Left My Soul in Seoul…

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Photo credit: Cindy Phong

I never imagined that a little country called South Korea would completely capture my heart. It was my first time ever visiting the country and I instantly developed an affinity for the bustling city. I lived in Seoul, a city rich in culture and modern technology, and couldn’t have asked for a better place to spend my semester abroad.
There are so many fun things to do in Seoul, from visiting all the cute coffee shops to picnicking on the Han River to singing at Noraebangs (Karaoke) to shopping at trendy boutiques …(the list goes on) and it’s dangerously easy to get carried away from school. My advice is to live your best life but prioritize! It’s no fun spending your last week abroad confined in your room studying 馃槮

Of course with moving to a foreign country, there are things no one tells you and that you have to learn on your own. From my experience a few random observations I made that I think are worth noting are:
路 Learning Hangul, the Korean Alphabet, is the key to success
路 It’s all about the Iced Americanos, Iced coffees don’t exist
路 The man with the fruit truck has the cheapest fruits
路 Korean beds are rock hard
路 Dating culture is huge
路 Drinking culture is huge
路 Puffer jackets are a necessity in the winter

Overall, my time in Seoul was incredible. I’ll never forget the friends I made and the memories we made together, and the sweet souls that welcomed us strangers with kindness and love. From a business standpoint studying abroad is the easiest and most enjoyable way to broaden your experience and expand your network. From a student’s standpoint it was the funnest semester I have ever had and am so grateful for the memories and skills I gained abroad. Studying abroad was worth every minute and every dollar and I highly recommend it to anybody who has an opportunity to go.

– Kim Killen, exchange program, Korea University Business School,聽Fall 2017

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Why I Chose Warsaw, and Why I Loved It

Blog Photo - Palace of Culture

Photo: Palace of Culture and Science from Centrum Metro Station

While deciding on an exchange program destination, I realized many students would immediately consider countries that are typical “vacation” destinations. Cities like London, Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, and Dublin are a few of the cities I heard my classmates consider first. Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with these amazing cities and if you have your heart set on a “vacation” city, by all means, go for it. However, I decided to go a different route and couldn’t be happier about the way it turned out. I’ll go through several of the advantages I experienced by spending my exchange in Warsaw, Poland, advantages that you may have not thought of.

Firstly, while Poland isn’t a popular destination for American exchange students, it is for European students. So, I ended up being surrounded by dozens of European cultures, and I met very few Americans while I was overseas. It made the cultural experience that much more amazing. Not only has it made me so excited to go back to Europe, but now I have friends to show me around in The Netherlands, England, Ireland, Denmark, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, and even Australia! It gets really easy to stick with the classmates of your own nationality, so going somewhere with no other Americans does nothing but enhance the experience.

Secondly, the cost of living is ridiculously low compared to the “vacation” cities. I would constantly hear about students studying in more expensive parts of Europe and how they would run through their scholarship money and how tight their budget would be. By choosing Warsaw, I essentially had no budget and my Erasmus+ scholarship was enough to cover almost the entire exchange period. I never felt like had to miss out of anything for financial reasons, and I was never stressed about running out of money.

Third, because of the amount of money I was saving coupled with the location of Poland in central Europe, I was able to travel a lot! I was able to visit far more “vacation” cities because I wasn’t living in one. I went to Brussels, Bruges, Rome, Athens, Krakow, Prague, and Copenhagen. The only reason there was room in the budget for all of those adventures is because I spent next to nothing in my daily routine.

I was able to enjoy all of these advantages without sacrificing any of the fun or experiences. The nightlife was incredible in Warsaw and there were plenty of cultural and historical sights to see. And best of all, I had an incredible mixed bag of cultures to experience it all with.

If you are still undecided on where to spend your exchange, I urge you to consider these thoughts while looking through your options. If you’re still trying to decide on whether or not to study abroad, I whole-heartedly encourage you to do it, and to do it as soon as you can. It changed my life and I’ll hang on to the memories forever.

Safe Travels!

