Hi all! It’s Celeste again, writing to you one last time from Seoul, South Korea. Coming into this study abroad trip, my friends and I were all in agreement over one thing: we only had one semester (FOUR months!) to make this trip count. Although four months seemed like an incredibly long time to do everything we wanted, we all knew the days would go by faster than we planned them to.
Fast forward to late November, and all of us were feeling the pressure. We were approaching our last month in Korea, and there was still so much we hadn’t done. There were places we wanted to see, food we wanted to eat, things we wanted to do. But there wouldn’t be enough time, not with our schedules. We’ve been stressing over this every time we meet up, lamenting over the passing time. We continue to ask ourselves the dreaded question: “What are you going to do during your last days here?”
I’m now writing this with less than a week left in Korea. I start finals tomorrow, which ties up half my schedule. I haven’t finished buying souvenirs yet, and still have some things I need to buy for myself before leaving. Not to mention I’ll have to pack and be out of the dorm the day after finals are over. So yes, I’m feeling the heat.
But at the same time, I’m not the type of person who believes in stressing yourself out. I’ve been thinking for a long time about what I want out of this study abroad trip. I’ve had such a fulfilling semester full of fun memories and opportunities I thought I’d never receive. I’ve grown a lot, I’ve learned more, and I’ve experienced a different lifestyle. And even though I haven’t visited a lot of the places I wanted to go to, I’m not worried about it. I’ve led a really good life here, so now I’m focused on making the most out of my last days by doing things that are really meaningful to me.
Despite spending a semester here, I haven’t yet visited some of the most iconic places in Seoul: Namsan Tower, Gyeongbokgung Palace, and Bukchon Hanok Village, to name a few. You may ask: how have you spent four months here and not gone to the biggest tourist attractions in Seoul? Frankly speaking, I don’t really know—I just haven’t gotten around to it. And honestly, I don’t plan on going to these places with the little time I have left. Some people I know want to cram their must-see spots into these last few moments, but I find it too hectic. I just want to relax and have fun.
One point that I want to get across is this: we’re not here on vacation. We’re students and have obligations to our school for assignments and extracurricular activities. On top of doing schoolwork, we can’t go out during every free moment because it’s simply too exhausting and we need breaks, too. So we have to balance our time and do the things we most want to do.
This is why I’ve spent an incredible amount of time in Gangnam for the past few weeks, specifically my favorite neighborhoods of Samseong-dong, Cheongdam-dong, and Apgujeong-dong, in that order. Whenever I have free time, I’m probably in Gangnam doing something, even if it’s just sitting in a cafe and studying. Despite it being nearly an hour away, it’s where I feel most happy, so I’ll gladly make the trip even for mundane activities. Although I’ve been there many times already and have seen all there is to see, I love immersing myself in the atmosphere and just enjoying the present moment.
One last thing: we can always be tourists. I can always come back to Korea and do the things I missed out on during this trip. I can see the sights, take lots of pictures, and go around and eat great food. That’s why I’m not worried about what I’ve missed out on while here, because I can still come back and have the same experience. But how often do you get the opportunity to sit in the massive Starfield Library for a few hours, reading a book or a magazine? How often can you unwind by the Han River, watching a special fireworks show with your friends? How often can you lie down on colorful chaises and admire the architecture at DDP, listening to a talented stranger play a piece on the public piano?
My advice to you is to slow down and do the things you most enjoy during your study abroad trip. Don’t feel pressured to do everything, because the reality is, you can’t. Fill your time with your favorite people and your favorite places, and I guarantee that you’ll feel satisfied knowing you made the most of your trip.
Celeste Oon is a 2019 Global Ambassador majoring in linguistics and East Asian studies. Celeste is studying at Korea University in Seoul, South Korea.
Don’t get left behind. Read more about Celeste’s experience in Korea>>