About My Study Abroad Program
Major/Minor: Psychology Major and Neuroscience Minor
Program: Korea University Exchange Program
Location: Seoul, South Korea
Term: Spring 2023
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you select your program?
I chose to study abroad because I wanted to gain a wider perspective of the world around me and truly challenge myself to leave my comfort zone. Starting my freshman year in the midst of COVID I did not feel that I gained the true college experience and became very comfortable only interacting with the small circle of friends that I made. As I started nearing the end of my college journey I became more aware that my life after graduation would be vastly different and I wanted to use the time I still had as an undergraduate to explore beyond what I have always known and integrate myself into a new community. Beyond, my personal goals I was extremely enamored with the rich culture and city life of Seoul. I had never had the opportunity to visit eastern Asia before and felt that the best time for me to visit South Korea would be while studying abroad because of the support and resources that would be available. Before I made my final decision of studying abroad in Seoul I met with the study abroad advisors for many different countries and discussed the community and safety in Seoul. After being assured that there would be many different excursions and learning that Seoul is one of the safest countries to travel in I felt that going to Korea University would be the best place for me to study abroad.
What did you learn about yourself?
I learned that I am strong enough to venture outside of my comfort zone and survive in a completely new environment. Growing up in North Carolina and choosing to stay in North Carolina for college I never had to learn how to live without the support of my family and friends at home. Being 13 hours away from everything I knew and loved gave me the push to work on my social anxiety and interact with people even when I was nervous. While scary, I was extremely proud of my decision to study abroad on my own as I found it easy to make new friends and even travel around Seoul on my own. The confidence that this experience gave me has assured me that I will be okay after I graduate even if I do decide to move to a different state or country.
What is one of your favorite memories from your program?
At the end of the semester Korea University has a concert for their students called Ipselenti where many famous South Korean musicians perform. Being surrounded by hundreds of students all unanimously waving their balloons to the songs and getting to enjoy the experience with my friends that I made felt incredibly special. After the concert we continued our celebration with our Korea University buddies and yelled the schools chants into the early morning. Getting to be apart of such a big school celebration made me deeply appreciative and grateful of my study abroad experience.
What advice do you have for future study abroad students?
I think the best thing that someone studying abroad can do is to embrace their fear and anxieties. There were many times where I felt like maybe I made the wrong decision and I was not ready to be on my own but I kept reassuring myself that everyone feels like this when beginning a new chapter. To be uncomfortable is to grow and I knew that at the end of my study abroad experience I would come back home as a new and stronger version of myself. There will definitely be times where you miss your friends and family but if you truly live in the moment and take every day one at a time the experience goes by fast with tons of great memories made.
How do you identify?
Student of color, Military/Veteran/GI Benefits, Covenant Scholars
Could you share any experiences where your identity played a role in your time abroad?
I believe that as someone who is Mexican and Black my identity is something that I carry into every experience that I have. Meeting my personal KUBA buddy, Yoojin, I was able to share about my culture to someone who did not know many people like me and build a bond by sharing our different experiences with each other.
Is there any advice you would give to other students who share your identity?
As a person of color traveling to a new place I think that it is extremely important to find a community of your own that you feel safe and comfortable with. It can sometimes be exhausting to feel like you are the outsider everywhere you go and I felt that by making my own community of minorities I was able to share my experiences and relax. As someone who is Mexican and Black I do have a dark skin tone than what is commonly seen in Seoul and did get a lot of stares but I believe that they were mostly out of curiosity more than anything. Try not get in your head about the stares and acknowledge that you as a person of color have something extremely unique about you that you can share with locals just as much as they can share their own uniqueness with you.
If you faced any challenges abroad, where could you turn to get the support you needed?
I did not face any identity-related issues while abroad but if I did I am confident that I could have turned to my Korea University buddies to talk to and find where to access the appropriate resources. My professors also shared in their syllabuses resources to help with any struggles that students might face.