My study abroad program in Seoul finally comes to a close. After two days of preparing and studying for my final exams, we had our closing ceremony and I officially ‘graduated’ from EWHA. I received my diploma and had to say goodbye to my friends who I have grown so close to. I packed and checked out of the EWHA dorms and am now staying in an AirBnb with the two friends who I came to Korea with, counting the days until our flight back home.
This study abroad experience has been one of the most life-changing experiences I have had. From the academic side of things, I really enjoyed my classes. I enjoyed the subjects I was learning and the friends I made in my classes, spending time studying together and cramming for our exams in the I-House dormitory lounge. My teachers were engaging and friendly, and also gave me many recommendations for restaurants and places to go with my friends. And although I only know the basics of Korean, I am even more motivated to continue studying and learning as much Korean as I can.
I also had the opportunity via EWHA to go on interesting field trips. Our last field trip was the one I was most looking forward to: a trip to the DMZ, the area that separates North Korea from South Korea. Although we were unable to go to the border between the two countries, we did go to other interesting places in the area. We went to the Dora Observatory, and through binoculars, could make out the North Korean Propaganda Village. We also visited Dorasan station, the closest station to potentially run to Pyongyang, North Korea. If reunification is made possible in the future, this station would be the closest connector between the two countries. Our trip to the DMZ was not as intimidating as I thought it would be, but that could perhaps be because we didn’t actually visit the Joint Security Area. After South Korean soldiers came onto our bus and checked our passports, I did not feel nervous or tense. There is a village called Imjingak, about seven kilometers from the DMZ, that is a popular tourist destination. The village has an almost cheerful atmosphere, housing a small amusement park, a Popeye’s and 7-11 convenience store. My trip to the DMZ left me with more hope than sadness. There were many signs and posters promoting reunification between the North and the South, and our tour guide was earnest in her belief that the world will be at peace in the future.
As interesting as my classes were and as exciting as the places I went to were, the best aspect of my study abroad experience has been the people I met. I would not have had as much fun visiting the places I did without them. I have met people from so many different walks of life. I have met people from all over America, as well as different countries such as Australia, Japan, and the Netherlands. I actually also met many Floridians, and it was comforting being able to talk about things only Floridians can understand, like why Publix is the best and how everyone needs to visit Florida and go to Disney and Universal Studios. They helped me feel a little less homesick. Each person has their own different interests and aspirations, and it was interesting to meet people studying different majors and coming from different backgrounds. Although we were all taking different classes and studying different topics, the main goal we all had was to explore and take in Seoul as much as we could. I bonded with my friends by singing our hearts out in Karaoke rooms, trying out different Korean barbecue restaurants, and going to 24-hour neon bowling alleys. I am already making plans to travel and visit my friends in the future, and they are making plans to visit Florida.
I wish I could stay longer; I still have so much of Seoul and even more of South Korea left to explore. I have had such a great study abroad experience and would definitely like to try another study abroad program. Although I may not study abroad in South Korea the next time I choose to study abroad, I know that this is not the last time I will see Seoul. I know I will be back in South Korea sometime in the future.