– Joshua Duffy, exchange program, Kozminski University, Fall 2017

Building Confidence Through Studying Abroad

Blog Photo 1.19.18

Many have asked me, how did you have that confidence to study abroad and travel alone? My honest answer to this question is the confidence you see in me isn’t innate but is gained through my solo adventure. The confidence that you have before your trip or the lack of it should not be the determinant for whether you should study abroad. If there is a part of you that longs for adventures and enjoys discovering new cultures, you should go.

What I share with you here is raw and unfiltered because I believe what’s real is what can really motivate people to step out of their comfort zone. Signing up for an independent program and traveling solo around Europe was not my first choice. However, the desire to expand my horizon was bigger than my fear of all the things that could possibly go wrong.

No matter how used you are to being on your own, you will feel overwhelmed at one point. The panic will set in as it did for me right after I checked in to my first Airbnb. I spent days beating myself up for overestimating my confidence. It didn’t seem possible that I will be able to manage on my own for the next weeks, let alone months! But trust me, all of that will pass and you will wonder what was there to be panicked about. Being alone in a foreign place is not easy and might never get easy. Lonely is the feeling that I won’t ever get used to as I have learned through my solo adventure around Europe. However, when you focus on what you can do, you will realize that there is nothing you cannot overcome. The lessons and cultures I have learned and experienced, the people I have encountered, and the friendships I have made along the eight countries I have been to definitely worth the emotional discomfort. After all, “fear is only as deep as the mind allows.” – Japanese Proverb

You will learn the most when you venture out of your comfort zone. My life in Norway has rendered me a significant amount of knowledge, especially knowledge about myself. I learn how to be comfortable with being by myself. I learn that positive and negative factors in my life are completely dependent on whether I allow them to exist or not. I learn to be a more effective student because school can be challenging when you are studying in the most prestigious university in Norway.

– Grace Ngoc Nguyen,聽USAC program聽at University of Oslo in Norway, Fall 2017

Past the Comfort Zones

Nidhish Lokesh

PHOTO: COLORFUL TUCAN FROM PARQUE NACIONAL DEL IGUAZ脷

There is no better way to understand the scale of the world and of the human experience than by traveling. My study abroad in Buenos Aires has widened my perspective unlike anything I have done before. Many people feel more comfortable traveling to a country in Europe where English-speakers are common and it is very similar to the U.S; however, there are advantages to going somewhere out of your comfort zone too.

I picked Buenos Aires and the rest of Argentina primarily because I wanted to go somewhere completely different and immerse myself in a new language. In school up until college I had learned French, so I jumped at the chance to immerse myself in a Spanish-speaking country. Let’s be honest, Spanish is way more relevant where we are in the U.S. anyways. I was nervous going into the trip with only a semester of Spain Spanish under my belt, but excited to see just how much I could learn in my 3 months abroad.

At first I was quite intimidated here. My internship supervisor and office colleagues spoke about our projects entirely in Spanish, most of the nearly 3 million people in the city spoke Spanish primarily, and even my host spoke only in Spanish. I had no idea how I would learn enough of the language to do more than just survive. The first 4 weeks I took Spanish classes in the mornings before working on my internship projects in the afternoons. My language skills got so much better than I thought was possible – just from the immersion and daily practice. The biggest barrier was my own mental block of sounding like an idiot in a language I didn’t know. The key was to realize that it’s not a bad thing to sound like a fool sometimes, and to just keep practicing. Now, 7 weeks in, I can hold conversations with people I meet at the gym, market, or even at the barbershop about a variety of topics. My verbal understanding has gotten much better (it’s very different than Spain Spanish that we learn in the states, with lots of abbreviated words, slang, and different pronunciation rules) and I feel a lot more comfortable here. Buenos Aires has felt like home for weeks. That’s how quickly practicing something new can become natural. I even like the language better than English now – so many more ways to say things, and it’s more pleasing to the ear.

