What are your favorite things about your host location thus far?
My favorite things to do so far are hiking around campus, studying at different coffee shops, and simply walking around the city because no matter where I seem to go, I always stumble on something new. Whether it be cute cafés, bakeries, amazing restaurants, or clothing and makeup stores, there’s always something to do. Even when taking the bus, each route takes me through different parts of the city and I constantly make mental notes of where to go next. The university is conveniently located near a beautiful hiking spot as well as right across the street from a major shopping and food destination.
Tell us about the university, academic experience, the classes, student life, and clubs or activities you are involved with? How are the locals, are there any differences or similarities that have surprised you based on your expectations?
I am absolutely in love with the campus. Walking from my dorm to the main part of campus is so nice in the morning and there are so many little paths I can take surrounded by trees and small landmarks. I really enjoy the classes I am taking and all of my professors are really nice and very accommodating. I love being able to take such unique classes with professors who have such diverse backgrounds and perspectives on a wide range of topics. The more challenging class I am taking is Intensive Korean where I study with two different professors and three different textbooks throughout the week, five days a week, for two hours a day. I do look forward to class each day, as I really wish to improve my Korean and am trying to take any opportunity to learn so I can speak more confidently. So far, I joined two different clubs on campus and one other club off-campus. I am currently a member of the Yonsei Mentors Club, which matches Korean students to a group of foreigners and we do various activities together, and the Yonsei Global Language Exchange program. I also joined another Language Exchange program which matches Korean students from all universities with foreign exchange students. At first, I thought I would be overwhelmed being constantly surrounded by a language I do not speak very well, but many people are very nice and accommodating towards foreigners. There doesn’t seem to be any perceivable differences between locals, but everyone I have encountered has been very nice.
Did you experience culture shock when you arrived in your host country? How did your expectations about your experience compare with the reality of your day to day life? Is there anything you wish you would have done or researched more to better prepare you for your experience?
I really expected to experience culture shock after arriving in Korea, but honestly, I didn’t experience it at all. I think I have gotten so much more confident in my own skin to the point that I am not really bothered when I stand out in crowds. Surprisingly, being here doesn’t seem to make me self-conscious in any negative way. I tried to not have any expectations before coming here and I think that was a very good decision on my part because I like experiencing things for myself without prejudice. The one thing I do wish I researched more was how to maintain finances while living abroad. I knew I needed to open a domestic bank account, but I wish I had been more prepared for managing my finances, especially since I have to spend money every day.