Studying Abroad & Facing Fears

I have a favorite quote and a saying that have really resonated with me.

Bukhansan Mountain

“Comfort zones are overrated, they make you lazy.”

–Kaz Brekker

“Memento Mori”

Latin for, “Remember death” (so live)

When I would talk with people I was working for or other peers in school about study abroad, most said that study abroad was the one thing they regretted not doing (or for those still in school not being able to work into their schedule). For me though, my decision to pursue the unconventional comes from a different fear of sorts. I fear regretting the things I had the means to do and wanted to do but just didn’t because of some unmentioned factor. On a personal level, this realization came to me when a close relative passed away unexpectedly with a big lists of things they wanted to do, that were never done. That was my “wake up call” of sorts that has been re-affirmed by countless others these last four years of college.

Doing anything new can cause some degree of fear. However, we shouldn’t let the fear of not knowing how everything little thing is going to work out stop us from doing what we want. What you study is a choice. What your job is is a choice. What you let fear stop you from doing is a choice. I think that how we handle that fear is what separates an individual from conforming to the standards of life or being afraid but unconventional anyway.


Before coming to Seoul, whenever it came up in conversation that I was going to study abroad not for the first time but for the second, I was often met with several questions. Most were along the lines of “Again? Didn’t you get it [traveling] out of your system the first time?’ or “That isn’t [moving abroad] a decision to take lightly” or “Isn’t it scary going somewhere where you don’t truly know the culture, language, and customs?”. For most I think, studying or working abroad seems daunting. That, or it is something that is entirely unattainable for the average person. For me though, saying yes to studying abroad was easy.

Don’t get me wrong, my decision to study abroad once, and then again for a second time wasn’t entirely a spur-of-the-moment choice. Lot’s of factors including cost, time commitment, strategic navigating of my home university required classes, etc were weighed out. That being said for me, I have a tendency that once I get something into my head that I want to do, I do it. I do it not because I’m not scared of all the unknowns, but despite them.

Studying abroad, moving abroad, navigating a new culture is scary. It makes you uncomfortable when you can’t figure out how to express what exactly you want at a restaurant. It makes you uncomfortable when you are trying to figure how social cues to successfully navigate in society. It’s not easy, but then again, nothing in life is. A while back I came across a quote.

“Choose your hard.”


I can’t remember who wrote it or where I saw it but the message was that everything is hard in life no matter where you are or what you do. Staying in a job you hate makes your life hard. Not doing the things you want to do makes your life hard because you may be living for someone else. Studying and living abroad is just another type of “hard”. There are good days, there are bad days, and there are days that make you question if it was all worth it. But even better, there are days were you know it was.

I Seoul U

Lauren Kerr is a college student at the University of Tulsa. She is an ISA Featured Blogger and is studying abroad with ISA in Seoul, South Korea.

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