Comfort Zones don’t just extend to language, though. Studying Abroad is the perfect time to expose yourself to new experiences and try different lifestyles. For example, I was never a morning person before I came here, and I would deny the possibility of me ever being one to all of my friends. Then, I decided to try out a crossfit gym (never had tried crossfit before either), and now almost 8 weeks later I have been getting up at 6 every morning to go to the gym, then practice Spanish over breakfast with some Argentine friends, and then go to either class or to the office for work. As it so turns out, I really like mornings. Who knew? And having my butt kicked by a great workout every morning honestly feels pretty good too. It’s nice starting every day with a challenge.

Even now, with the internship portion in Buenos Aires coming to a close, I’m not going to stop pushing the limits of my own comfort zones. From here, I’m venturing out into the beautiful wilderness of Argentine and Chilean Patagonia. I’ve got some independent study projects I will be working on for professors back home while I get used to a new style of life – backpacking. I’ve backpacked once before, but it was only for 10 days and with guides. Now I’ll embrace the 6 weeks of backpacking through one of the most beautiful areas in the world with only my roommate. I’m sad to leave all of my friends in the city and a little apprehensive of the lifestyle change, but I’ll continue to learn more about myself. After all, how can you know what else life has to offer if you don’t step past your limits to experience it?

-Nidhish Lokesh, fall 2017 internship and independent study in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Be BOLD!

Alexia Blog Pic

PHOTO: MOUNT VICTORIA LOOKOUT IN WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND

I have been back from New Zealand for three weeks and it still feels like it was all a dream. Looking back at pictures makes my whole experience seem surreal. At first I was nervous about going because this was my first time travelling out of the country alone. Not to mention, it was the longest I was going to be away from home!

At the same time, though, I was so excited for the adventure. I was READY to experience life in a new way, which just so happens to be a concrete part of the deal when going abroad! You would think I wouldn鈥檛 be in much of a culture shock because Kiwi people still speak English but鈥 that is not the case!

There are so many fascinating aspects of the country such as the diverse wildlife, incredible scenery, and the amazingly profound Maori culture. Everything about New Zealand was so different from the U.S. in the most refreshing way possible. I honestly didn鈥檛 even have much time to miss home because of all the fun experiences and places I was lucky enough to see while away (don鈥檛 tell my mom I said that, though).

I learned so much not only about New Zealand, but about myself (as clich茅 as that sounds). I pushed myself to do things I wouldn鈥檛 have ever thought about doing or would have had the courage to do at home, like skydiving! I鈥檓 still questioning why I did that one but, the fact of the matter is I am beyond happy that I made the decision to go abroad.

I want to inspire people to make the decision to be BOLD! The world is yours if you鈥檙e willing to immerse yourself in it. Take an opportunity to live life outside of your comfort zone! The memories you make are guaranteed to last a lifetime.

-Alexia Dos Santos, Internship in New Zealand, Summer 2017

Go Abroad, You Won’t Regret It

Concert (Vienna, Austria) - Ana-Maria Frampton, 2017Photo: Concert at Sch枚nbrunn Palace, Vienna, Austria

Moving abroad? Easy. I was certain I had this whole 鈥渕oving to Vienna鈥 thing figured out before I even got there (not the case, of course). Arriving in Vienna wasn鈥檛 the tough part. The city is gorgeous, full of history, culture, and never-ending events to attend. Whether it was a festival by the Danube, or a pride parade in the center of the shopping district, there was always something to do. No, the difficult part was the day-to-day things you don鈥檛 consider. I didn鈥檛 speak German. Store hours? Everything is closed by 7 PM, and good luck finding a grocery store open on a Sunday.

It was frustrating at first, but once I figured out the small quirks of the city, I spent my days studying in cafes, touring museums, and traveling throughout Europe with a new set of friends. I even managed to learn a few phrases in German! Living in Vienna was one of the best experiences of my life, and the adventures I had there will stay with me for a lifetime. So take the opportunity and GO, somewhere, anywhere! You won鈥檛 regret it. Dankesch枚n and auf wiedersehen (thank you and goodbye)!

-Ana-Maria Frampton, exchange program at WU Vienna in Austria, Spring 2017