Stories that Shaped Us: The Intersection of Traditional and Pop Culture in South Korea
Yushi Schieffer is a TEAN Seoul alumna at Augustana University whose experience abroad during Spring 2022 led her to exploring more of the K-pop culture that originally made her want to study abroad in South Korea, while also learning about new aspects of Korean culture.
We reached out to learn more about why she chose to go abroad with TEAN South Korea and how her experience abroad has impacted her long-term. Check out her unique story below and hear her advice for others wanting to follow a similar path!
What inspired you to study abroad, and why did you choose Seoul?
YS: The first time I heard about studying abroad was my first year at my university’s fair. I knew I wanted to do it during my four years of university, but I did not make any plans yet. Sophomore year came, and I was working with the international office at our university, and this was when I learned about other cultures and was encouraged by my advisors to go abroad. I was an ambassador welcoming students from everywhere to America. I wanted to be like them, so young and brave, traveling to a different country to follow their dreams. I thought that was a big step in choosing your path and being an actual college student. I chose South Korea because I started to watch K-dramas (Boys Over Flowers) with my aunt when I was nine years old and listened to K-pop songs with my friends in middle school. I was interested in this country’s great food, fast-growing K-pop industry, and great K-dramas. I also wanted to actually learn proper Korean in a classroom rather than from K-drama scenes. I wanted to see the city and meet more people, so I chose Seoul. Once I saw that Hanyang University had great mathematics and architecture courses, it made me apply.
What was a favorite memory from your time abroad?
YS: There are too many great memories to choose just one, but there is one that I will never forget. In Korean universities, every year, they host a huge festival where they invite various singers, rappers, or/and k-pop groups to perform at the schools. Our school, Hanyang University, invited PSY for the first day, but we could not get tickets and could not see it because there were too many people. It was hosted at an outdoor theater, the staircases were filled, the outer edge/fence area was filled with students, students were inside the buildings trying to see, on top of the balcony, climbing trees and fences, it was just crazy (look at the picture below).
People waited for hours to get tickets and get inside, however, still many students did not get in. My friends and I were trying to see PSY as well because it was once in a lifetime, so we were running up and down different buildings to see if we could get a glimpse of the show. Even security was touched by our actions I guess, so they let us inside the buildings. After all that, sadly, we still did not get to see much and it started to rain hard, so we all just went home. It was crazy to see how hard students were trying to see PSY. It was memorable because we were a big group that shared the same goal to see PSY … it was like we were on a mission.
Do you have a favorite aspect of Korean culture? If so, what was it?
YS: My first response showed how much I love the food and dramas but apart from that, I am really impressed by how respectful Koreans are to elders. I learned that South Korea was influenced by Confucian beliefs and Confucianism supports harmony and respect for elders. The bus and subway have colored seats labeled for elders and pregnant women and no matter how crowded the space gets, people will not sit on it if they do not qualify. Everyone followed the rules. When the seats were full the younger adults would stand up and let the elders sit.
How has your time studying abroad and working with ISA impacted your academic/professional career and goals?
YS: One of the reasons why I chose South Korea was because it had the math classes that I needed to graduate. Hanyang University‘s Applied Mathematics program is ranked 7th in South Korea and has an outstanding architecture department in the top five in the country. I took a class in the architecture department and met some people that helped me change my future career goals. I am glad I got to take an architecture class that I had never done before. I also fulfilled my mathematics and art degree with my courses in South Korea, for which I am also grateful. Throughout my time studying abroad, seeing how hard students work, and meeting so many people who gave genuine advice impacted my decision on choosing the field for my master’s degree.
What would you say to students that are on the fence about studying abroad?
YS: Apply now! Usually, good universities fill up pretty quickly or have an earlier deadline, you won’t want to miss your chance. If you think it is too expensive, there are scholarships like the Gilman you can apply for. If you think you will have more time to think about it just apply first because preparing can take a while. Applying takes time, getting your visa takes time, and making sure your universities accept your courses takes time. I studied my senior year, so it is never too late, but I prefer I did it earlier if I could!
Inspired by Yushi’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 adventure today!