The thought of studying abroad came to me in high school when my aunt mentioned of her trip to Hong Kong when she was an undergrad. Since then, the idea of studying abroad was always an interest to me. However, I didn’t really have a place to go. Sometimes, I thought of going to popular countries like France. Other times, I thought of going to countries not as popular like Argentina. However, I decided to settle on Korea, not only because of its unique culture I was not a part of, but also to rediscover who I was as an Asian American,
The first couple of weeks, perhaps the first month, was rough. My difficult experience in the beginning wasn’t exactly due to culture shock, in terms of being in a country that did not speak English but was due to my yearn to go back home. I definitely could say that I wasn’t mentally prepared to travel abroad, much less travel away from my hometown. Things happened in my life prior to studying abroad, and because of that, it affected half of my experience in Korea. For the first half of Korea, I didn’t explore much, to my disappointment. The only trips I made outside of my small studio was either to the university or the grocery store.
When classes started to be in-person in March, things started to change a little. I had a class that was solely based on teamwork. Being one of five exchange students in the class, it was natural that we were all paired together. I met one of my first friends in April. Slowly, I started to go to places outside of my comfort zone. Additionally, I slowly became less intimidated; I could order things on my own or ask for simple help at a store.
There was a lot of Korea I wished I could have visited during my time. There was Busan, Jeju Island, Namsan Tower, all of which my study abroad friends have all visited. There were also simple things like going to the stores I’ve kept in my bucket list for a couple of years, simple shopping sprees. It saddens me that I wasn’t able to visit these areas, however, I won’t blame myself for wasting so much time. What’s happened has happened, and I can only remember the fun times and places I did enjoy and visit.
Now, two weeks later, I can say that going to Korea was something I do not regret. I didn’t exactly rediscover who I was as an Asian American, necessarily, but it was an overall life lesson and experience. There are some parts of Korea I miss, like the cheap food and clothes, or the amazing people I met during my time. I miss being in a completely different culture from my own and the somewhat hilarious communication barrier between me and the cashier. However, what I learned most from this trip was that I will always miss home, my family and friends, no matter where I end up.
Ellen Vo (BS Civil Engineering) spent Spring 2022 studying abroad in Seoul, South Korea through USAC. Ellen had the following to say about studying abroad, “Studying abroad is definitely intimidating when you’re first starting out. For me, I would say that the beginning processes of trying to study abroad was the hardest part. Once you’re in the country, things definitely become a lot better.”
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