When I was younger, figuring out my future was so complicated. Although, there was one thing I had set in my mind from a young age. I was going to travel all over the world. When I did my orientation for UTC, I was ecstatic to be able to join the room where they discussed studying abroad. It opened my mind to all the possibilities of traveling. I decided that junior year would be the perfect time for me to go abroad for the first time. I would be turning 20, already halfway through my bachelor’s degree and hopefully have a plan.
Well of course Junior year came up quickly, and the two years before had been occupied by the Covid pandemic. That did not discourage me a bit. I did my research on many traditional and non-traditional study abroad locations and made a list of my top 3. Scotland, Australia and South Korea. As we can see now, I chose South Korea as my final option, and I am so glad I did. It was quite honestly one of the best experiences in my life.
Entering South Korea during a pandemic was frustrating, exciting, and nerve wracking. I had no idea what to expect despite the hours and hours of research I had done for the 10 months prior to my leaving date. I went through an extensive 4-hour COVID-19 process at Incheon Airport before even receiving my luggage and grabbing a taxi to my apartment where I would quarantine for 14 days. Those days were so extremely long, but once I was out, it felt like I had never been stuck in the apartment to begin with. I had time to walk and travel the city by myself and even meet friends that I had spent months talking to online.
I became accustomed to the culture very quickly and when school started, I felt like I adjusted perfectly. Although there was a huge language barrier, I had help from friends, and some locals who were kind enough to wait for a translation even though they did not have to.
I went into the country a complete introvert who spends the majority of my time alone. After the 11 months I spent in Seoul, I came out able to hold conversations with strangers so easily, and as someone who would rather be out of the house than in her room. I even overstayed my welcome, with the original plan being one semester. With the relationships I made along the way, it turned into my entire junior year.
I made amazing friends who worked in nightlife, bar and restaurant businesses so the 13–14-hour time difference from home to Seoul has not affected family or friend relationships in either country since I have returned.
I learned so much not only from the locals, but from my professors and fellow classmates at Yonsei, who were from all over the world, and despite the online class setting, were able to share so many amazing stories and experiences during our scheduled class meetings. I would recommend this experience to anyone with trouble figuring themselves out in their young adult years. Traveling alone, and especially studying abroad can change your life.
Kailon Braden (BA English) spent Fall 2021 – Spring 2022 studying abroad in Seoul, South Korea through USAC. Kailon had the following to say about study abroad, “Go into study abroad with an open mind, you never know what to expect out of a different country or the people in it. Push yourself to explore all the possibilities and experiences, you never know what you might miss out on if you keep your own biased opinion.”
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