It’s a statement you’ve probably heard at least once during your time at UT Austin. From the campus tour to orientation, I recall at least a dozen times during my first year alone where I was told that studying abroad would CHANGE MY LIFE. Now, it’s the fall semester of my last year ‘on’ the Forty Acres, and I am on the other side of the world taking classes online.
My name is Kevin Lee, and I am a senior majoring in Government, International Relations & Global Studies, and Asian Studies. I am currently an exchange student at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea. Yonsei University is one of Korea’s prestigious universities, and it is centrally located in a sprawling metropolis of about 10 million people—about 1.5 million more than New York City.
Located in the Sinchon neighborhood, Yonsei University is surrounded by more restaurants and stores than you could possibly hope to check out in one semester. Although I had the pleasure of exploring some of Sinchon during the past few weeks, when I first arrived in Korea, I had to quarantine for two weeks in the school dorm.
Currently, almost everyone entering the country has to complete a two-week quarantine. So, for two weeks, I was confined to my room. During my quarantine, I had to check in twice a day on a government app that constantly tracked my location. Luckily, my ‘imprisonment’ was slightly eased by the delicious food delivered to my doorstep for every meal. Needless to say, I was quite jubilant to finally step out of my room when the quarantine period ended.
As for my classes, like many of you, I am attending my lectures online. At least until midterms, my studies will all be conducted digitally. Because I am not physically interacting with my classmates, you might think I am missing out on one of the cornerstones of studying abroad: meeting new people. However, that is not entirely true. While it is difficult to organically meet the Korean students since there are no club activities, I am meeting new exchange students from around the world every day. Because I live in the school’s international dorm, a simple hello in the elevator leads to a new friend to have dinner with that evening. New group chats and fun experiences are made every day, and all it requires is for me to open myself up a little bit to some friendly strangers.
It has been about a month since I arrived in Korea, and so far, my overall experience has been positive. By the conclusion of these blog posts, I will tell you whether the study abroad experience ultimately lives up to the hype. I hope you will follow these blog posts and my periodic takeovers on the @texasglobalabroad Instagram Stories. Please try not to drool on your devices when you see the delicious food I’m eating. And, as always, hook ‘em!