Time sure flies when you don’t blog! A lot of things have happened since I last wrote something personal on this blog and, hopefully, this blog will get a lot more personal as this year moves forward. It has been a long time coming but it’s finally the night before my trip to Korea! You may be wondering why I’m ditching the States for Korea so I hope to clear that up, along with give you the premise of my trip, as well as hopefully setting the precedent for the trip as I try to document my adventure in Korea! I’m known to be a pretty lousy blogger apparently though since I have bouts during which I post a lot and many periods of silence in between but I will try my best for the sake of Korea.
So I am an undergraduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles, and last year, near the end of my spring quarter, two of my closest friends came back from their study abroad programs. Now these two girls are some of the most adventurous, wanderlust-filled people I know and so it was not surprising how much they spent their third year abroad. They had so many stories to tell me and one of them recommended that I just bite the bullet and go for it.
Despite the deadline for the UCEAP study abroad program application being a month before my friend convinced me to go, I decided to just screw it and turn in an application regardless. I was browsing all of the programs offered and I realized that the Korea program cost significantly less than the European programs, which I originally had an inkling of interest for. Being a consumer of Korean pop culture and being a linguistics nerd who was absolutely enraptured by Korean grammar and orthography, I realized how amazing it would be to go study there for a semester and actually experience the culture, the language, the people, the music, everything that is Korean firsthand.
Little did I know, the Korea program is also one of the less popular ones as well (obviously, the Hallyu Wave has not battered the California coast as much as I had anticipated) and, after sending an inquiry email to the program staff, I was informed that the program had “plenty of space left” and that I could just casually fill out an application, get all of my paperwork done (the only “hard” part was getting my transcript but the registrar is in the same building as the EAP office so that was no trouble at all), turn in the stack of papers to the office by that September, and I would be fine. Note that the initial deadline was in May or something and by the time I had inquired about the program, it was June. It wasn’t until late July that I turned in my entire application. Note: if you are reading this and considering studying abroad through a program like UCEAP, do not miss any application deadlines but also do not be deterred if you miss the application deadline as you may encounter the same fortuitous experience as mine.
Fall quarter was a bit rough for me because I was so anxious to leave for my program and just anxious about logistical issues regarding the trip. Will I have to travel alone? How will I get to the school from the airport? When does the program even start?
Fortunately, by some miracle, my anxieties were mostly resolved. UCEAP held a brief presentation on financial aid and how to pay for the program in general around mid-quarter and they offered two one-hour sessions so you could just drop into either one that worked best for you. I had class up until the end of the first session so I walked into the hall for the second session. The place was relatively vacant with around 20 seats occupied and I didn’t expect to meet anyone, especially not anyone from my program because the people who attended were going everywhere (mostly there were a lot of students going to Europe though).
Somehow, there was this girl sitting a full two rows behind me. I was sitting all by myself (of course, being the fabulous loner I am) and so I wasn’t really expecting anyone to talk to me when she came up to me and asked me which program I was going on. Imagine our surprise when we both found out we were going on the same program! We quickly swapped contact details and gushed over going to Korea together. A little later, she informed me that she had a friend from her church group who would be joining us as well and her friend has taught English in Korea before and so she wanted to go back to Korea to visit her students and such for a little while.
So not only had I found a travel buddy, I also found a guide as well as her friend was gracious enough to agree to take us around Seoul and show us some awesome places! We decided to go to Korea a few weeks before our program began so we could essentially live it up and experience Korea without any academic worries.
Thus, I was on my way to studying abroad for a semester at Yonsei University. Prepping for the trip involved turning in an application in the school itself (which was a little rocky considering that they kinda lost my application and I had to resend them a new one pretty late), applying for on-campus housing (which was not as competitive as advertised according to my advisors), getting my student (D-2) visa (which involved some fun trips to LA’s Koreatown and an embarrassing moment where I couldn’t figure out how to open the door or exit the building properly apparently), and just learning some basic Korean to get myself started. I already knew how to read Hangeul, the ingenious Korean writing system that is very easy to pick up, so it was a matter of learning some basic grammar and vocabulary.
Which leads me to right now. As I am anxiously awaiting my drive to SFO (at 5am in the morning, no less) and my flight to Vancouver and then to Seoul (I’m flying Air Canada, which isn’t the one that one should fly apparently but, whatever, a flight’s a flight and it was cheap so eh), I am just so excited and nervous. There will be so many new experiences to encounter, so many new sights to see, so many new opportunities to seize once I’m in Korea. Will I be brave enough to go out of my comfort zone and to explore Korea and to live life to its fullest?
For now, I am just praying to make it to Korea safely, with all of my stuff intact, without encountering any douchey Air Canada staff or gate agents. Please let them be nice. Please let the food be edible. Please let me get to Korea in one piece and please let me be able to meet up with my Korea buddies.
More updates forthcoming. Talk to ya real soon.