Why Korea and not China, Japan, or [insert popular European destination]?

Well I never had any interest in studying abroad in Europe to begin with (being an Asian Studies major certainly doesn’t help). New Zealand was probably the only non-Asian country that I was considering for study abroad, but it is geographically near Asia and some of the universities have diverse Asia and Pacific Islander-related programs such as the University of Auckland. (Not to mention the beautiful greenery.) As for China, I imagined it as more of a vacation/wedding anniversary type of trip, aka a short term trip. Not that I have anything against China (I have read articles and taken classes on it), but it hasn’t captured my attention the way that Japan or Korea have.

Admittedly, deciding to go to Korea was a spur of the moment thing; originally I wanted to split the year between Japan and Korea in some sort of appeasement scheme. My 日本語の先生 (nihongo no sensei; Japanese teacher) had expressed such faith in me and my skills in the language that I was afraid of disappointing her if I didn’t go to Japan at all (nevermind that I had already been there for 2 weeks in summer ’09). But then I thought about how difficult it would be to spend 4 months in one country and just as I would be getting acclimated to life there having to pack up and move to country number 2. So I asked God for help and guidance (I was Christian at the time). He told me to go to Korea and I instantly felt better. I still love Japan (they say that you never forget your first love) , but I can always pick up Japanese again when I return to USF or listen to my substantial Japanese song collection. And judging from the international student list there are a lot of Japanese students going to Sogang so I can always make a few new friends.

When it comes down to it, I wanted to learn more about Korea itself firsthand. At USF there is no Korean language program. No Korea concentration in the Asian Studies major. There is not even one course offering entirely devoted to Korea. Anytime I wanted to get the Korean side of the story I had to inject it into my term papers. And as I researched for each term paper that was partially or completely devoted to Korea (four to date or one for each semester that I’ve been at USF so far), I had a burning desire to explore the country that had been neglected in favor of its more influential neighbors. Add that to the emergence of Christianity as the country’s most popular religion in an area of the world that is a Confucian stronghold and I had to go.  So far, I don’t regret my decision.

Korea?! That’s so far! How does your mother feel about you going so far away?

I think she feels about the same when I decided to go to school in California; the only difference is that I don’t have any family members in Korea. Luckily I have contacts both inside and outside of Korea who either can help me when I’m there or can tell me what to expect.

Can anyone do black hair in Korea?

I highly recommend Family Hair-the 아줌마s there speak English and my hair came out really well- they do relaxers, weaves, braids, etc. For you non-black readers out there, you can still get your hair done here! They accept all kinds.

What classes did you take?

In Fall 2012, I took Intro Sociology, Intro to Linguistics, Backgrounds to English Literature, and Korean language.  For Spring 2013, I took General Psychology, Principles of Economics 1, Introductory Seminar in Korean Studies, and Intro to Korean Literature, and self-studied Korean.

Where did you study in Korea?

I studied at Sogang University, which is located in the same neighborhood/general vicinity as Yonsei University.

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