Why did you decide to study abroad?
I decided to study abroad because I've always dreamed of going to Korea ever since I was exposed to its pop culture in high school by a friend. I chose to study abroad so that I could practice my linguistic skills and get to experience the average life on a young adult there to compare it to the American life I was used to. My influence stemmed from my interest in a Korean band, CNBLUE. I wanted to understand their language and attend concerts in their home country, so getting to do that and see how my language skills helped me make friends and understand what they were saying made me realize that I love studying the Asian region.
How did you pay for your study abroad experience?
I was able to afford study abroad through the scholarships I received and financial aid. I was able to receive 6 scholarships so that funded my trip. The scholarships I was awarded were the Gilman International Scholarship, UCLA EAP Global Community Scholarship, Kramer Scholarship, Overseas Ambassador Scholarship, Duttenhaver and Dan Wise Scholarship, and the Promise Award.
What is one thing you wish you would have known about studying abroad before you left?
I wish I would have known more about the public transportation and taken the subway instead of a taxi when I arrived to have saved more money. I also wish I would have known how to buy concert tickets on Korean websites earlier rather than half-way though my study abroad program. My advice to students thinking about going abroad is to do a thorough research on your country and watch youtube videos to know what you can do and where to go so that it will be easier once you arrive. Also, exchange some money before you go (ahead of time, not last minute like I had done).
Did you experience any discrimination abroad because of your race, sex, religion, sexual orientation or a physical disability? If so, what did you learn from the experience?
I identify myself as Guatemalan-American, and was proud to educate Koreans on the diverse population of America. I didn't face much discrimination, but when I have, it was mostly because I was a foreigner. South Korea is a very homogenous society, so I understand how uncomfortable or unknown it can be to the older generation of Korea. What I've learned from that experience is just to not say anything an just brush it off. Its a cultural thing to not question or talk back to an elder, so I can't do either of those. If anything, when I meet elder people, I try to speak with them and let them know about me and my identity, which thankfully, many admire,
How has studying abroad benefited you, personally and academically?
Personally, my time in Korea helped me experience the social life of an average young adult. Compared to America, there is so much freedom and different places you can go to. You can plan random trips anywhere because everything is accessible due to its advanced public transportation. It gave me insight as to how Korean people think and act, as well as how it seeps into their daily life and routines. Academically, I was able to improve my reading and writing skills in Korean, which were not that great before. I can read at a faster pace and understand more than I used to in conversations. I also took a Korean writing course and practiced my language skills everyday, which helped me retain what I learned a lot more faster. Overall, it was an experience I needed to help me understand what I had learned before taking this trip.
Any additional comments or thoughts that you have about your study abroad experience
Overall, if you can do it, go for it! Studying abroad helped me realize that I chose the right career path and major. It made me reaffirm my career aspirations and helped me grow as an individual.