I honestly can’t believe I’m back home. When the plane touched down in Frankfurt and I was finally in Europe, I felt weird. It is then that it hit me that my South Korean adventure was over. Last four months have been absolutely amazing and I’ve enjoyed every single bit of it: Trips, friendships, food, classes, culture, history, tradition, but also sleepless nights I spent with the people that have made my last semester as great as it possibly gets.
The morning I left Korea I said goodbye to the people I shared so much with over the past four months; people I got to know so well in such a short period; people I hope to stay in touch despite the fact I won’t be seeing them on a daily basis any longer. Choosing South Korea as my study abroad location for the spring semester was a great decision, no doubt about that. In fall 2012 I studied abroad in Sweden and I already had what I thought to be the best semester yet. When I decided to go to Korea in spring instead of staying in Sweden for a year many were surprised especially since they knew how much I came to love Sweden and my experience there. To be honest, I was very anxious to see how my semester in Asia would turn out to be. I choose a country I knew almost nothing about and didn’t speak the language, but also a country that was so different compared to my previous experiences. The beginning was rough: Getting used to the new culture where modernity and tradition meet, making new friends, getting used to the new system of classes and teaching style – it was all a challenge. I was, however, more than happy to embrace that challenge and make the best out of it.
It was the embracing the unknown and enjoying the adventure that made my semester in Korea so amazing. Oftentimes I’m asked whether I liked Sweden more than Korea. To be honest, I like them both equally! The two semesters I had were so much different in so many ways and yet they were both so amazing. Each was the best in its own way. I find it amazing how much I’ve grown over the past year I spent abroad and how this year came to shape my personality in a slightly different way than before. I am more self aware of the world, more patient, more flexible and easy to adapt, but I’m also richer for so many new experiences and amazing memories.
My semester in Korea will always be one of the most amazing experiences in my life. I got to live in a big city of 10.6 million people, try all these different dishes, experience Korean and Asian culture firsthand, and travel. I also find it fascinating how little I knew about Korea before going there and how much I know now: All my classes were focused on Korea and I learned a lot about this country socially, historically, demographically, economically, as well as about the relations between Korea and other countries. The best thing was learning about the country and then seeing it all unfold in front of my eyes: I would learn something about Korean history and a short subway ride would take me to a museum that would add colors to the pictures in my head. I really enjoyed that kind of learning.
Discovering Korea was also amazing: I got to travel all around Seoul, Incheon, Muuido Island, Busan, Jeju Island. All of these places gave me a different perception of Korea that together formed a perfect image about the country I had such a hard time leaving.
A week-long trip to Cambodia was undoubtedly one of the most amazing things I ever have – and possibly ever will – experience. This country in the southeastern Asia with high temperatures and humid air was something I’ve never seen before: Riding elephants, admiring centuries old temples, riding tuk-tuks, and exploring the part of the world I never even thought of visiting. Visit to Cambodia is definitely one of the highlights of my year abroad. Actually, this entire year has been one big highlight and I am so happy I took the chance to spend it abroad.
Possibly the most important part of the semester in Korea are the people I met: My core group of friends, my classmates, my roommate, my Korean friends, my mentor, my language exchange partner, all of them are a reason behind everything great that happened in Korea. Now I know I have friends all over the world, friends I can rely on even if I’ve known them for merely four months. That is the beauty of the study abroad – people bond and create friendships really fast. But that is also the saddest part of it all: Leaving is so much harder when you know that you might never again see some of the amazing people you met. It is all, nonetheless, an important aspect of study abroad.
I can only wholeheartedly recommend Yonsei University and South Korea to any student interested in study abroad. Regardless of your major (Yonsei is a big university and it offers classes in English in a wide range of subjects), weather preference (it can be both hot and cold in Seoul), or size of the city (Seoul is a big city, but you can always find that little street or the part of the city that will just about fit your preferences) Korea won’t disappoint. I promise. I was very skeptical in the beginning and now I can’t wait to visit Korea again. So many great things await students and visitors in this city: Technology is everywhere, cafes too, the food is amazing, it is easy to travel around (just make sure you get a T-Money card and the subway is all yours to explore and use), people are so warm and hospitable, culture and tradition is breathtaking.
I will miss you Korea. Actually, I already do.