Alumni Spotlight: Samantha Viacrusis

Stories that Shaped Us: A Life-Long Love of Travel

Samantha Viacrusis is an ISA Seoul* alumna and an ISA/TEAN Global Ambassador at the University of Louisville who continued her curiosity and love of different cultures and travel during her semester abroad in South Korea in Fall 2021!

We reached out to learn more about why she chose to go abroad with ISA South Korea* and how this experience continues to impact her today after returning home to the US. Check out her story below and hear her tips for others wanting to follow a similar path!

*: ISA’s Asia and Pacific programs are operated by our partner division within WorldStrides, TEAN, who has over 25 years of experience in the region.

Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul, South Korea

When did your passion for travel and exploring other cultures begin?

Growing up, I was exposed to a variety of different cultures. I was actually born in the Philippines and moved to the United States at 13 years old. My family always told stories about their experiences traveling to different places, and in the Philippines there are a variety of imported goods and media from neighboring countries. So I have always made it a goal to be able to travel and learn more about different cultures – especially ones I grew up hearing about and seeing online.

What inspired you to study abroad in South Korea?

“I SEOUL U” sign at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) in Seoul

Going back to my story about being exposed to different cultures, South Korea is actually one of the places I am familiar with. Because of that familiarity, I have always dreamed of going to South Korea. I have always thought the history of the country was very interesting and wanted to learn more about it. I am also passionate about skincare, and K-Beauty is well-known everywhere. However, I actually never thought of studying abroad in South Korea until last year. It was not until a friend suggested it to me that I realized that I want to know so much more about the country, and then I decided to go!

What did you learn about yourself through these experiences and how did your time abroad impact your understanding of the world?

Through this experience, I learned more about myself, including how to become more independent and easy-going. I have always thought of myself as independent, but on this trip I realized that I actually rely on my family a lot. My first week out of quarantine, I called my mom a lot for guidance and after that, I gradually learned plenty of life skills. During my time in South Korea, I realized how important it is to preserve history and culture and it was amazing to see how new and old are continuously being integrated in the country. I think doing so makes people more familiar with where these influences come from, and it has inspired me to pursue learning more about other countries’ history and customs – not just ones I am interested in.

What were some highlights of your time in South Korea? 

During the start of the pandemic, I realized that it was hard for me to stay engaged in my room because I would always get tired and because my classes were all online. To remedy that, I decided to do all of my classwork outside my dorm and I went café hopping! South Korea has a variety of cafés – each with their own theme! Seoul alone has over 18,000 cafés and most of my days were spent in different ones. This was a highlight for me because I was able to visit beautiful places and taste different drinks and desserts (if it is not obvious by now, I have a caffeine addiction). It also allowed me to spend time with friends and just enjoy my day.

Another big highlight was day trips! I went to neighboring cities around Seoul and did what was recommended by friends and locals. A favorite day trip of mine was in Suwon, where my friends and I visited Hwaseong Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site! The city was beautiful and the locals were very kind and helpful. A must-visit if you ever go.

What are you up to now? How has studying abroad played a role in this?

I work for my university’s International Students and Scholars Services – so I have been involved with study abroad all this time, but it’s on the opposite side! We help international students and researchers get settled in the US. We are pretty much their first contact in the country and assist them with the papers they need (Social Security, Driver’s Licenses, etc.). After my study abroad experience, I became more passionate about all things study abroad and was trying to tell everyone around me to go study abroad too. Because of this, I applied to ISA/TEAN’s Global Ambassador Program to share my experience and to help other students get a head start on the process!

Inspired by Samantha’s journey and want to discover your own while immersing yourself in a study abroad program? Fill out your details below to let our team know and we’ll help you find your next adventure today!

Author: International Studies Abroad (ISA)

Since 1987, International Studies Abroad (ISA) has provided college students in the United States and Canada the opportunity to explore the world. ISA offers a wide variety of study abroad programs at accredited schools and universities in 73 program locations throughout the world.

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