Ever since I returned from South Korea people keep asking me, "how was the experience?" "Why did you go there?"
So to answer everyones questions, I originally wanted to study abroad for a semester because I didn't really like the University I am currently attending. I only needed 60 credit hours to transfer to my dream college, UCLA. I was already at 60 credits by the beginning of my sophomore year (I was taking ALOT of credit hours and going to school year round). I decided since I reached my 60 credits and finished all my gen. eds that I should just do some free elective classes out the country until I heard whether I got accepted as a transfer student to UCLA or not (I was denied admission two weeks before my departure from South Korea).
To tell you the truth, my intentions was to go to England for a semester to study at Oxford University, but Oxford wanted $11,000, that was including my plane ticket. My advisor then referred me to Korea University in Sejong, South Korea and told me I didn't have to pay a dime, so of course I went.
I came to South Korea with no idea of the culture, the language, not even their music. So I was pretty clueless compared to the other Americans and foreigners who came to study at the university. During the five months I was there, I had to learn their language, like the basics to get me through the day, I had to learn their customs and adjust to them as well.
While I was there, I stayed in a dorm room with two other Korean students named Seon Young and KiAe. I had to take at least six hours out the week to sit down with them and help them learn and improve their English. This was a requirement for a program I was enrolled in called International Town of Sejong ( ITS). Through this program, my housing and meal plan was all paid for and I also received a $1,400 stipend.
Besides that, my experience was weird and amazing at the same time. Let's begin with the weird things: first off, the time zone. Korea is like 13 hours ahead of Michigan, so I would have to wait until like 3AM just to speak to my family on FaceTime. Our dorms were separated by gender. Like guys stayed in one building and the girls stayed in another building. Secondly, we had a curfew. This was one of the weirdest things that pissed me off because everyone here is grown and we have to be in by 12AM? And if we came in past the curfew, they called our parents. I really felt like a kid there.
There was other crazy things I experienced too, which I wrote about in previous blogs, like Burger King and McDonalds delivery, eating after the eldest starts eating, drinking while covering your face in front of older people to show respect, people sneezing and coughing without covering their mouth, having to bow when meeting someone or to give thanks, and holding money with both hands when giving or taking it from someone. The list goes on!
The best part about it is, I got to meet people from all over and build great friendships. I met people from Florida, Colorado, New York, Spain, Sweden, Germany, China and Russia. I built my relationships with these people through the ITS program and I built relationships with some Korean students, including my roommates, because of ITS too. I was also able to to travel inside and outside of Korea with the few people I met. I have seen so many beautiful things in Korea such as, the independence hall, traditional Korean folk villages, different religious temples, and the border between South Korea and North Korea! I also traveled to Hong Kong and to Japan, which were both inexpensive trips since I was already in Asia.
While at Korea University, I was also able to express my interest in writing and became a staff writer for Nexus Magazine on campus. I published seven articles within the last month I was in South Korea, which were all about the events and experiences from the ITS program on campus. I also got paid for each article that got published.
Over all, my experience in Korea was mind opening and life changing. Five months honestly was not long enough because it went by so fast. And if you're wondering, yes, I still keep in touch with almost everyone I met there. The only bad thing I can say about South Korea is that it's pollution is terrible. It's a lot of yellow dust flying in from China, so you have to be cautious about your health at all times. But I'd do anything just to rewind and start my experience all over again, and avoid having to say goodbye.