My Thoughts During the Flight Home

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Riana Santos
December 30, 2023

Studying abroad has always been a dream of mine since I was young. I’ve wanted to experience what it would be like living in another country, learning about a culture entirely different from mine and/or picking up a new language. As I’m on my way back to the United States, I can say that I’m extremely grateful to friends, family, and study abroad staff for the opportunity that I had in South Korea.

I really didn’t know what to expect from studying abroad. I always heard that it was a “life-changing experience” or a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” but I never knew what that actually meant. I’d say studying abroad changed my life by pushing me to grow in so many different areas of my life. It was a special opportunity because when am I ever going to be in my twenties again spending time with new friends and trying something new every week? When am I going to be adventurous and explore an entirely new country again for months at a time? There’s a reason why so many people recommend studying abroad in college.

I came into the program knowing only a few friendly faces and a bit of Hangul. Now I’m leaving with tons of fun memories, better Korean skills, and many more new friends. With most of the IES Abroad cohort being from the same home university, I’m excited to come back and see more friendly faces around. On the other hand, for the friends who attend different colleges, leaving Seoul was really bittersweet. If they’re reading this, I hope we meet again soon, and I’ll never forget the times we spent together :)

Being abroad has caused me to grow in so many ways. For starters, I’m more independent and confident in my capabilities than I was before coming to South Korea. I took my first trips exploring areas of Seoul by myself as well as challenged myself to try blogging for the first time. I’m walking away with better insight into myself. I picked up new ways to study and found areas in myself that I want to improve. Having lived a completely different school and personal life than before, I feel like I have a better idea of what I want my life to look like in the future too!

The biggest takeaway I have from studying abroad is to keep working hard toward my dreams and goals. Be specific about what achieving those dreams look like and what I hope to get out of achieving them. Be intentional and don’t be afraid to push myself out of my own comfort zone. Who knows what positive experience or growth can happen? Though I’m excited to come back home to old friends and family, I’ll definitely miss the study abroad experience. The reverse culture shock and sadness from leaving hasn’t hit me yet, but I’ll hold onto hope for the next time I can visit again. I know South Korea will always have a special place in my heart and I can’t wait for the next adventure I go on, whether it’s abroad or at home!!

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