Kia’s Cultural Exchange Program November 19th, 2010
Let me first begin by introducing myself – my name is Mark Scigliano and I work for Kia Canada. My current title is Advertising Services Specialist and I work on a variety of retail and brand-related projects including newspaper advertising, digital media and point-of-sale materials, to name a few.
Back in July I was asked to be Kia Canada’s representative at the annual Global Exchange Program in Seoul, Korea. While I was initially a little hesitant (the thought of 2 months abroad was very intimidating at first), it didn’t take long for me to think it over and tell my management team that I would gladly accept their offer. I grew up in Mississauga, Ontario and prior to this program I had never traveled outside of North America, so understandably the concept living halfway across the world for two months was a little daunting. But after 8 weeks I can honestly say that this has been the trip of a lifetime.
In my 2 months in Korea I have seen and done so many things that I never would have had the chance to experience without this program. While I’ve had the benefit of working at the Korean headquarters during the day, most of my free time has involved visiting historical sights around Seoul. I got a glimpse of how Korean royalty lived hundreds of years ago at Gyeongbokgung Palace, saw ancient city defenses at Hwaseon Fortress, and visited the very peaceful and serene Secret Garden. Seeing the amount of history this country has and the blend of old and new has been incredible. We have also been fortunate enough to visit some of the current tourist attractions like the Demilitarized Zone/Joint Security Area, National War Museum and Seoul’s National Cemetery.
But beyond the grand sight-seeing spectacles I’ve been fortunate enough to see, the real cultural experiences I had were found in living and breathing in this dynamic city. Enjoying the great restaurants, eating Kimchi for the first time, traveling across town on the subway and so much more have all helped shape my understanding of Korea. I must admit after 2 months I’m a self-proclaimed kimchi-holic!
Part of my city experience involved interacting with the Korean people, which can be difficult at times with the obvious language barrier. However I remember being on the streets in my second week in Seoul aimlessly looking for a restaurant, but I wasn’t having much luck. While hopelessly looking around, being the typical lost tourist, two girls walked over to me completely unprovoked and asked if they could help me. They proceeded to walk me 3 blocks away from where they were about to eat to help me find a restaurant and even helped me get a table! I couldn’t thank them enough for going out of their way to help a foreigner in need. This was just one example of how helpful and kind the Korean people have been, even to someone who speaks almost none of their native language. It’s this distinct combination of sprawling city and small-town hospitality that I’ll truly remember from my time in Seoul.
So at the end of my Korean adventure I can now look back and reflect not only on what this program has meant to me and means to our company, but what it means for the future. Personally, my cultural and philosophical understanding of Koreans and their way of life will greatly benefit my work back home at our Canadian headquarters. But beyond that, the past, present and future members of this program from around the world share their opinions and expertise in a variety of areas, resulting in a better Kia corporation and ultimately a better product for you, the consumer. It is our goal and company vision to continue to grow and prosper as a multi-national corporation that truly understands the ever-changing markets across the globe.
I would like to thank Kia Motors Corporation, Kia Canada and the people of Korea for making my trip something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.