Holly McDonald is bringing home an invaluable souvenir from her trip to South Korea.
The Northland teacher returned home this month with newfound knowledge of the Asian country and is ready to share it with her students.
After a long fascination with the country and its complex history, the Bream Bay College teacher applied for the Asia New Zealand Foundation's 2017 Korean Studies Workshop to explore the intercultural issues of South Korea and share her new knowledge with her students.
As one of nine Kiwi candidates selected for the Seoul-based workshop, Ms McDonald visited historical and cultural sites, attended lectures covering Korean culture and society and visited schools.
The workshop was based in South Korea's capital, Seoul, where they spent most of their time exploring.
They also spent a night down south in Gyeongju, went to World Heritage site Yangdongmaeul, the Hyundai factory in Ulsan and Korea Education and Research Information Service (KERIS) where they learnt about ICT use in schools and had first-hand experience in a "future classroom".
"The highlight of the trip for me was visiting PSCORE (People for Successful Corean Reunification) and having the chance to listen to a man speak about his life as a North Korean defector and having the opportunity to ask him questions about life in North Korea."
As a part of the workshop, Ms McDonald also visited the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea - who are still officially at war - and went on a tour of a tunnel dug by North Korea as an infiltration point into South Korea.
"It felt very safe and was a well-established tourist attraction ... The DMZ illustrates the horrors of the Korean War as well as the wishes and hopes for the future."
With the recent nuclear developments in North Korea, and its threats towards and from the US, Ms McDonald said most people in South Korea weren't phased because they have been dealing with tension since the end of the Korean War more than 50 years ago.
This workshop was Ms McDonald's first experience in a country where English was not the first language.
"South Korea opened my eyes to a totally different way of life. The city of Seoul and surrounds has a population of 25 million people, I didn't realise what this would 'look' like until I was there."
The geography, environmental and social studies teacher said "taking what I have learned on this trip into the classroom will not be challenging".
Ms McDonald has a real passion for environmental sustainability and is "excited" to teach her students at Bream Bay College about the Cheonggyecheon Stream environmental rehabilitation project.
The 11km-long, once polluted stream covered by concrete and roads, has been transformed and now runs through downtown Seoul and is a "source of pride for the people".
"I have learnt so much while away and can't wait to share it with the students."