It changed me for the better

Written by Abby Crux

My study abroad year has truly changed me for the better. I’ve had countless experiences that I know I’ll never forget, made friends around the world that I’ll travel to visit and completely immersed myself in a culture extremely different from my own. I also learnt some Korean which was absolutely crucial to my time there and was able to practice using it every day.

This was the first time I’ve ever lived in a major global city, and I loved everything about it. All that I could ever want was right on my doorstep, including things I’d never known existed but became part of my everyday life. With a cheaper cost of living than the UK, I was able to explore Seoul in depth with my friends every day. I explored every district, visited hundreds of restaurants, each with their own unique styles, and fully took advantage of the cafe and bar cultures in Korea.

It wasn’t all easy, a major frustration of mine was the prices of fresh fruit (extortionate!), difficulty of being vegetarian, massive language barriers and the tiny, tiny rooms for my accommodation. But over time I realised I’d just have to deal with these things. Some things I could overcome like learning as much Korean as possible and being creative with my food choices and cooking, but other things I just learnt to accept. I gained a lot from this, and it helped me to appreciate the overwhelming positive aspects of life in Korea, which I’m trying to recreate in my life in the UK.

I took trips outside of Seoul to stay in a Buddhist temple on the coast, to visit the almost tropical island in the south called Jeju, visited a tiny island covered in forests and visited the second biggest city in Korea, Busan. I became confident travelling and exploring areas alone as Korea is incredibly safe! Even my classes offered opportunities to explore Korea. My favourite class was a field trip class where the professor would take us on a walk around an area of Seoul, tell us all about its history, social geography and culture then buy us all dinner and drink Korean rice wine with us!

When I reflect on my year abroad, alongside amazing stand-out experiences I had, I think the most important aspect was just my daily life in Korea. It took some time to adapt to, but I went shopping for food, stressed over classwork in the library and went running along the Han River. Combining my daily routines that I would have in the UK to also fit in with the daily life of a completely different culture is something that not many people get to experience. Even people who have travelled all over the world haven’t been able to truly live in another country and culture rather than just experience it for a few weeks. This was the value that I have taken away from study abroad that travelling cannot provide.

South Korea

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