It is now the beginning of November, meaning I have been abroad for a little over two months now, and have a little less than two months left in the semester. I knew going in that the four months was going to fly by, but I didn’t realize just how fast. It is a little unfortunate to think I’m already halfway through my time abroad, because I would stay here for a whole year, if not more, if I could. However, I am grateful for the time that I’ve had so far, of course. Now that I have reached the halfway point of my study abroad experience, I wanted to reflect back on things I’ve learned and discovered and some things that I want to look forward to in the last half.
Past 2 months reflection
Being in a new environment by myself has forced me to develop a new level of independence. You have to be confident in yourself and confident in making mistakes. Making mistakes is inevitable while studying abroad, whether that be you miss the bus stop because you weren’t paying attention, or you accidentally say the wrong thing to the cafe worker, or you find yourself being a public nuisance due to cultural differences. I think it is important to make these kinds of mistakes so you can learn from them. That’s what the entire experience is all about: being exposed to new things and adjusting to them. Despite it all, I love the newfound independence I have gained here. I think it is so much fun to run around and explore by myself.
- FOMO back home
I was not too concerned about having FOMO at my home school, because I knew that my friends would be waiting for me when I got back to update me on everything. Also, I am the type of person to be able to go months without contact and go back to where we were when we meet again, so this might be a personal thing. But I also really understand that FOMO is inevitable. Seeing everyone back home do things you could’ve been doing as well is a bit of a bittersweet feeling. I think it really helps to remember that I can and will be going back and have another year left at school, but these four months that I get abroad is one that I cannot get anytime or anywhere else. My advice is to just keep in touch with your friends, but don’t obsess over what they are doing or what’s going on back home!
- Spending $$$
I did not anticipate all of the little things that I would be spending money on for the first few weeks. Think of it as moving out to a new place, and as you live on, you realize things you need to buy here and there for basic living. For example, trash bags (especially particular in Korea), dehumidifiers, paper towels, and more. Don’t just think about all of the shopping (which is also something to consider heavily when budgeting), and be realistic about how much money you will be spending on just basic life necessities. After a while, the spendings will decrease, but just overall, ask yourself if you really need it or will really use it.
Specifically in my case, because we live in off-campus housing, we don’t have consistent access to the Yonsei cafeteria. This is no problem, though, because there are genuinely so many really delicious and cheap eats wherever you go in Korea. Don’t be afraid to go to those hole-in-the-wall spots, because they will COOK for you. Another thing is, don’t feel like you need to have something special for every meal. Sometimes you just have to go to a convenience store for a quick and delicious ramen run. Nothing wrong with that.
- GO DO THINGS
Some of the best times I’ve had were the ones where I said yes spontaneously or was a little bit unsure about. There were days when I only had one class but it was in the middle of the day, so I thought it was awkward timing to do anything before or after, but you’d be surprised how much you can do around Seoul in a short time. Don’t waste an entire day because you think you don’t have enough time. There are so many little fun things to see and do that won’t necessarily take up the whole day. Also, go do something bigger and longer on free days! Plan day trips to the amusement park, Nami Island, Suwon, etc. So much to explore.
- Keep up in coursework/Do NOT fall behind!
Pretty self explanatory. After midterm season, I am quite burnt out, but that is no excuse to get lazy. It will only keep going until you realize it’s already finals.
- Call/text your friends and family…
I have been guilty of struggling to keep in touch with friends and family back home. Mostly due to time differences and me forgetting to respond to texts, but I want to get better at reaching out again. I know I previously said don’t get too attached to life back home, but it’s still good to let them know that you’re alive and well.
- HEALTH IS WEALTH
With the changing seasons, it’s as if everyone and their moms are getting sick these days, so I want to prioritize my physical and mental health more. After experiencing a week-long sickness myself, I’ve realized how detrimental and frustrating it can be to be bedridden when you just want to go out and eat good food, explore, and travel. Keep taking your vitamins, exercise, eat well, and clean often!
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Kyung Yeon Jang
Walking is my favorite mode of exercise and short-distance transportation when the weather is below 75 degrees. I love sudoku, building Legos, and listening to music! Finding hidden gem food spots is a must for me whenever I go somewhere new!