“I was able to travel to several different cities and areas within Korea, as well as taking trips to Japan and Taiwan. For someone who had never been to another country before studying abroad, this was incredibly exciting and transformative for me.”
I had always wanted to travel, but had never had the opportunity before. I also had an interest in Korean language, and hoped to learn more in an immersive environment.
Going out to eat with Korean friends! I had read about some of the culture shock I might experience, but eating out with friends Korean-style was still a really exciting and new experience. From the unusual foods that I didn't recognize to the unfamiliar table manners, it was a really great learning experience.
My biggest challenge was, unsurprisingly, language. I spoke enough Korean to get by, but surviving is very different from flourishing! So, I threw myself into language study and tried to meet a variety of new friends through school clubs and outings, in order to learn as much as quickly as possible. As challenges go, it was a pretty fun one to tackle.
I would wake up, get breakfast from the convenience store (usually kimbap or pastry, it's really cheap and yummy), go to class, eat lunch with classmates in one of the school cafeterias (which was AMAZING and inexpensive!), go to more class, and then be free during the evenings. Usually we would then go out for dinner, go to cafes to study, or go sightseeing and shopping. It seems like a lot of money to eat out for all 3 meals, but it's really not because the cost of food is much lower.
I took Intro to Korean Philosophy, Intensive Korean Language, Korean Music and Culture, and Korean Linguistics and Culture during the Spring I spent abroad. In summer, I took Intensive Korean Language and Genetics.
The cool places I got to visit! Not only was I able to explore Seoul, I was able to travel to several different cities and areas within Korea, as well as taking trips to Japan and Taiwan. For someone who had never been to another country before studying abroad, this was incredibly exciting and transformative for me.
Studying abroad made me much more independent and willing to take chances. Because of study abroad, I was able to push myself to my limits--going to an unfamiliar country, speaking in a language I wasn't totally confident in, and meeting people I would never have met otherwise.
Do your research! Especially since it's a non-Western country, it's important to educate yourself thoroughly about customs and culture. This will both prevent you from offending people and help you make friends (since it shows you're open-minded and considerate of the country's culture). In addition, being prepared and informed can help prevent you from running into unexpected issues, such as not having the right plug for the outlet shape, or having trouble getting funds while abroad. This sort of research can ensure your study abroad experience runs smoothly, so you can enjoy it to the fullest.