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Visiting South Korea: A Life-Changing Experience for Two Moore Seniors

By Mellany Armstrong

Two seniors went quite the distance to gather information for their theses. Sarah Barden and Chianna Mac traveled to Seoul, South Korea, to attend an animation film festival and Seoul Fashion Week.

They won the Sis Grenald Women’s Leadership Fellowship Award and the Juror’s Recognition Award at the 2019 Honors Convocation in April, and they were counting on it to be able to travel.

“We started preparations for our whole trip in December 2018,” said Mac. “We started very early, but we really wanted to get these awards, and we are very, very, very grateful that we had this opportunity,” Barden said.

The trip, from October 10 to 21, 2019, encompassed animation, fashion, K-Pop and meerkats.


Barden, an Animation & Game Arts major with a minor in Illustration, and Mac, an Illustration major studying AGA as a minor, left October 10 for Seoul. Ahead of time, they arranged to meet with representatives from two animation studios, DR Movie and Reddog Culture House.

“We got to ask them personal questions, like what is it like to be in the animation field, and how it’s been, because there are also a lot of women that we were able to ask questions,” Barden said. One animator with DR Movie, a woman who worked on the series Avatar: The Last Airbender, told the students that she had some struggles earlier in her career, but that she now has more opportunities.

“We were like, ‘This is our childhood, you helped create what we grew up with,’” Mac said. “She couldn’t believe she was meeting these people that are so affected by what she worked on. It was nice to see.”

Mac and Barden discovered that DR Movie, founded in 1990, still uses traditional pen and paper in much of its animation work, and that Reddog Culture House, begun in 2017, had the latest technology for its 2D animation work.

“We thought it was really fascinating that there were still studios that have pen and paper,” Barden said. “There are still mixes of both in studios in the industry.”


The two attended the Bucheon International Animation Festival, and watched films and attended question-and-answer sessions with directors and animators.

“We got to see a huge range of 3D, 2D and stop-motion, just a whole range of different animation styles,” Barden said. “It was amazing to see the different languages and art styles and bits of culture that are put into these things,” Mac said.

“One of the biggest things I took away from this is to submit to film festivals,” Barden said. “This is a way to get yourself out there.” She plans to submit her thesis film to BIAF and many other festivals to present it before a wider audience.

Also on their list was to visit the SMTOWN Museum, dedicated to K-pop artists represented by SM Entertainment, where they saw detailed storyboards for K-pop group music videos. Another highlight was a visit to the Meerkat Café in Hongdae, where they got to play with the fuzzy creatures. 


During their 10-day trip, Barden and Mac did some people-watching at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza, where they saw traditional and modern dress. They also rented hanbok, the traditional Korean dress, to wear as they walked around Gyeongbokgung Palace in Jonngo.

Their trip coincided with Seoul Fashion Week, and Mac wanted to study clothing for her character design. She noticed that men and women wore a lot of layers, and that men liked to accessorize with necklaces, earrings and glasses.

“Outside the shows, regular people were dressed up and walking around, and photographers were taking pictures of people’s cool outfits,” Mac said. “There were edgy black outfits and interesting patterns and fabrics.” They also spied the popular Australian YouTuber HojuSara wearing modern hanbok. Mac and Barden dressed up as well, in black turtlenecks and camouflage pants, topped with black ballcaps and lots of jewelry.


The beautiful city of Seoul served as inspiration to both Mac and Barden.

“I learned so much from being in a different country,” Barden said. “It was a life-changing experience to learn about another culture and to realize how big the world is.”

“I always imagined it would be so different from here, but there were a lot of similarities, and I didn’t feel too homesick,” said Mac. “It was interesting to learn another thing about the world.”

Published on December 2nd, 2019