg­e­tar­i­an­ism is not as wide­ly known nor prac­ticed as in the U.S.A. This made it very dif­fi­cult to find a com­plete veg­e­tar­i­an meal when eat­ing out. After my first meal with my lan­guage part­ner, how­ev­er, she made sure that every­thing that we ate was veg­e­tar­i­an and always made it her mis­sion to take care of me. She even invit­ed me to her house to make veg­e­tar­i­an dumplings togeth­er because we couldn’t find any eat­ing out. The fact that my lan­guage part­ner cared so much about my diet real­ly meant a lot; it was a way of show­ing that she cared and want­ed me to have a great expe­ri­ence in her coun­try. I devel­oped a strong bond with my lan­guage part­ner. The peo­ple I met in my host coun­try were def­i­nite­ly the most reward­ing part of this experience!

Unhip hooray!”

I attend­ed a danc­ing orches­tra” pre­sen­ta­tion with my lan­guage part­ner. We were the only youth at the per­for­mance; every­one else was prob­a­bly over 45. I noticed that the MC kept chant­i­ng 얼씨구!” (ol-shi-goo-!”). The audi­ence repeat­ed it glee­ful­ly, myself includ­ed, even though I didn’t know what it meant. My lan­guage part­ner told me that it means hooray!”, so I told her that I would chant it at a Super Junior con­cert (a K‑pop band). She couldn’t stop laugh­ing! Appar­ent­ly it is an old say­ing and used main­ly by old­er peo­ple, often when lis­ten­ing to traditional/​folkloric Kore­an music/​instruments. I’d be out of place chant­i­ng that at Super Junior…

If you had one meal in Gwangju…

Go to this amaz­ing restau­rant called 떡뽁이 대통령,” which means Tteok­bok­ki (‘rice cake’) Pres­i­dent”. The fun­ny thing is that I nev­er ate tteok­bok­ki there. The menu is pret­ty exten­sive, and my favorite dish was udon sal­ad and the fried veg­gies. It’s a five minute walk from the back gate of Chon­nam Nation­al University!

Words of wisdom

When vis­it­ing a new place, cul­ture, or coun­try, do it as if you will nev­er be able to return again. This will moti­vate you to live your expe­ri­ence to the fullest. Also, remem­ber to make time to not only know the cus­toms but to know the peo­ple. They give life to the culture.


Alumni Profiles

Laura Viera
Laura Viera
Korean 2015
Gwangju, South Korea

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Posted Date

May 03, 2016