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