Stepping off of the plane at Incheon Airport in the Republic of South Korea was one of the most invigorating and terrifying experiences of my entire life. Whenever I think back to that moment I clearly remember the rush of foreign language surrounding me, the signs that shined on storefronts, and the fast, fast buzz of people constantly walking past me. It was like stepping onto another planet, but I was enthralled by it. I spent a week in Seoul before my program’s official start date, and that was the week where I overcame many unexpected challenges of this whole experience. I tackled jet lag, culture shock, and my fear of actually speaking to people in Korean. All of these together were some of the most shockingly difficult things I had ever had to do in my life, but now I am glad I can say that I have happily completed them. However, my week in Seoul was fun and exciting, even if I had a few challenges along the way.
After my challenging, yet wonderful week in Seoul, I made my way down to my program, at the University of Ulsan, in Ulsan. When I finally stepped foot on campus, it felt like home immediately. The people over the program as well as the Korean students in the program and outside of it on campus were all very warm and welcoming. They happily took me and some of the other foreign students out to explore parks and nightlife in the city. Throughout the program, they took us on various field trips around the city of Ulsan, and they provided a deeper and more fulfilling experience throughout my stay in Ulsan. The places I traveled to with the program include the Royal Tomb of King Minmu, Ulsan Grand Park, and the Hyundai Factory. Royal Tomb of King Munmu was breathtaking and the story behind the place was even more interesting. Additionally, we went to a Korean etiquette and traditional music activity field trip; we wore the traditional dress together as a group. Also, there were many group activities planned
throughout the program, and my favorite was the k-pop dance. I love dancing tremendously, and I love k-pop. So getting a chance to combine the two while actually being in Korea was one of the best experiences of my life. I will treasure this memory, as well as many many others from this program for the rest of my life.
I also traveled with a friend throughout Ulsan as well as other cities in South Korea on the weekends. Some places I visited were: Ulsan Grand Park in Ulsan, Daegu, and Busan. Ulsan Grand park was a spontaneous trip me and another girl in the program decided to endeavor on. As we explored the park, we found a mini cultural music festival as well as a mountain with a temple on top that we decided to climb. Overall, the park was a beautiful and unexpected adventure that I would not have wanted to miss. I also traveled to Daegu! While I was there, I explored the main street of nightlife and shopping and even witnessed a dance company performance. I also hiked mount Apsan, a famous park in Daegu. Additionally, I traveled to Busan. There I saw the Gwangan Bridge and had amazing Busan seafood. Busan was my favorite city that I traveled to on the weekend because of the gorgeous beaches and nice people that were ready to accept and help me. Finally, throughout the duration of my stay in Korea, I traveled to Seoul two times. Seoul especially caught my eye, always overflowing with personality, life, and culture. I went to multiple districts, including Hongdae, Gangnam, and Meyongdong. All of these places and experiences showed me the beautiful and diverse culture of South Korea.
Throughout the duration of this trip, the questions that were presented to me most was “So why South Korea, and why Ulsan?” For a while, I hadn’t really considered the question deeply, but being confronted with the inquiry time and time again, I eventually developed an answer. So, Why Korea? Well, there are multiple reasons, first, the scholarships were good for the country, being that it is a non-traditional location. Also, the Korean language highly interests me. Finally, I chose Korea because of the diverse musical and artistic culture that pours from its heart. All of these together was the reason I chose to study abroad in South Korea, even including the food, I cannot forget about that. The second question is, “Why Uslan?”. Well, the
reason is, it was the most affordable and fitting program for what I was looking for. The program was mostly field trips and in the field learning, so one could truly experience the Korean culture. I had been thinking about spending my Juinor year in Korea, so this program was the perfect way
to see if I really wanted to commit and study for a year, in which I do. Also, the office for Global Education at UTC was very supportive and gave a good scholarship for this program. Those reasons together, are why I chose Ulsan. Even though it is not very big or well-known, Ulsan is a
beautiful and unique place that I am so glad that I chose to study abroad in.
Overall, this program, Ulsan, and Korea as a whole, has been one of the best experiences I have had in my entire life. The knowledge and memories I have gained from this program will propel me in my international studies major as well as enrich my cultural awareness for my lifetime. Furthermore, the Korean language is a part of my major back at home, and one day I aspire to become fluent. This experience provided me with an outlet to freely practice my Korean language skills as well as immersion, which I do not have around my home town and university. The time I spent here will never be forgotten, and because this experience went so well, I intend on coming back to the beautiful country of Korea to study throughout my Junior year of university. I would like to thank the staff of this program, the university, as well as the students that went through this program with me. I can now finally say that I have achieved my dream to travel the world, and this trip has sparked a greater fire in me to travel back to Korea and to continue to explore my world and make it a better place.
Anna Yarbro is majoring in Humanities (International Studies) and Communications and spent the summer of 2019 studying abroad in Ulsan, South Korea through the Center for Global Education’s summer exchange program with the University of Ulsan. Anna had the following to say about her time abroad, “’Study abroad has been one of the best experiences of my entire life. It is not just taking classes, but it is experiencing a whole new world. If you are unsure about finally committing to study abroad because of fear of being out of your comfort zone, I encourage you to drop those fears and just do it. If you keep an open mind, the journey you will endeavor in will be the best one you’ve ever had.”
Share this post: