It was an unfamiliar experience to be in a foreign country for the first time, during a pandemic nonetheless, but it helped me to able to experience the world beyond the borders of my own country. The moment I stepped foot off of the plane in Seoul, I didn’t feel far away, even though I was in fact the farthest away from home that I have ever been. It may have been the excitement, or maybe just my own ability to adapt, but the feeling of home that first washed over me after stepping off of the plane never went away after day one. I know that the study abroad experience isn’t always that way for everyone, but it sure was for me. Though the pandemic threw some extra complications into the mix, I wouldn’t change my study abroad experience, not even the two week quarantine, for anything.
During my time in South Korea, I experienced a lot of personal growth and gained a larged amount of independence. Seoul is the largest city that I’ve ever lived in, which was intimidating at first. Learning to navigate the city via the network of the metro, taxis, and buses was very much a learning experience, but it made me much more confident in myself and made me much more able to adapt to small challenges that inevitably popped up during my time in Seoul. Becoming more adaptable and more independent are skills that will carry far into my future career and into the rest of my life as well. Life in a big city has made me so excited about the world around me, especially to learn about how other people live in a city as big as this, and I’ve become a better and more understanding person because of it.
I learned so much about Korean culture through my activities and classes alike. In class, I got to learn about the history of Korea in my Mass Media & Pop Culture class, and how these historical events affected media & culture within Korea. It was so cool to be able to take the history I was learning in the classroom and learn even more by going to sights such as the Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul. It was great to get to see the actual places we were discussing in class. Going to these historical sites was one of my favorite parts of my experience and gave me memories that I will never forget for the rest of my life. As well as the historical sites, experiencing the country through food and interactions with locals made my experience incredible! I met so many kind and welcoming people during my time here, and got to eat at some incredible local and family-owned restaurants around the city, and to get to have some street food! Bonding with my fellow students through all of these experiences was incredible, and I know I have friends that I’ll have for life. The experiences I had in Korea, both the good and the bad, shaped me and made me the person that I have always wished to become.
Kelsey Eihausen is a student at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. She is an ISA Identity & Inclusion Blogger and studied abroad with ISA in Seoul, South Korea.