5. Exploring and having fun in your new environment
One of the best things that I received was a birthday surprise from my newfound friends
This is the part of the article where I get to talk about all the fun things you can do while studying in Korea. Aside from the usual places like Myeongdeong and Jeju Island, I got to visit and get intimately close with the nooks and crannies of cities people usually don’t visit. My university was based in Bucheon, a city in between Incheon and Seoul. It was quaint and you never really see big branches of consumer products dominating the streets. It was a fine mix of big brands and some family-owned restaurants, which was really nice since I got to experience some home cooking and hospitality from a Korean side of things.
One of the best experiences I’ve had, as shown by the first picture in this article, was when I celebrated my birthday weekend. I made friends with other foreign exchange students and we ended up going to Bukhansan National Park. I ended up climbing a mountain on my birthday weekend and eating a picnic with a perfect view of the entire metropolitan area. The Filipino Market was also open during my birthday weekend and I got to try home cooking again (and hear the Filipino language) as I was served a special meal of my favorite home-style Filipino dishes.
Finally, the best and most enduring parts of my semester involved the nightlife. I absolutely loved dressing up nice and going out to party with my friends. Taking Soju shots and dancing until the sun came up became a great part of our weekends. Hongdae was without a doubt our favorite place to go since the bars and clubs were plentiful and booze was cheap. Nothing but good times happened when we went out together and enjoyed that experience of a lifetime.
6. Dealing with homesickness
Nami Island, South Korea
Make no mistake, Korea is fun and amazing and an adventure of a lifetime. The thing is, however, after a while, you get those moments of quiet and loneliness where you wonder how everyone back home is doing. I had those moments where I missed everyone back home: my parents, my girlfriend, my dog, and my friends. Sometimes it’s tough to look at pictures of them online and see that they’re having such a good time and wanting to have that good time with them tugs at you.
I remedied homesickness by always keeping an open line with people back home. There would be numerous days of the week where I would video call with my parents and my girlfriend. Being able to see familiar faces, telling them you miss them, and hearing how they miss you too fills the heart with a lot of warmth.
But I didn’t spend all my time moping about how homesick I was, either. One of the best things about going alone to Korea was that I was totally free to make the experience myself. Meeting a ton of other international students, and making friends from Korea and around the globe helped me to not spend too much time missing home and instead enjoy.
7. Saying both “Goodbye!” and “I’m Back!”
This is the last photo I took before leaving campus. I do wonder how my friends are now…
And then my semester in Korea came to a close. The university threw a nice farewell party and I got a chance to take pictures and say my farewells to all the friends I made over those four months. Of course I was a bit sad to see everyone go and to say goodbye to a place that taught me so much, but when I reunited with my family (it was super emotional), I was able to sit down and really think about everything that had happened.
I was pretty darn proud of myself for being able to not only survive but to enjoy myself in Korea with a budget that I set for myself and being responsible for the care of myself and the space I lived in. Being in Korea really threw me into the deep end because I remembered that prior to that, I never really lived on my own so I essentially had gone solo which is hard enough, but I also had to do it, for the first time, in a foreign place. Thinking about this made me appreciate my time in Korea and gave me a lot of new principles moving forward as I got back.
Ultimately, my semester in Korea gave me experiences that I’ll always look back fondly upon and new knowledge of not just the academic kind but of the personal kind. When I got home, I was able to help around the house better because I knew how to wash my own clothes and cook my own food. Taking care of myself expanded into taking care of others.
As a last technical note, make sure to check what documents you need as soon as you get home. Check with your department or the International Relations Office for your Transcript of Records from abroad so you can take the grades to the university’s registrar and make them an official part of your grades as a student.
If you could study abroad, where would you go? Let us know!