University of Iowa

Friendships abroad

September 30th, 2018

After dancing our hearts out, we took a picture with the instructor in the front with the red shirt.

School just recently started and as classes began, it gave me the opportunity to meet so many new people from so many different places! Yonsei is known for being one of the top schools in South Korea so I was a little nervous about attending it. All my classes are in the international department meaning all are taught in English except for Korean class. I really enjoy my classes. This semester I am taking a modern Korean history course, a Korean philosophy course, a North Korean politics course, and an intensive Korean language course. Yonsei offers quite a few courses offered in English, however, it is hard to change schedules once arriving as these courses fill up quickly. Due to my classes being solely in the international department there are only international students or study abroad students in most of my classes. I have one class with two Korean students but otherwise, I don’t have a chance to meet Korean people in class. However, Yonsei has many other opportunities as well as CIEE to meet Korean students.

Outside academic life, I joined two on-campus clubs, an art club, and a Catholic students' club. Yonsei has a two-day club fair where most of their clubs can recruit new students and the students can learn more about each club. It was so hard choosing the right clubs for me because there are so many! I saw some amazing club options like fencing, Korean cooking club, magic tricks, and cards club, cat rescue club, traditional instruments club, and so many more! I chose to do something I have never done before which is art. I thought it would be a good chance to meet the local students at Yonsei and maybe learn how to draw. I had to go through an interview process to join which was just a few questions about why I would like to join. I was accepted and invited to an ‘MT’ which is a membership training. Most clubs on campus have MTs, which is an overnight excursion, most are located near the outskirts of Seoul. The art club’s MT was at an arcade game themed room. Basically, the club rents the room and we spend the night together playing fun ice-breaker games, eating, and just talking to get to know each other. When I arrived for the art MT, I sat with a group of Korean girls and we ate pizza and chicken together. After we talked and ate, everyone split up into four teams for an icebreaker game. We played charades but instead of acting out the words, each team member had 3 seconds to draw a picture that represented the word and the last person had to guess what is was from the overall drawn picture. It was funny, especially because one of the categories was famous people and the team tried very hard to draw Beyoncé. Afterward, we spent the rest of the night playing name games, singing karaoke, and playing the arcade games.

"If a student studying abroad never leaves their comfort zone, they will never experience the country’s culture. These friendships with local students are the ones that can show you new foods, secret local places to go, what it’s like living in the country and show you an entirely new perspective different from students studying abroad."

Not only was I able to attend this MT, but I was also able to go on a free K-Pop Tour with CIEE. I started off the day going to a dance studio where a professional dance choreographer taught us how to dance to the song “Boomerang” by Wanna One. It was insanely difficult to keep up with but so fun to learn. It really makes me appreciate the K-Pop stars in South Korea and helps me understand how difficult training must be. Afterward, we were able to go to SM Town which is a modern museum of all K-Pop stars from SM Entertainment. Basically, the museum is full of outfits they wore in videos, awards they’ve won over time, all their albums, and history of their bands. They have a lot of fun interactive things to do but my favorite part was the design of the rooms dedicated to the artists. Each room was so unique and designed to match the artist’s style and I enjoyed the architectural works. After spending some time at SM Town, our group went to a concert by upcoming artists. Both artists were really talented, and the music made me feel at peace after a hectic day of running around and dancing. We enjoyed free pizza and sat as we listened to the artists sing to their heart’s content. Overall this experience was so enjoyable and CIEE did a wonderful job setting everything up for us!

All of these experiences were fantastic! I believe it is very important to make local friends in order to better understand Korean culture. Other study abroad kids understand how you feel in a whole new country, so they are great with supporting each other and seeing the city from an outsider’s point of view. However, I believe to make it a meaningful exchange both friendships are required. If a student studying abroad never leaves their comfort zone, they will never experience the country’s culture. These friendships with local students are the ones that can show you new foods, secret local places to go, what it’s like living in the country and show you an entirely new perspective different from students studying abroad.

 


SM Town entrance

One of the rooms dedicated to SM artists

During the MT, students playing charades

The concert we attended afterward

After the concert photo! The two artists were The Beaches and Seulki Kim
Taylor

Taylor Wertheim is an Italian and international studies major at the University of Iowa, pursuing a minor in Korean. She will be spending an academic year in Seoul, South Korea, on CIEE's Arts and Science program. 

 

 

 

 

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