Horns meet World. World meet Jessica Chen. Jessica studied abroad the summer before her senior year, and is majoring in Public Health. Although she wasn’t gone very long, her experience was one to remember. Here is what she has to say about it.
My glasses fogged as I peered into my soondubu jigae –soft tofu soup – my favorite. It was my last meal in Seoul after spending two months in Asia for my study abroad program, Korea University International Summer Campus (KU ISC).
In the mornings where I forgot to close the curtains, I woke up to the 4am summer sun shining into my room. I was staying in a frontier dormitory, situated at the top of a massive hill, towering over Anam-ro, where the edge of Korea University began. Each day on my way to class, I walked past the two sisters who owned the laundromat, paid 3000 won to the cashier at GS25 for bread, and sipped on my vanilla latte for a daily dose of caffeine. After my first class day, I decided to go to the train station to explore my new home.
Trains are the go-to transportation in Korea. They are fast, reliable, and pretty much accessible everywhere. Once I got to the station, I found myself taken aback when faced with a rail map since most people usually drive in Austin. While I was looking at the map, I began to realize how utterly lost and confused I was. Luckily, with modern technology, pocket WiFi, and a battery power mobile router, I was able to navigate the train and bus stations using Korean rail apps like “Seoul Subway”. I ended up taking a train everywhere I traveled.
Also, if you think Austin is humid, Seoul was ten times more humid than Austin. But the heat didn’t deter me from exploring precious treasures like Myeong-dong, Dongdameun, Hongdae, Itaewon, and more! Vendors lined each corner, shopping centers and tall buildings appeared endlessly along the skyline, and best of all, the scent of street food always lingered in the air.
My favorite part about studying abroad was eating. Seoul offered an endless amount of Korean barbecue, Korean fried chicken, binsoo, ramen, tteokbokki, and street food. Many standard Korean dishes were comprised of rice, a protein (beef, pork, or seafood), and side dishes that ranged from bean sprouts to acorn jelly. Coffee shops are especially popular in Seoul. Whether it was the setting, range of tastes in drink selection, or décor, each coffee shop was unique in its own way, unlike standardized Starbucks in America.
Most of time, I ate so much I would end up falling asleep on the train ride back home!
Overall, I had a wonderful experience in Korea. I was able to leave my bubble here in Austin to travel over 11,000 km away to a country that was completely unfamiliar to me. Whether it was hiking through Mt. Bukhansen, riding a bike along the Han River in the evening, or relaxing in a jimjilbang, I was always able to appreciate the fact that I could walk and wander into areas not on the Top Ten Things to Do list from Trip Advisor. I had the freedom to take my time, enveloping myself in every situation. I felt like after each place I visited or activity I did, I was constantly redefining myself in the process. Even though the program wasn’t that long, 6 weeks was enough time for me to lose myself and find my Seoul.
If Jessica’s experience has moved you to find yourself abroad, meet with a peer advisor as soon as possible. To see what other students had to say about their internships abroad, keep checking out our blog! Stay tuned to see where our Horns pop up next.