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By Jessica Kimiyo Bragg. February 6, 2015 - 9:00 am
In spring 2014, I traveled halfway around the world for the first time and landed into a new country, South Korea. The host university that I attended was Soonchunhyang University, which is located on the very end of Line 1 on the metro system at Sinchang Station. The school is very big with buildings that span from on top of a hill to the very bottom of the hill. Dormitories are located throughout the area within the school gates, numerous Korean dorms, Chinese dorms, and international dorms. Almost all of the international students live in the dorms called Global Village, which is where I lived in for the four months that I was there. Also, for each international student, you are to have a Korean roommate, and each suite contains six rooms. So if there are six international students, then there are six Korean students living with you.
Soonchunhyang University provides several courses available for international students to take taught by Korean teachers who speak English. You are required to take Korean speaking and writing, a cultural internship, cultural course and two electives. However, for your Korean language classes, they will mostly speak in Korean so you will have to learn the language quickly. Your cultural course is also taught in Korean but if your teacher is kind enough, they will teach in English, as well. You select your courses during the orientation week. (For HPU students, please follow the steps that the Study Abroad office has mentioned to you in preparation of studying abroad.)
Through this adventure I have gained so much experiences that it’s hard to limit myself. Usually, I am quiet and shy around others and I don’t socialize with people except for social media where I feel most comfortable at a computer. But that all changed after being in Korea. I had to open my introverted nature and start becoming more extroverted!
I tried socializing with my suitemates and sometimes we went out as a suite to restaurants or ventured to new places. Also, since I was spending four months with a roommate, I made the effort to try to get to know them. I got to know them pretty well to the point where she took me to her hometown in Jeonju and let me visit her home and eat with her family.
I got to experience how a Korean family spends their day at home and what they do when visitors come over. Soonchunhyang also has an exchange program where an international student is paired up with nine Korean studies at different times of the week. This was required in order to earn your stipends of at least $100 every two weeks, if I remember correctly.
This program aims to help the Korean natives speak English while in turn allow them to help you with your Korean. They are also there to become your friends. There are also moments where I learned about Korea’s culture by visiting palaces and streets of Seoul where they filmed some famous Korean dramas. South Korea seems like a dream now as I look back. I really want to visit Korea again and see the friends I have made while I was there.
Students should take the opportunity to study abroad whenever the possibility is there in their major. Although it deals with a lot of paperwork and processing to go abroad, it is all worth it when you are there. Take a lot of photos to capture your memories, keep a diary or write a blog of the events that happened, make all the friends and connections you gain there and in turn have them visit your own home country. It is good to keep up with school while you are there but also take the opportunity to go everywhere you can.
If you are in Korea, visit the DMZ, Jeju Island, or if you have enough money even visit Japan, China or wherever that is closest that you have never been to! I would have loved to visit Japan while I was in Korea but due to timing we could only afford to visit Jeju Island, which is still an awesome place to visit, as well! If you want more in-depth stories of my adventures in South Korea, please take a look at my blog: http://www.tumblr.com/search/heysayjeskuhkorea
Photo by Jessuca Kimiyo Bragg.