This summer, I was able to experience a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I have been dreaming about since I was in high school. Studying abroad has been a long-term goal of mine, and I was really afraid I wouldn’t be able to achieve it before I graduated because of COVID-19 and other personal reasons. The decision to do an internship rather than take classes at a university was a bit spontaneous. I’m sure if I was a student in Korea, I would have had more free time, but I knew I would simply stay in my comfort zone. An internship in a different country where I didn’t know the language or much of the culture would be the ultimate challenge for me. Honestly, I was close to pulling out because of my financial standing and the fact that I’ve never had an internship in college before. I’ve only had food service jobs, nothing corporate or professional. I had no idea what to expect or if I would enjoy it. Before this internship, I only had basic professional skills with little experience. Coming into this program, I wanted to master becoming comfortable with asking seemingly dumb questions, collaborating professionally and efficiently with others on projects, finding outside-of-the-box solutions, and understanding what type of working environment suits me. Thankfully, ISA/TEAN had paired me with the most wonderful company and an amazing supervisor at Adventure Korea.
ISA/TEAN housed me and other interns in a hotel in Myeongdong, Seoul, South Korea. I was a little disappointed at first because they originally told us we would be put in random apartment housing. Yet, it blew my mind how everything I ever needed was right outside my doorstep. Myeongdong is known as the shopping and street food hub, so there were plenty of things to do and delicious food to eat. My favorite food I ate was probably “Dak-galbi” which is spicy marinated chicken grilled in front of you with rice cakes, cheese, and other fillings. My favorite activity was definitely experiencing the night life and karaoke rooms. I made a lot of friends in this program that were from different states and countries, but unfortunately I had no opportunities to make friends with Korean people, except my supervisor and his wife.
Adventure Korea is a travel agency that promotes English-speaking tours in South Korea. The company mainly works with ex-patriots and foreigners who want to experience the more adventurous sides of Korea outside of Seoul. They also started a program called “Outdoor Education” with many English Academies, colleges, and other schools. The program is filled with fun and challenging outdoor activities that teach team-building, independence, and other skills to help them build character outside of the classroom. My role at Adventure Korea was to help manage the social media marketing and work on custom itinerary projects for customer requests, so I mainly stayed in the office. Sadly, there were not any upcoming trips during my internship, except at the end, but I honestly liked doing the type of office work I was assigned which was market research, media creation, and lots of writing. The office I worked in everyday was located outside of Seoul in the city of Uiwang in the Gyeonggi province. It was a small but cozy environment.. I and other interns would sit and do work at a large round table in the middle of the room. My supervisor, Mr. Seok Jin Park would sit behind us and was able to check on our progress and converse with us without any problem. We also had a balcony that overlooked an adorable neighborhood park, and Mr. Seok Jin always encouraged us to take breaks out there whenever we needed a breather. I worked Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and I loved absolutely every minute! In Korean culture, companies usually eat lunch and even dinner together, and they are always paid by the company. Our supervisor would take us out for paid lunches every single day, and tried to vary the types of Korean food we would have. He taught us Korean culture, language, and also loved hearing about our own experiences. It was such a pleasure to work with him and his company during the summer.
When I wasn’t working, my new friends and I would explore Seoul. We even went to Jeju Island, Busan, and the DMZ! I wish that I had more time to see the rest of South Korea, so I’m planning to come back soon. Seoul was such a fun city and some parts were surprisingly diverse in culture. I loved that there is always something to do at any time of the day, with affordable prices and transportation. Because I worked every weekday, I honestly felt like I was truly living and working in Seoul. Everything about my experience was incredible, and I would do it all over again if I had the chance. Not only did I gain professional skills from my internship, but I also gained a life-changing chapter in my life.
Terisa Phonxaya (BS Business: Management) spent summer 2022 interning abroad in Seoul, South Korea through ISA. Terisa had the following to say about studying abroad, “Studying abroad is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It taught me how to adapt in unfamiliar environments, appreciate another culture, and expand my world knowledge. Not only did I grow as a person from my experience, but I also further achieved steps towards my career after graduation.”
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