Studying Abroad from My Study Abroad

Hyunmin Kim
January 13, 2019

I am an international student from South Korea, studying abroad in the United States. In just a few hours, I leave for Vienna and will start studying abroad from my study abroad. As I write this post, I will try to explain to you (and to myself) why I decided to take on this Inception-esque journey that would probably not help me professionally at all (I’m a math-music major, but mostly math). 

At first, studying abroad in Vienna was not a reasonable choice at all. Not only was I already studying abroad in the United States; but the past two years I spent studying abroad in the United States were actually quite painful. I had to start using a different language on a daily basis, work with different social norms, and worry about things that I never would have, had I stayed home (for example, I never had to think about my ethnicity until I came to U.S.; and I never thought I would not be given opportunities because of my citizenship status). I had never been so chronically tired in my life, and I had never cried so much in such a short period. It really hurts to admit this, but many times I regretted my rash decision to leave everything behind and chase this vague dream of “seeing the bigger world.” 

So why in the world am I making the same dumb decision? 

Learning about myself is addictive

During the 2.5 years that I spent in the States, I didn’t just learn the English language and the one-of-a-kind American culture. I surprisingly learned so much about myself. I laugh at my high school self for thinking that I know myself well. Every single day I experienced fascination and fear, connection and disconnection, moments of joy and those of total despair. Sometimes I feel like we’re all same, good people; other times I couldn’t contain myself at how horrendous, biased, and dumb people are. The experience has given me so much pain and vulnerability, but the process of scarring myself a little and growing up a little—it’s weirdly addictive. I had *bad* times, but if you give me a choice to go back two years, I would make the exact same choice in a heartbeat. It’s a little masochistic and extremely self-centered, but hey, I can only navigate this life from my own perspective.

I really, really need to teach myself how to chill

After coming to college, I forgot what it is like to be driven by joy and passion. Of course, I am majoring in two things I genuinely love — mathematics and music. However, my college life has been a never-ending repetition of going to classes, completing assignments, worrying about my future, and breaking my day into minutes to get all of these things done. It was pure curiosity and excitement that brought me to study abroad in the States, but as time passed, I lost my drive and my life in college slowly filled with more routine and anxiety. Meanwhile, I was also realizing that I’m not the best student, best friend, best musician, best whatever. I was told that life was not about being the best but about being one's self. But hey, I am also a mere 21-year-old who had been brought up in a culture of comparison and competition. People say one thing but show me otherwise. The transition was hard, and it is still hard. So my decision to study abroad in Vienna was kind of an inevitable one, an emergency prescription of sort. I just needed to pull myself out of that bubble of anxiety and show myself that there are other kinds of lives.

“I used to be so paranoid about checking the time, getting my work done, and pleasing the wrong people. But in Vienna, this guy**shakes her smartphone** stayed in.my.bag. It’s so liberating. You really learn how to be generous.”

I talked to Sophie, a friend from my college who went to Vienna last spring. I always wondered how she could be so chill and organized and driven while being a pre-med student in one of the toughest colleges in the States. Turns out that she learned a lot of that in Vienna. As I was writing this post, I found myself already making a list of things that I have to do, to strap myself into a routine as soon as possible (**laughs at myself**). Okay, I scratched all of that. I think I’m ready to go. Let’s see what happens to me in Vienna…

 

 

 

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Hyunmin Kim

<p class="MsoBodyText" style="margin-top:.4pt; margin-right:20.45pt; margin-bottom:.0001pt; margin-left:5.5pt"><span style="line-height:103%">I am a liberal arts student majoring in mathematics and music. I play the piano and occasionally compose and orchestrate. Some would say it's blasphemy, but I love listening to pop music and I stand by it!</span></p><p class="MsoBodyText" style="margin-top:.3pt">&nbsp;</p>

Program:
Destination:
Term:
2019 Spring
Home university:
Grinnell College
Hometown:
Grinnell, IA
Major:
Mathematics
Music
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