Amidst a global pandemic, studying abroad was basically impossible. However, by nothing short of a miracle, along with hard work, I was able to accomplish a highly unlikely feat, and on February 14, 2021 I finally boarded the plane to spend a year in Korea. The moment the plane took off, I still couldn’t believe it. However, little did I know, I was embarking on one of the best journeys of my entire life.
Before this year long study abroad, I had gone to South Korea previously one other time for about five weeks. Therefore, I didn’t know much of Korea other than Ulsan (my university city), Busan, and Seoul. That being said, this time around I made it a point to explore around as much as time allowed me. I visited some places I had been before and places I had always dreamt of going to. During my breaks I traveled to Seoul, Nami Seom, Busan, Inchon, Dagu, Daejon, and Gwangju. Because I traveled to various parts of the country, I was able to get a feel for each specific place’s dialect, food, and general culture. Three places in particular stood out to me due to their differences.
I suppose the most commonly known place in South Korea is Seoul, so it’s fitting that it’s first on this list. Seoul is the capital of the country, therefore it was the most populated, big city, fast life place that I traveled to. Also, because it is the capital, standard Korean was used, therefore making it one of the more foreigner friendly, in terms of language, places that I traveled to. It truly is glamorous and fast paced, plastered with flashing lights, advertisements, and bustling night-life. Busan, the second biggest city in South Korea, also had a charm to it. Busan had two distinct feelings depending on which part of Busan you went to, quiet and peaceful as well as energetic and bustling. One stand out memory I have of Busan is looking
out at Gwangali beach, being able to see the ocean, city, and mountains all at the same time. It is an image burned in my brain, and really became one of the main images of Korea in my mind, never falling to make me smile. Also the food is very delicious, especially the seafood. Lastly, Gwangju was definitely one of the most unique places that I traveled to. With the reputation of being the food capital of South Korea, I definitely had a good time exploring what all the city had to offer. If anyone wants to travel to South Korea, I definitely recommend traveling to various places around the country like the ones previously mentioned to experience all it has to offer.
However, the most impactful place I have been to was where my program was located, Ulsan, South Korea. I chose to attend Ulsan University because of the partnership UTC has with the university. It made admission very streamline as well as provided very affordable tuition, to the point it was comparable to UTC. Additionally, one of my main goals throughout my study abroad was simply this: to study and fully immerse myself in the Korean language. Given that Ulsan is obviously not Seoul or Busan, most people do not really feel comfortable speaking English. Therefore, I had ample opportunity to get a feel for the language, and eventually come back to America speaking intermediate level Korean after just a year living there. Additionally, Ulsan is very pretty nature wise and has plenty of delicious food!
When someone asks me how my study abroad experience was in South Korea, I always answer with this, “It was the best hellish experience of my entire life.” Usually I get a funny look when they hear my response, however it really does accurately describe my experience. Before my two studies abroad, but particularly before this long term one-year study abroad, I had never been out of the South, USA, and obviously never been out of the country before. So when I told my family I wanted to study abroad, on the completely other side of the world, they were really hesitant. However, they finally agreed. After the battle of getting over there to actually study abroad, there was another uphill battle. Loneliness, language barrier, homesickness all hit me like a brick wall, but just like all things in life, they passed. I definitely became stronger because of those struggles!
The second I landed in America, after my whirlwind of a study abroad, I felt like I was in a dream. Had I really accomplished my dream I have carried since I was 8 years old? All I could think about was what little Anna would think of my accomplishment. It still brings me to tears now when I think about it. From the bright lights of Seoul, to the beaches of Busan, to the delicious restaurant of Gwangju, and finally to Ulsan University, experiencing what South Korea had to offer me was truly an experience that I will hold close to my heart for the rest of my life. The people I met, places I went, and experiences I had were all made possible due hard work, the global office, and a little bit of luck!
Anna Yarbro (BA Communication, BA International Studies) spent Spring 2021 – Fall 2021 studying abroad in Ulsan, South Korea through a UTC exchange program at the University of Ulsan. Anna had the following to say about studying abroad, “My study abroad experience has given me the confidence and skills to finally say I am proficient in a foreign language. It also has given me valuable life skills that I can use in my future career and personal life moving forward. If you’re even thinking about studying abroad in the slightest, do it. There is no better time to go than the present.”
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