Written by: Ki Moon, Foster School undergraduate, Foster Exchange in Korea
“Change your mind and it will change your life.” I changed my mind by choosing to study at the Yonsei University by applying through the Foster School of Business. Prior to my decision of going abroad, I relied heavily on the familiarity of my life; I was so afraid of the unfamiliar and often times said to myself that “I’ve never done that before, I’ve never been over there, and I’ve never hung out with these people.” However, I came to the realization that sometimes you need to go out of the comfort zone, and as cliché as that sounds, it’s very true.
On August 22nd of 2013, I checked into the SK Global House, which is one of the two international dorm buildings built for international and exchange students. I signed up for the single dorm because I read prior recommendations that it would give me space to quietly study. Also, you get your own bathroom, which I believe is a must. This was also the first time that I got the chance to dorm. Back at UW, I’m a daily commuter from the eastside area, so living at home was always part of my college experience. However, this was different and I enjoyed every dose of this part of the experience. For one, living by myself helped me to understand so much about myself. I found out that I’m much more capable of handling my responsibilities and chores. It’s just that I never had the chance to prove it or show it to anyone. One thing I’m really good at now is doing my laundry. Let me tell you, the first laundry experience, using the coin laundry system at the first floor of the SK Global House, was traumatizing. After washing and drying all of my cotton shirts on the high settings, I came back to my dorm and realized that majority of my large-sized cotton shirts turned into women’s x-small. I laughed about it and never did that again!
The one hard part about living on your own is the food. There is no meal plan when you choose to stay at the dorms. That means you need to figure out a way to crunch your appetite. Back home, this was like an automatic no-worry matter. Mom would always cook three healthy meals for me a day, but at Yonsei there were many times when I skipped my meals. Of course, there is McDelivery, which is a delivery service available at the McDonalds in Korea. I used that plenty of times – three o’clock in the morning McChicken and BigMacs will be unforgettable.
Now let me tell you about my first day in class. First of all, all of my business courses were taught in English. I had one professor who had a very strong accent but understanding him was no problem. Since I am fluent in Korean and am very familiar with the broken English that my parents speak, I could easily understand what the professor wanted to say. All courses, at least the ones that I was enrolled in, were pretty straightforward. You will have to do at least one lengthy group presentation (groups are either assigned to you or you get to pick your group members), take one midterm and one final (most are based on multiple choice format), and have to have good classroom participation (showing up to class). The coursework load is very minimal, which means you have a lot of free time after classes. Usually, this can be a good or bad thing. For me, I started to procrastinate leading up to my first midterm, and then I got the wake-up call. But don’t worry because the UW has prepared us so well to study and manage ourselves in any kind of academic setting.
Meeting new people and making new friends can be a challenge anywhere, and it was especially harder to do as an exchange student. Many exchange students felt the same. The biggest problem for this is because the exchange students live in a secluded part of the Yonsei campus. When class ends, all of the exchange students usually head back to that part of the campus. It won’t be easy making friends with students who are regular Yonsei attendees. The best recommendation which I came across is to sign-up for the extracurricular clubs provided and managed by the Yonsei students. This is done during the first couple weeks of school. I highly recommend this opportunity. Also, sign-up for the Mentors Club, which is designed to match one regular Yonsei student who will accompany you by eating lunch with you, studying with you, and familiarizing you with the Yonsei student life.
All in all, words can’t even express how much I enjoyed the study abroad experience. It’s hard to put all of the memorable and valuable pieces of this experience into such short blog post, but my time in Korea has been truly worthwhile.