1. What’s it like to live and study in another country?
In the beginning everything feels different and you look around trying to get used to the place but it is hard, especially when you study abroad without any friends. The food is different, in some cases you become frustrated because the language might be different. However, with time you learn the basic language skills that can take you around, you get used to that place, sometimes you walk like it is not a foreign country anymore, you become part of the culture, you get adapted to their way of living. For me, after a while my host country became a second home, from which I did not want to leave. Sometimes you get culture shock but at the same time you are glad that you are learning about their country.
2. What are classes like?
I took many classes with Korean students who did not speak any English however most of the classes were bilingual in which the professor or a student had to translate the class to the international students. In the beginning it was overwhelming because literally all you could hear was Korean, but as time went by it got less overwhelming, you still feel uncomfortable, but it was not the worse thing.
3. What is it like getting to know new people from a different culture?
Since South Korea is really different from any other country I have been to, sometimes it was more like a culture shock everytime I used to talk about my Dominican culture and my life in the USA. However, I never received any type of discrimination from Koreans, they were really understanding and welcoming. So I never felt less than them. It was really a unique experience knowing about their culture and rituals in certain holydays. Some of them felt curious about my culture and the way I am physically.
4. What else was enjoyable about your experience?
For me every little minute that I spent in South Korea was precious and enjoyable, but I participated in some trips that the school organized, such as going to different palaces where kings used to have parties and live. We also went to different Buddhist temples and learned about their stories. I went to a traditional town in Korea where I got to experience and celebrate the Korean thanksgiving called Chuseok. I also went to Tokyo, Japan and Bangkok, Thailand and experienced their culture especially in Thailand where I got to stay for two weeks and their Buddhist culture. In addition, I completed 50 hours of community service in South Korea, where I worked along with people with disabilities. It was of the most eye opening experience.
5. What about family and friends back home?
At the beginning I used to be home sick and miss my friends a lot, but as the time went by I used to miss them but not as much because I knew I would go back home and see them. I used to call them regularly and my friends used to text me to see how I was doing. I will always appreciate that my friends were there for me during my whole journey. Not only friends and family were there for me, but also my family from EOP who were always checking up on me.
6. Saying goodbyes and returning home?
When it was the checking out time from the dormitory I was feeling okay because I still had to go to Thailand with my friends. I said goodbyes to other friends but in my mind I had the idea that I was just going on a trip to Thailand and coming back to them. However, when I came back from Thailand to Seoul I was starting to realize that it was really over, especially when I had to go sleep alone in the guesthouse. When I was at the airport in Seoul I got really emotional and the only thing that helped me was to sleep a lot during the fourteen hour flight. As of right now, I still feel that I want to go back. I have not got use to being back here to my life and the way I see it I believe that my study abroad program was like a dream and this is my reality now. I am glad to be back home but at the same time I wish I can go back and have many other experiences with my international group in that beautiful country. Just a few months ago I was in the country I dreamed to travel to for eleven years and now I’m back here. Surreal.