Katie Wilhelm (double major in cinema and screenwriting arts, minor in Korean studies and communication studies), a Diversity Ambassador Scholarship recipient (now the Global Access Ambassador Scholarship), participated in the TEAN South Korea program.
Wednesday, February 21, 2024
Katie Wilhelm

Hello future study abroad students! My name is Katie Wilhelm and I am in my final semester at the University of Iowa studying film and screenwriting while minoring in Korean studies and communications studies. Since my freshman year, I knew I wanted to study abroad. I wasn’t sure how or if I even could, but I knew that it was something I had to do. The Global Access Ambassador Scholarship (formerly known as the Diversity Ambassador Scholarship) played a big part in allowing me to accomplish this goal. 

As a Black woman, I was nervous about traveling in a different country by myself for the first time. During my time abroad I quickly discovered that my fears were for naught. I was met with kindness everywhere I went, and people were more than happy to help me when I looked a bit lost. Often strangers came up to me and excitedly struck up conversations, asking me about where I was from and what I was doing in Korea. It was fun to speak with so many different people and practice my Korean language skills in the process, as well as share a bit about my own culture. While I could definitely feel that I stood out in certain places and a few people would stare, I knew it was more likely out of curiosity than maliciousness. 

"Through study abroad, I was able to have innumerable experiences I couldn’t have had anywhere else. I feel so much more confident in myself and my educational and professional goals."

Before traveling to South Korea, I was shy and not very confident in myself. Living in Seoul I was able to make so many lasting friendships and participate in events that pushed me out of my comfort zone. I learned a lot about myself and got to explore my career field from a new perspective. I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Busan International Film Festival. Seeing such a wide diversity of films and hearing the stories and advice of filmmakers and actors reinvigorated my passion for cinema. 

Seoul is such a lively city as well, there is always somewhere to go or something new to try. It was my first time living in a city with such an expansive public transit system. While it was a bit confusing to figure out at first, I got to experience a new kind of independence in traveling around by myself. I was able to go at my own pace and engage with my interests as well as discover new ones. The music culture in Seoul was definitely one of my favorite aspects. From major artists’ concerts to buskers on the street, I got to see and support so many unique and talented musicians. 

Through study abroad, I was able to have innumerable experiences I couldn’t have had anywhere else. I feel so much more confident in myself and my educational and professional goals. It was an experience I can’t recommend enough, and I can’t wait for my next chance to return to Korea. Don’t let your fear or hesitation hold you back from what I can guarantee will be one of the best experiences of your life! 


The Global Access Ambassador Scholarship program provides awards to study abroad for a summer, semester, or academic year. The scholarships are intended to support students who study abroad with the intent to serve as Global Access Ambassadors upon return to the UI campus. Upon completion of the study abroad program and return to UI, award recipients are asked to submit a photo and an open letter to prospective students or suggest an alternate means of sharing with prospective students.

Please note that the opinions and views expressed by ambassadors are solely those of the students and do not reflect or represent the views of International Programs or the University of Iowa.

International Programs (IP) at the University of Iowa (UI) is committed to enriching the global experience of UI students, faculty, staff, and the general public by leading efforts to promote internationally oriented teaching, research, creative work, and community engagement.  IP provides support for international students and scholars, administers scholarships and assistance for students who study, intern, or do research abroad, and provides funding opportunities and grant-writing assistance for faculty engaged in international research. IP shares their stories through various media, and by hosting multiple public engagement activities each year.