About My Study Abroad Program
Major/Minor: Major: History/PWAD, Minor: Korean
Program: Yonsei University
Location: Seoul, South Korea
Term: Spring 2019
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you select your program?
I chose to study abroad because I was interested in Korean culture and media, and had been learning the language for three semesters at my time of application and wanted to not only immerse myself into the culture and language but also travel for the first time. There were several different universities that I could have picked to be an exchange student that were all well-known universities in South Korea but decided that Yonsei University was the best pick for me based upon the positive comments a lot of people have said about Yonsei University and its location in Seoul.
What did you learn about yourself?
Studying abroad in South Korea and attending Yonsei University opened my eyes to the prospect of living a completely different life than the one I lived in the States. It was never something I thought about while living in the states, and I think it's something one doesn't truly understand until they have lived abroad for a while. My daily routine completely changed, I was faced with obstacles I would never encounter in America, and I had to overcome challenges within myself and my environment to be successful. When I compare how I lived my life in South Korea versus the United States, it's weird to think that I was still the same person just different aspects of my personality came out pertaining to the society, culture, and mindset I was in. Living in South Korea as a foreigner meant that you more often than not drew attention wherever you went, so I forced into knowing someone was constantly watching/looking at me. At first it was nerve-wracking, but I quickly adapted to it and in the end it felt more liberating to be who I was. I witnessed my most natural self in South Korea, which I think was the greatest gift I could have gotten from my experience. The value of connections and relationships with those around (and not around) me became prominent to me as well. I was no longer around friends and family who I had relied on for help and support. Being in a foreign country with such a drastic time difference such as South Korea showed me the lengths I had to go to to actively maintain communication with my family and friends back home, while also forcing me to get out of my comfort zone and meet new people and form friendships. I eventually found an amazing group of people that made my time in South Korea what it was and showed me that that was what I was really searching for. Not just finally being able to visit the country I longed to visit for years, but to also meet a group of people in which we all bonded over living in South Korea together and going through everything that that entailed.
What is one of your favorite memories from your program?
One of my favorite memories from my program was being able to attend Yonsei University's Akaraka festival. Akaraka is a big festival held by Yonsei for students in which a bunch of big Korean artists come and perform. Me and my friends weren't able to get tickets from the lottery system, but waited in line for approximately four hours and were able to get tickets!! It's such a big festival and the students showcased their school spirit and I was able to see Kpop/Khiphop stars like TWICE, Red Velvet, IU, Beenziono, and Zico! I never imagined I would be able to see such stars perform and it felt like a dream!
What advice do you have for future study abroad students?
I would say that studying abroad is really what you make of it. You're in a certain country for x amount of months, with a certain group of people who you'll probably never all be together again in the same manner once the program ends, so make sure you appreciate all the moments. It's important to still stay academically focused and be on top of your studies (never forget that your initial reason for visiting the country is for education), but it's still also important to have fun, enjoy the culture, and explore the area.
Would you do it again?
Would I visit South Korea again? Absolutely. Would I study abroad again during my undergraduate school year? Probably not, simply because I do not think I would graduate on time (haha). The time I picked to study abroad (spring semester of sophomore year) was the perfect time for me to have that "break" in my studies and go abroad. Now that I've taken it, I'm more determined on finishing my last semesters in America and hopefully attending graduate school in South Korea, as studying abroad there showed me I would love to not only live there for a longer period of time but also would love to attend Yonsei's graduate program that fits my educational interests :).
How were your classes abroad different than if you would have taken them at UNC?
I specifically took classes in South Korea that I knew I would not be able to take at Carolina, such as US-KR relations related courses. All of my classes were Korean-centered, and while I absolutely love the diversity of classes at Carolina I do believe outside of the language or media/literature, there aren't many other Korean-related courses available. All of the courses I took catered to East Asian politics with a focus on South Korea and I absolutely loved it. I wanted to be able to take such classes that would be taught by native Koreans in South Korea because it provides students with a different perspective they would not get if taken in the States.
How do you identify?
Student of color, LGBTQ+, Military/Veteran/GI Benefits, Covenant Scholars