Why I Studied Abroad in South Korea
I honestly never thought I would be able to study abroad. As a college kid who pays for everything from my tuition to housing all on my own and heavily relies on financial aid, it didn’t seem possible for me. Especially when I looked at the prices for studying abroad…they simply weren’t giving.
It wasn’t until I spoke to people in similar financial situations to me who went abroad that I knew it was possible and that I wanted that experience for myself. This blog post discusses four reasons why I studied abroad in Seoul, South Korea. Hopefully, this post will give some of y’all the confidence to take those first steps to explore studying abroad or even serve as a resource for y’all looking into different study abroad programs.
Experiencing A Different Culture
Growing up, I consumed a lot of international media. At home, we had dozens of Nollywood DVDs and dubbed Chinese martial arts films like The Return of Beyonce or The Crippled Masters. Throughout middle school and high school, I started watching Bollywood, Korean Dramas, Japanese web dramas, Telenovelas, French noir films and any other foreign media I could find. To say the least, my love for subtitles started very young.
Watching these films, listening to the different styles of music and seeing their different cultural practices and the variety of foods they ate made me want to travel to those places and experience various cultures. So, when I had the chance to study abroad in another country through school, I took the chance. Korean culture is completely different from the Nuer and American cultures I was brought up in, so I felt it was the perfect place to experience something new.
Opportunity to Travel
I’ve watched so many vlogs of people interrailing through Europe or traveling city-to-city by train. Living in Iowa, I’ve never had that. We don’t have a train or a reliable and consistent mode of public transportation that can take us long distances. We barely have Ubers and Lyfts available in the city for people to order. If you want to travel far in this state, you must drive, which can become tiring, time-consuming and inconvenient. I knew that I wanted long-distance transportation to be easily accessible wherever I studied. That’s why I was excited to go to South Korea, known for its advanced transit system.
Living in Seoul has made me appreciate reliable and affordable transportation. Korea’s subway and bus systems frequently come, so a car is unnecessary. There are also taxis everywhere which gives people different modes of transportation to choose from. The transit system is honestly my favorite thing about living in South Korea. To learn more about navigating the transit system in South Korea like a pro, read my guide here!
Having two of my close friends study abroad with me eased many anxieties about going abroad. Being a South Sudanese person in Korea, I knew I would stick out and I wasn’t sure how people would react to me. But knowing that I had people in South Korea that would be figuring things out together with me made the idea of going abroad less daunting. Since there was a big time difference, I knew that it would be difficult to talk to the friends and family I had back home, so I made sure to get familiar with the support systems available for me, beyond my friends, before going abroad.
Learning A New Language
While you don’t need to go to another country to learn a new language, it definitely pushes you to be consistent with your studying and learn more. Before coming to Korea, I did understand how to read hangul and say some basic Korean phrases for shopping, ordering food, small conversations and traveling. But I never really put my knowledge into practice and had conversations with people in Korean before leaving. I knew that traveling to Korea would force me to speak and learn more of the language regardless of how awkward I felt.
If you made it to the end, I appreciate you <3. As I mentioned before, the financial barrier was the biggest thing holding me back from studying abroad. I’m grateful for scholarships like the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship and many more for making that semester abroad possible. I touch more on the specific scholarships I received and how I saved up to make my study abroad affordable for me here if you’re interested!