Feeling FOMO in South Korea

Authored by:
Madeleine D.

Madeleine D.

High expectations and higher let downs

For those who enjoy K-pop like me, while anticipating coming to South Korea I had such high expectations for what I would do. I was so excited and nervous that I didn’t sit down to make a list of things or areas that I wanted to go to. As midterms came up I realized that I wasn’t doing half the fun things my peers looked like they were doing. I saw on social media how everyone was living their best lives, smiling, enjoying beautiful scenic places and cafes, and even going to concerts I didn’t know were happening until they posted about it. For the first time, I’ve experienced FOMO from social media. F.O.M.O is an abbreviation for “fear of missing out”; a form of social anxiety. I never experienced this in the U.S. because there was never a rush or urgent need to do many things but in Korea everyone studying abroad knew that they have a limited time and must use it wisely. I thought I was prepared but as I started studying abroad I’ve noticed that unless you’re willing to go alone to your activities you may not do everything that you want to do. Creating friendships abroad is a key to survival and important but that doesn’t necessarily mean that those friends will want to drop everything to do what you want to do. A big part of studying abroad, I’ve noticed, is everyone is going to put what makes them happy first and compromises are always being made. Plans change and going to your favorite places becomes less of a priority as you learn about new places or the places that your other friends went to that you now want to go to. I’ve felt that I’m constantly playing catchup to those around me. It’s begun to feel like a competition. I’m always trying to find a cool new area/place or experience that no one thought of. I lost track of what made me fall in love with Korea and I began to follow others in the assembly line. I’ve been copying other people’s experiences and not my own. 

With the final 2 weeks of the semester the one major advice I’d give is: live for yourself.

I’ve learned overtime that living in the moment and going at your own pace is what makes your experience unique to yourself. I still have trouble and get caught up in the pressure but being someone else and having their experience doesn’t necessarily mean that experience will make you as happy as they were. A comfort I’ve felt while talking to my friends is that they have also been feeling the same way. They tell me that it looks like I’m having so much fun and doing cool things while they feel pressured to “do well” for traveling. While traveling abroad it’s inevitable to feel pressure from peers but the one main advice I’d give which is really quite obvious when said is: do not lose yourself in other people’s expectations. Outside pressure is hard but if you stay authentic to yourself your experience will reflect your individuality and uniqueness on its own. Your distinctiveness is determined by your own preferences and feelings, not other peoples. You make the best memories doing something you genuinely enjoy. Do what you enjoy and do it unashamedly.

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