My choice to study abroad as a senior at the University of Iowa was one of the most difficult decisions of my college career. There was so much to consider in studying abroad for my entire academic senior year. During this past year, there has been so much stress that goes along with being here as a senior, as well as lots of missed opportunities back at the University of Iowa. However, there was also so many gained experiences, chances to learn about new things and meet different people from so many different places, as well as so many lasting impressions of the beauty that surrounds me in South Korea. Lastly, this experience in South Korea has really helped me develop as an adult and given me a clear insight on what I want in my future.
As I started my freshman year at the University of Iowa, I studied Italian, International Studies on an East Asian track, and minored in Korean. I went into the school year with a plan to study abroad during my junior year for the whole academic year. I knew that studying abroad for just a semester was not enough to improve my language skills, make close friends, and learn more about the future, so I wanted to go for a full year. I had thought about this and planned for this until the end of my sophomore year when I realize that it would be impossible for me to study abroad my junior year due to some of my classes only being offered junior year. My choices became more limited, either I could study abroad during my senior year and stay an extra year to complete one of my majors. I decided it would be too costly to stay the extra year and started thinking about studying abroad as a senior.
I was split between the idea that I would loss my last chances at the University of Iowa. I had found a close friend group and I loved all my classes and professors there so it was scary to leave them a year before I graduated to go to a different country where I was unsure if I would make these close connections. I also didn’t want to lose the friends I did meet from the University of Iowa. I thought about studying abroad just one semester so that I could still have my last semester at the University of Iowa, but I knew that I would be disappointed in myself if I didn’t go for the academic year. Before, I was so set on studying abroad for an academic year which had been my goal since senior year of high school.
While considering all these options, I thought it would be best to study abroad for my senior year and left for Seoul, South Korea. Although, I definitely missed a lot of opportunities, like graduating with my class, seeing the last football game in the student section, and being able to just make memories with my friends there, I can honestly say that I am so happy I took this leap to study abroad.
When I think of my study abroad experience, I feel so full of emotions for all the incredible experiences I have had. I can honestly say that this experience has taught me so much about life, people from other cultures, and myself. When I first came here, I expected to learn about Korean culture, Korean language, and make a few friends from South Korea. Instead, I learned more than I could have imaged from people from all over the world, different life experiences and values that others hold dear to them and learned my own values and strength. Even though I miss my friends from home, meeting these new friends and forming these bonds have helped me grow and supported me through this study abroad experience. I also missed my family at home, but my mom came to visit me, and it was incredible to show her my new life I have made in South Korea and explore new places with my family. I have had many challenges during this experience, like going to the hospital, dealing with a death of a loved one abroad, and missing opportunities such as walking during graduation. Honestly, during these times I felt alone and down but with the help of friends I met here and my determination to achieve my goal that I’ve wanted for so long, I have continued forward. As I look back on all the memories I have made here and all the hardships that I have gone through, I feel proud of myself and happy with who I have become during this experience. I’m very grateful to have grown into who I am today and to have learned so much from studying abroad. Now, as I sit here reassessing if I did the right thing by studying abroad my senior year, I know that this was right for me and am so happy I took the leap and came here. This was a once in a life time opportunity that nothing else can compare to and it was worth it to spend my senior year in South Korea.
I am not sure what the future holds yet, but I know that I will strive towards helping others experience all the things I was able to do during my college career. Although I may not have been able to walk during my graduation, I feel accomplished with what I have done during my college career. Congratulations to all my friends who walked across that stage and to those who still have time left at the University of Iowa, consider studying abroad. It’s life changing.