One of the most frequently asked questions I receive is why I chose to go to South Korea for my study abroad program. My background is grounded in Japan and Japanese culture so why would I choose to go somewhere else as an exchange student? There are so many options to choose from in the world. What made South Korea stand out to me? I get the question from other travelers, exchange students, and from Koreans themselves who are intrigued to at the attention their nation is receiving from foreigners.
Here are some of the major things that brought me to South Korea:
- Korean culture caught my eye – I could only get a glimpse from Korean television, and other forms of entertainment…I wanted to know more about this nation that few people in my hometown seem aware of. I have been able to experience the culture first-hand by visiting palaces, museums, and interacting with the cities and towns personally and this has made my trip here one I will never forget
- Korean language – As an international business major with a focus in Asia I want to learn as many foreign languages as possible and study as many markets as possible – coming to Yonsei University allowed me to enroll in Korean language courses not available at my home university and pick up some of the language and although the Korean program here is not really my cup of tea…I can’t deny I learned lots of Korean words and phrases I would have never learned this quickly at home without an instructor or class environment
- I enjoy eating Korean food in Tampa at Korean restaurants – Korean food in Korea is actually quite different in terms of flavor (it is sweeter in the USA), but still interesting nevertheless
- Yonsei University is one of the major universities in South Korea and I wanted to experience a big city life for a change after living in my quiet suburban life in Tampa for so many years – with so many districts such as Sinchon, Hongdae, Gangnam, and Itaewon and an affordable and efficient subway system to connect them I have been able to hit the streets on foot and explore the city as a true Seoulite
- I wanted to make business contacts in South Korea and I believe I have quite successful in acquiring business relationships with several important people in Seoul
- There is no denying the advantage of using the United States dollar in South Korea. Many times things that should have cost me $100 were only $85 or less after converting my dollars into wons. The state of the dollar versus the yen is no secret and I hope someday it improves, but I think surviving a semester in a major city in Japan would be a huge challenge and be very limiting – I have been able to go out dining, partying, and fully been able to enjoy myself here in ways I couldn’t even enjoy myself at home in Florida
- My Yonsei friends I made at home made a big impact on me and actually made me think about Yonsei University as my choice school. Cool, collected, and social-able; all the good times we had in Tampa inspired me to head to Korea and meet other native Koreans and I have indeed many Korean friends in Seoul during my stay
That concludes most of the major reasons that brought me out to South Korea for my study abroad program. I still have another month and a half in South Korea before I head back home to Tampa. One thing I realized while starting a new language here was just how much Japanese I know. I’ve decided to go home and intensively study my Japanese and head to Japan next summer for an intensive language program so I can be at a high level before I graduate from USF.
Meeting other travelers here with many dreams like myself has been a big inspiration. Many of them are planning to build their lives here or make future trips and I feel inspired to make my dreams happen as well. Of course, the journey is the reward and the best thing about studying abroad has been meeting so many amazing and open-minded people from around the world. I hope one day fate will bring us back into the same path again after this program comes to an end.