Stories that Shaped Us: Going and Growing Abroad in a Pandemic
Angela Kingsbury is an ISA Seoul* alumna and a ISA/TEAN Global Ambassador whose experience going abroad during a pandemic changed her view of the world and of herself.
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, even after her return home. 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.
When did your passion for travel and exploring other cultures begin?
I have loved to travel for as long as I can remember. I took my first big solo trip to
London and Paris when I was 14, and ever since then I have been traveling
internationally whenever I have the chance. I wanted to study abroad in Seoul
because I had never been to Asia before and had no idea what to expect. I like being
pushed outside of my comfort zone, and traveling to a new continent by myself definitely
did that. I also knew that if I didn’t study abroad in Seoul, I probably wouldn’t have
gotten the opportunity to go again.
What was it like studying abroad during the pandemic? What were some
challenges you faced related to this and how did you overcome them?
Studying abroad during the pandemic made traveling and packing a little more stressful with having to plan around testing and restrictions, but I definitely felt really safe in Seoul. The challenges with COVID forced me to be prepared and flexible, because sometimes, not everything went as planned – for example, some museums were unexpectedly closed and the government rules changed pretty often. There were restrictions on businesses and private gatherings but I was still able to do almost everything that was on my bucket list. Since there was a mandatory quarantine when entering South Korea, I was not able to visit surrounding counties, but that gave me the opportunity to explore South Korea
outside of Seoul more in-depth. I was able to go paragliding in Danyang, eat moving octopus in Busan, and swim in a waterfall in Jeju.
What did you learn about yourself through these experiences and how did your
time abroad impact your understanding of the world?
I learned so much about what I like and don’t like, and about my personality type. I
became much more independent by going out to eat alone, which I actually enjoyed. I also have a new respect for other cultures, which I was able to practice by paying my respects at temples in South Korea. It was very interesting to learn about history, economics, and politics from a point of view that was totally different than what I grew up with. Now, I feel more knowledgeable about the world and how people from other cultures view Americans and why. Studying abroad during a pandemic was a learning experience because I had to adapt to any sort of change and it made me more grateful and positive overall.
What were some of your favorite excursions?
I did so many amazing things while in South Korea. My friends and I visited
the Boseong green tea fields and had some interesting matcha-flavored foods like
churros and bibimbap. We also ziplined to Nami Island and rode tandem bikes around
the whole island! I really enjoyed learning about Korean history and culture, and I would
have to say my favorite excursion was visiting the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ),
which is the border barrier between North and South Korea. During the trip, I was able
to enter the third infiltration tunnel that was created by supposedly created by North
Korea for a surprise attack on Seoul.
What are you up to now? What are your plans for after graduation?
I am now an ISA/TEAN Global Ambassador, and I help other students have an amazing
experience like I did studying abroad. I also have met international students that attend
my home university and was able to hear their stories and perspectives, as well as connect with them better since I had been in their shoes. I still keep in touch with my amazing friends from South Korea and my study abroad program. And, after studying abroad, I have realized that I would like to work abroad after graduation. I don’t have a solid plan yet, but I have considered teaching English, doing research, or becoming a flight attendant.
Inspired by Angela’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!