Choosing Where To Study Abroad Is More Than Just Picking Your Dream Travel Destination

Guest Post By: Yoo Jin Han, a Junior studying Marketing and CISB. She is a Global Business Center Study Abroad Scholarship Recipient, and she studied abroad through a Foster Exchange and Direct Enroll at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea, during Autumn Semester 2022.

I’m a Korean citizen but I chose to study abroad in Korea. When I applied for the Foster School Undergraduate Exchange with Yonsei University, I constantly had this voice in my head whispering, “Wouldn’t it be more meaningful for you to explore a country you haven’t lived in?” However, after my return from studying abroad in Korea for three months, I can confidently say that I made the right decision.

I am proud to identify myself as a Korean and the past three months have been pivotal in helping me not lose sight of who I am. One of the most commonly asked questions I receive is “Do you want to live in Korea or America after you graduate?” to which I would reply, “Probably America, because I don’t feel confident in my Korean.” However, this experience has helped me eliminate some of the fear and doubt I once had. Now, I am strongly considering dedicating a big portion of time in my career to work in a branch or office in South Korea. As much as studying abroad is a great opportunity to see the world, it was clear that was not my purpose during my stay in Korea. My time there helped me clarify my future career path, acquire global skills, and strengthen my bond with my family.

I took two Business and two Area Studies courses at Yonsei University. Although both Area Studies courses were focused on music (traditional and K-pop), I found that it also allowed me to deepen my understanding of the cultural and societal issues in Korea. For example, a lot of Korean perceptions stem or are reflected in the K-pop industry, so I was able to delve deeper into the issue of misogynist attitudes and negative stigma associated with feminism in Korea. As a Korean woman, being educated on the topic is important to my identity and allows me to better advocate for women’s rights. The Business courses also heavily advanced my overseas learning experience. One of my study abroad program aspirations was developing skills to become an ethical business leader and my Organizational Behavior class with Professor Boram Do helped me achieve just that. I worked with a group of full-time Yonsei University students in a team consulting project where we had to examine an OB-related issue of concern in a real organization in South Korea and give suggestions to handle the challenge. As a team, we analyzed how diversity has become an important consideration integrated in the culture of the U.S., but Koreans still strongly emphasize ethnic homogeneity. Both Business courses helped me apply familiar concepts I learned at UW on an international scale and aim for depth in my understanding. It is my view that because I was seriously considering pursuing a career in Korea, I was much more focused in my classes and the lessons came more easily to me. All in all, my learning at Yonsei University was valuable.

Finally, I was able to appreciate my family heritage and grow a stronger relationship with my relatives. With my family in Korea, I was able to spend a lot of time with them. Although it was a 3-hour bus ride back and forth, I met my grandparents every two weeks. My grandmother would pack me Korean side dishes, repeatedly telling me how I should eat at home rather than eat out. She even gave me a rice cooker! I was also able to spend Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) with my relatives. The first day I would spend with my father’s side of the family, the second day would be with my mother’s side of the family. I was so full from eating all the traditional food they had prepared for the holiday. In America, I don’t really contact my relatives but throughout my stay in Korea, I was able to spend time one-on-one with each of my aunts and my older cousin. It was healing to be able to hear about how they are and make memories with them.

A lot of students know how much fun Korea is, especially with Yonsei University only being one subway stop away from Hongdae (a party area which caters to the younger crowd). However, having clear intentions when choosing where to study abroad makes the short three months all the more meaningful. I know the experience I had in Korea will have a lasting impact in the decisions I make in the long run.